Soldiers should not hold their breath on any of these, some of this tech has been “in the pipeline” for years.-SF
How heavy is it? Unloaded and without accessories: 7.74 pounds
When might you have one? You might already. The upgrade of M4s (and replacement of M16s) is around a quarter complete and will continue until roughly 2020.
Why should you care?The upgrade offers a heavier barrel; some soldiers reported M4s overheating, becoming warped and then jamming during extended use, particularly in Afghanistan. It also adds ambidextrous safety controls and converts the weapon’s three-round burst option into fully-automatic.
Will this actually happen? Yes. Here’s what won’t happen, however: The Army also ran a market survey in March 2015 for additional M4 upgrades dubbed M4A1+. Ideas included: an extended Picatinny rail, a floating barrel for enhanced accuracy, and an optional sniper-style single-stage trigger for marksmen, flash suppressor, removable sights, and more neutral colors, among a variety of other enhancements. But the “plus” died with the survey; there’s currently no formal requirements, program of record nor funding.
2. XM17 (Modular Handgun System)
What does it do? This will replace the Beretta M9 as the Army’s sidearm.
How heavy is it? The 351-page requirement document does not specify a weight, but presumably similar weight to a standard striker-style handgun, between 1.5 and 2 pounds.
When might you have one? The Army plans for full-rate production in 2018.
Why should you care? The Army has used an iteration of the M9 as its standard sidearm since 1985. The new pistol will feature better modularity, ergonomics, and accuracy. The requirements require a striker-style firing mechanism. The modular aspect will include ability to adjust grip size, and to add accessories via a Picatinny rail. The competition is open caliber, so the 9mm NATO standard round could be upsized to a .40 or a .45 caliber weapon. In addition the Army, which has stuck with full metal jackets for decades, has not ruled out hollow-point or fragmenting ammunition.
Will this actually happen? Probably. But not definitely. Companies (the Army won’t say how many) have submitted their candidates for the contract for the Army to evaluate, so the wheels are in motion. But that was also true of the Individual Carbine program canceled in 2013, and soldiers still carry M4s with no replacement plans in sight. Complaints of cost/waste have already emerged: Army Chief Gen. Mark Milleyquipped he could find a new pistol with $17 million and a trip to Cabela’s, and Sen. John McCain slammed the MHS program in his series of “Americas Most Wasted” reports. If such complaints intensify in a tight budget environment, the Army could pull the plug.
3. Compact Semi-Automatic Sniper System
What does it do? It shoots people from far away. The Army has selected a variant of Heckler & Koch’s G28 for the role, replacing the M110.
How heavy is it? Roughly 12.7 pounds, or 3 pounds lighter than the M110.
Why should you care? Because you like your marksmen to have sniper rifles as good or better than their current ones, but smaller and lighter. The Army wanted a rifle that was easier to use in close quarters that also offered better ergonomics, accuracy and reliability.
Will this actually happen? Almost certainly. The contract’s been awarded, so if the 30 rifles H&K provide for testing prove as effective as the ones tested, the Army will buy up to 3,643.
What does it do? The XM25 grenade launcher and its five-25mm grenade magazine offers a programmable round and fire control.
How heavy is it? Roughly 14 pounds, unloaded.
When might you have one? Perhaps as soon as 2017. Assuming funding (which the Army has requested for the coming fiscal year) and testing stay on track.
5. IRAP (Increase Range Anti-Personnel)
What does it do? Along with the separate XM25 weapon, the Army is pursuing a new 40mm grenade cartridge that can be fired by the M320, one with better range and accuracy as well as advanced fuze functionality (when and why it explodes).
How heavy is it? Roughly the same as an M433 grenade round.
When might you have one? It is planned to start as a program of record (a funded weapons program) in 2017.
Why should you care? The IRAP rolled in the technology from the Small Arms Grenade Munition smart grenade, which can sense a wall or building or obstacle and then automatically explode just after passing it. SAGM required no pre-programming; just point your standard grenade launcher and shoot. The requirements from a December market survey indicate the Army wants increased range, lethality and accuracy as well as increased fuze functionality and versatility compared to the M433. The survey asked vendors what would trigger an airburst or explosion, and whether any other equipment like fire control would be needed for a demonstration.
Will this actually happen? With plans to become a program of record next year: very likely. The Army says the round is not competing against the XM25 — although every defense dollar is competing against every other defense dollar, especially in at least a relatively similar functionality. Unlike the XM25, SAGM doesn’t require the Army to buy new guns. If the price-tag doesn’t vary too much from standard grenades, it’d be easy to imagine this supplementing or supplanting those purchases. Even if not, the Army still sounds like it’s fairly committed, though no solicitation has been issued.
Read About The Remaining 13 Improvements at Army Times