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Carbine Compatibility Testing

In anticipation of the upcoming release of a Request for Proposals (RFP) for the U.S. Army’s Individual Carbine (IC) program, interested industry contenders have been offered the chance to run an “M855A1 familiarization shoot” and subsystem “compatibility testing” between their candidate systems and selected weapon components. The familiarization shoot and compatibility testing is being conducted at H.P. White Laboratory, Inc, a private testing laboratory located in Street, Md.

According to the government invitation, the government would provide participating parties with the recently fielded M855A1 Enhanced Performance Round EPR), 5.56 x 45 mm for the vendors to use at the laboratory [see “Full Rate Production Begins on Enhanced Army 5.56 Round,” posted on November 15, 2010].

“Potential IC weapon candidates chambered in 5.56 x 45 mm are invited to conduct a voluntary Familiarization Shoot of the M855A1 round,” it read. “Each vendor will be allotted a total of 10,080 rounds (six cases) of M855A1 and will be assigned an initial time period and a follow-up time period as described below to use the ammunition during the Familiarization Shoot. The cost of ammunition will be provided at no cost to the vendor. This round is not available for any other caliber weapon.”

While M855A1 familiarization is available to contractors with 5.56 x 45 mm carbines, early

A U.S. Soldier assigned to the Cultural Support Team, Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-Afghanistan, aims his M4 carbine during a weapons range at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan, Jan. 15, 2011. Carbine compatibility testing will allow vendors to check the fit of various accessories, such as grenade launchers, on their contenders in the Individual Carbine competition. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Michael Zimmerman

“market surveys” conducted in support of the IC program acknowledged, “…This request for information is not limited to 5.56 mm NATO systems, however it is limited to ammunition that will meet International Convention standards…”

In addition to the familiarization firing, interested manufacturers with non-5.56 carbines were invited to the laboratory to conduct a compatibility check between their systems and the M320 Grenade Launcher and the M26 Modular Accessory Shotgun System under-barrel lethality attachments.

While industry responses to the earlier market surveys had led some service planners to expect between 30 and 40 potential bidders for the upcoming IC RFP, the familiarization firing/compatibility check opportunity is apparently drawing a smaller number.

“We had market surveys that showed we could have 30 – 40 bidders,” acknowledged Col. Douglas A. Tamilio, U.S. Army Project Manager (PM) for Soldier Weapons. “We are running a ‘shoot’ out at H.P. White. We’re running a familiarization shoot right now and we didn’t have quite 40 people show up there. I don’t want to give the number or give out the names, because that’s really their own business. We’re not sponsoring it. We just set it up for them. They’ve got to pay to use it. The only thing I gave them was M855A1 ammunition. And I’m letting them use the [under-barrel] equipment that goes on an M4, so they can make sure that they have compatibility.”

“It wasn’t a directive that you had to do it,” he added. “It was that if you wanted to come and play, you can. So the response we got from that does not necessarily imply the response we are going to get when we get the RFP out on the street. I think we will get more RFP responses than we have there. But I’m very happy with what we’ve got there. I’m very happy with the representation from across industry.”

“But I’m not getting any data from that,” he cautioned. “I’m not going to know what they’re doing down there. My people are ‘hands off.’ We only have a government rep there to issue ammo and ammo only. Everything down at H.P. White is between H.P. White and the contractor.”

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Scott Gourley is a former U.S. Army officer and the author of more than 1,500...