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M4 PIP (Product Improvement Program) Still Lives After Individual Carbine Program Conclusion

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During the Individual Carbine program termination announcement, the Army’s PEO Soldier stated, “There is not an immediate move to engage in another competition at this time.” The clarification served to direct a single spotlight on the “second path” that the Army has been following for its individual weapon: continuing improvements to the current M4/M4A1 design through the M4 product improvement program, or M4 PIP.

In addition to the 92 improvements made to the M4/M4A1 since 1990, the Army is continuing with a range of platform enhancements.

More recently, the Army has focused many of its M4 PIP its announcements on its ongoing efforts to convert the Army’s inventory of M4s to M4A1s, with automatic fire capabilities. Some Army sources have previously indicated that the desire to convert all M4s to M4A1 systems stem in part from lessons learned during more than a decade of room/building clearing combat operations.

The May 2011 Army release of the M4 PIP description on behalf of the Office of the Project Manager, Soldier Weapons (PM-SW), included an Improved Forward Rail Assembly Kit for the M4/M4A1 carbine that would “leverage the latest in small arms technology advancements” to “seamlessly integrate with the M4/M4A1 Carbine without negatively impacting or affecting the current performance or operation of the weapon.”

“The kit shall be compatible with current M4/M4A1 ancillary equipment with no modifications to the ancillary equipment and/or the equipments mounting brackets,” the announcement read, adding, “This ancillary equipment includes but is not limited to approved 40mm grenade launchers, accessory shotgun systems, optics/sights, aiming/pointing devices, training devices, bayonets, slings, and rail covers.”

M4 PIP

Capt. James Nardelli, part of a deploying Security Force Assistance Team with the 2nd Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), fires at a target during a stress shoot training exercise at Fort Campbell’s Range 40a, Feb. 16. While the Army’s Individual Carbine program to replace the M4 and M4A1 is dead, the service’s M4 Product Improvement Program to improve the existing weapon continues. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Joe Padula, 2nd BCT PAO, 101st Abn. Div.

Another 2011 M4 PIP announcement identified a need for an Improved Bolt and Bolt Carrier Assembly for the M4 and M4A1 carbines.

More recently, the Army has focused many of its M4 PIP its announcements on its ongoing efforts to convert the Army’s inventory of M4s to M4A1s, with automatic fire capabilities. Some Army sources have previously indicated that the desire to convert all M4s to M4A1 systems stem in part from lessons learned during more than a decade of room/building clearing combat operations.

In early December of 2012, for example, the Army released a pre-solicitation announcement, on behalf of PM-SW, for up to 325,000 Replacement Fire Control Selector Assembly units to be used in the conversion of existing semiautomatic/three round burst M4 carbines to automatic capable M4A1 carbines between FY13 through FY17.

The selector assembly announcement was followed in January 2013 by an announced PM-SW requirement for up to 350,000 Replacement Barrel and Front Sight Assembly (Heavy Variant) units to be used in the conversion of M4 carbines to M4A1 carbines during the FY13 – FY17 timeframe.

Additionally, other recent announcements have identified the need for 350,000 new M4 PIP bolts to be used in the M4A1 conversions during the same FY13 – FY17 period.

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