The tests have officially started because FN SCAR showed up earlier than expected. Now let the show begin. We should know by Xmas who's champ!
M4 competitor testing underway
By Matthew Cox - Staff writer
Posted : Tuesday Oct 16, 2007 13:43:49 EDT
Once postponed until December, the Army dust chamber test, designed to test the M4 carbine’s performance against a handful of other carbines, should now be finished by Thanksgiving.
Testers at the Army Test and Evaluation Center at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., began testing the M4 against the Heckler & Koch 416, the H&K XM8 and FNH USA’s Special Operations Forces Combat Assault Rifle on Sept. 24, said Army Col. Carl Lipsit, project manager for Soldier Weapons.
The SCAR sample models, which weren’t scheduled for delivery until December, arrived earlier than anticipated, Lipsit said.
Army weapons officials agreed to perform the test at the request of Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., in July. Coburn began questioning the Army five months ago about its plans to spend $375 million to purchase M4s through fiscal 2009. Lighter and more compact than the M16 rifle, the M4 is more effective for the close confines of urban combat. The Army began fielding the M4 in the mid-1990s.
Coburn questioned the M4’s “long-standing reliability” problems in his original April 12 letter and asked if the Army had considered newer, possibly better weapons available on the commercial market.
Army weapons officials at Fort Benning’s Infantry Center in Georgia — the command responsible for determining soldiers’ weapons needs — maintain that the M4 carbine meets the Army’s requirements and see no reason to replace it.
The tests will feature weapons officials shooting 6,000 rounds apiece through 10 sample models of each weapon under sandstorm conditions.
Testers will expose two sample weapons from each competing carbine to the dust chamber before firing. This will go on until all the 10 test samples from each weapon have been fired, Lipsit said. The test protocol was selected to ensure that all the test samples are exposed to the same humidity and other environmental conditions on any given day.
“We are trying to eliminate as many variables as we can,” Lipsit said.
Army weapons officials are scheduled to complete the test by the Thanksgiving holiday and have a report ready by late December, Lipsit said.
The test data report will be sent to the Infantry Center, which has been involved in a Capabilities Based Assessment to decide future small-arms needs of the Army. But Army weapons officials stress that the findings may not result in any type of new carbine program.
The contenders participating in the test use a piston-style operating system, which relies on a gas-driven piston rod to cycle the weapon during firing.
By contrast, the M4 uses a gas tube system, which relies on the gas created when a bullet is fired to cycle the weapon. Weapons experts said blowing gas directly into the receiver of the weapon spews carbon residue that can lead to fouling and heat that dries up lubrication and causes excessive wear on parts.
The Army’s Delta Force replaced its M4s with the H&K 416 in 2004. The elite unit collaborated with the German arms maker to develop the new carbine. Experts said its piston operating system significantly reduces malfunctions while increasing the life of parts. Other special units, such as the Army’s Asymmetric Warfare Group, also have used the 416.
U.S. Special Operations Command has also revised its small-arms requirements. In November 2004, SOCom awarded a developmental contract to FN Herstal to develop its new SCAR to replace its weapons from the M16 family.
And from 2002 to 2005, the Army developed the XM8 as a replacement for the conventional Army’s M16 family. The program led to infighting in the service’s weapons community and eventually died after failing to win approval at the Defense Department level.