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Extending Warfighter Small Arms’ Reach

Possibly reflective of the operational realities of current operations in Afghanistan, several recent procurement activities appear to reflect a desire to extend the tactical reach of U.S. joint force and special operations warfighters.

As an example, while not directly addressing range issues, the recent “sources sought” for a potential new weapon to fill the U.S. Army carbine role has just been amended, not only to extend the response closing date from June 16 to June 22, but also to request that “vendors responding to this market survey also include the maximum safe operational barrel pressure of their candidate carbine in their response. Pressure is to be stated in pounds per square inch.”

More obvious interest in carbine range extension was evident in the May 27, 2010, synopsis issued by the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division, announcing the requirement for a 5-year Indefinite Delivery, Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contract for 5.56mm long-range ammunition (AA53 – MK262 Mod 1).

U.S. Army sniper Sgt. Scott Dubay with 1st Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment sights in an M107 Barrett Sniper Rifle on Memorial Range, Contigency Operating Base Speicher, Iraq, June 29, 2006. A Market Survey Notice looking for sources to manufacture another 1,500 M107s was recently announced.  U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Alfred Johnson.

At the opposite end of the small arms caliber spectrum is the June 17 announcement from the U.S. Army, Army Contracting Command, Joint Munitions & Lethality (JM&L) Contracting Center, Picatinny Arsenal, N.J., beginning the “market survey” phase to identify potential sources “for the fabrication and delivery of M107 Long Range Sniper Rifle (LRSR).”

“The M107 LRSR is a semi-automatic, short-recoil operated, magazine fed, 0.50 caliber rifle intended to engage and defeat materiel targets at extended ranges,” it states, adding, “This notice is to determine if there are sources capable of manufacturing a M107 Long Range Sniper Rifle which meets the requirements of MIL-PRF-32327 (AR) dated 20 March 2009.”

The announcement included an overview of planned LRSR acquisitions, projecting an anticipated Fiscal Year (FY) 11 requirement for “approximately 300 each LRSRs” with the same procurement quantity also projected each year FY12-FY15, “for a maximum quantity of 1,500 LRSRs for all five (5) years.”

After outlining desired production capabilities, the announcement clarifies, “This is only a Market Survey Notice, not a pre-solicitation notice. If a formal solicitation is generated at a later date, a solicitation notice will be published and more detailed technical requirements will be provided.”

Another recent example of interest in longer range/expanded tactical capabilities can be found in an early June “sources sought” announcement released by the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division, seeking “information on existing Commercial-Off-The-Shelf (COTS), Non-Developmental Item (NDI), or In-Development 40 mm Medium Velocity/Extended Range High Explosive (HE) or High Explosive Dual Purpose (HEDP) Grenades.”

“Currently, there is not a unified standard defining Medium Velocity/Extended Range 40 mm grenades,” it acknowledges. “Therefore, the information sought shall be for 40 mm Medium Velocity/Extended Range ammunition that may be compatible with the USSOCOM Special Forces Combat Assault Rifle (SCAR) Enhanced Grenade Launcher Module (EGLM) system in MK16 or MK17 configurations (EGLM attached to a SCAR-L 5.56mm rifle or SCAR-H 7.62mm rifle respectively), and in the MK13 configuration (stand-alone EGLM attached to a buttstock). The MK13, MK16 and MK17 weapon systems are currently configured to fire 40 mm low velocity grenades using 40 mm x 46 mm low velocity cartridge cases. Information on Medium Velocity/Extended Range 40 mm ammunition that does not use a 40 mm x 46 mm low velocity cartridge case may be submitted, where the ammunition may be compatible with the MK13, MK16, and MK17 weapon configurations if minor design modifications could be incorporated into the EGLM launcher to fire the unique cartridge case. Threshold range of the grenades shall be 600 meters flight. Responses should include technical description and details of fuze type and MIL-STD-1316E compliance, United States or foreign qualification status of fuze, types of energetics used in warhead and quantities, type of propellant(s) used and quantities, and primer type. Responses should also include type of warhead (HE or HEDP, pre-fragmented or naturally fragmenting), warhead weight, muzzle velocity test results, and case mouth and/or mid-case pressure test results with sufficient detail such that the Government can determine potential compatibility with the MK13, MK16 and MK17 SCAR EGLM systems.”

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