The Army has half a million M4 carbines, the lightweight version of the Vietnam-vintage M16. So if the service was going to invest in a replacement, it wanted a “leap ahead” that would, among other things, cut in half the number of times the weapon jammed – a criterion the Army has not made clear until today. None of the eight designs offered for the Individual Carbine competition met that standard, Army officials said, so the service is going to stick with the M4 indefinitely.
That, in a nutshell, is the word from a half-dozen Army experts and officials at a hastily convened press conference to explain the service’s decision to, for all practical purposes, kill off the $1.8 billion Individual Carbine program. The Senate Armed Services Committee has already cut the $49.5 million requested for the program in 2014 “based upon the Army’s decision not to continue with the competitive evaluation program,” to quote the SASC’s official summary of the bill, released just before 1:00 pm today. On the flip side, the Senate left in $21.3 million to buy 12,000 more of the current M4A1. But after years of technical controversy and political pressure, M4 critics are unlikely to just let the matter rest.