By David Crane
defrev (at) gmail (dot) com
February 8, 2011
Updated on 1/12/11.
About a week ago, on January 31, 2011, the U.S. Army issued a Draft Request For Proposal (RFP) W15QKN-11-R-F003 for an “Individual Carbine” to supposedly replace the Colt M4/M4A1 Carbine, a direct-gas-impingement (DGI) AR-15 carbine configured to U.S. military specifications. Of course, the Army looking for an “Individual Carbine”, or “Next Carbine”, as an M4/M4A1 replacement is old news. Let’s not forget that the Army issued Solicitation Number: W15QKN-10-X-0455 for “Small Arms Technology – Individual Carbine” (sound familiar?) on May 27, 2010. That was eight months ago. Before that, on February 6, 2010, almost exactly one year ago, the Army had issued a sources sought notice for a “M4 Carbine Modification Kit” to improve/upgrade the M4/M4A1 Carbine. Sixteen months before that, on August 22, 2008, the Army had issued a sources sought notice for an “Improved Carbine and Subcompact Individual Weapon System”.
So, this whole thing really started two and a half years ago. I’ll cut to the chase. I don’t think the Army is going to replace the M4/M4A1 in the traditional sense of going to a whole new weapons platform (non-AR). I think they’ll perhaps improve/upgrade the current system with various components and coatings and perhaps contract it to multiple manufacturers, but that’s about it. Whatever happens, the end result will most-likely be an improved AR-platform (AR-15 platform) weapon. Here are the potential improvement/upgrade nominees:
1) M4A1 Carbine-Type True Full-Auto Capability and Heavier-Profile Barrel. The M4′s current 3-round burst feature would go the way of the Dodo, as it should. The 3-round burst is not only the worst and dumbest thing about the M4, it also makes for a lousy semi-auto trigger pull. If you’re going to put a burst limiter on a weapon, better to go with a 2-round burst in addition to a full-auto setting, not instead of it. An M4A1/IAR (Infantry Automatic Rifle)-type full-auto capability will require a heavy-profile (or, at least heavier-profile) machine gun barrel
2) Ambidextrous Controls. DefenseReview (DR) recently published info on the AXTS ambi lower receiver (AX556 and AX762), which is a true, full ambi lower. Ambidextrous AR lower receiver controls are hot right now. Smith & Wesson (S&W) is offering ambi controls on their latest M&P AR submissions to the military, and Colt is offering them on their CM901 modular, multi-caliber 7.62mm/5.56mm universal lower receiver (AR lower).
3) Multi-Caliber and Multi-Operating-System Capability/Modularity. The new Colt CM901 7.62mm NATO battle rifle/carbine/SBR (Short Barreled Rifle) that’s convertible into a 5.56mm NATO assault rifle/carbine/SBR is a prime example of this movement. Since the CM901 is an AR platform weapon, you can pre-zero your optics for each caliber and length upper receiver, so you can quickly swap out uppers for different and specific missions. The CM901 will also be an operating system-convertible weapon, in the sense that it can utilize the Colt APC (Advanced Piston Carbine) and Colt AHC (Advanced Hybrid Carbine) systems, in addition to Colt’s legacy DGI system. Or, you can stick an Adams Arms piston-driven AR upper, LWRC piston upper, or POF piston upper on the Colt CM901 lower, if you’d like.
4) Recoil Attenuation/Mitigation Hardware/Technology for better full-auto controllability. A good example of this is the excellent (patented) FERFRANS Rate Reduction System (RRS) a.k.a. Delayed Sear Activation System (DSAS), which DefenseReview has covered extensively in the last few years.
5) Mid-Length Gas System and Barrel. All you need is a mid-length gas tube/barrel setup. The weapon would stay direct-gas-impingement, but the mid-length system would provide for a “smoother-shooting” weapon, where the felt-recoil impulse is spread out over more time.
6) Gas piston/op-rod (operating rod) System/Kit. The simplest and most cost-effective solution that achieves adequate/requisite reliability is probably the Adams Arms (AA) AR-15 Gas Piston System. AA makes both carbine-length and mid-length piston systems. If you’re going to utilize a 14.5-16″ barrel, the mid-length Adams Arms piston system kit seems like the optimum solution, since it’s reportedly smoother-shooting with a lower felt recoil impulse.
However, there are some other potentially viable, if more costly, gas piston/op-rod system solutions for the Individual Carbine, including, but not necessarily limited to the Colt APC (Advanced Piston Carbine) system (short-stroke), Colt AHC (Advanced Hybrid Carbine) system (short stroke); Primary Weapons Systems (PWS) long-stroke piston system, like that used on the PWS Diablo AR SBR); LWRC (also written LWRCi) short stroke piston system, like that used on the LWRC M6A2 (carbine length gas) and M6A3 (mid-length gas) carbines/SBRs; and Patriot Ordnance Factory (POF) FAL-type short-stroke piston system.
The three primary combat-relevant advantages to the gas piston/op-rod system over the direct-gas-impingement system are 1) enhanced reliability with short, sub-12.5″ SBR barrel and muzzle can (silencer/sound suppressor) attached, 2) the “over the beach” capability of being able to fire the weapon immediately after bringing it up out of the water without causing a catastrophic failure, and 3) being able to go more rounds without any cleaning. With a DGI weapon, you have to shake the water out of the barrel in order to be able to safely fire the weapon. It should be noted that a properly sprung and maintained DGI AR carbine/SBR can be fired for thousands of rounds without cleaning.
7) 16″ barrel instead of 14.5″ barrel. Believe it or not, 16 inches offers just enough of a velocity and range advantage over the 14.5″ barrel to be considered combat-significant by some pretty experienced and knowledgeable people DR knows. Theoretically, the Army could also provide operators with a second/replacement SBR (Short Barreled Rifle) upper receiver with a 10.5-12.5″ barrel, so they can swap out uppers with pre-zero’d combat optics, depending on the mission-specific requirements.
8.) High-Tech Self-Lubricating/Anti-Corrosion Internal Coatings and Protective and Thermal/IR (Infrared) Camouflage External Coatings. The two most popular internal coatings for firearms right now are the FailZero nickel-boron (Ni-B) coating and CerakoteMicro-Slick (also written MicroSlick) ceramic firearm coating. It should be noted that small boutique AR manufacturers like Next Generation Arms (NGA) (maker of the new X7 “Gray Rifle” mid-length DGI AR carbine) and STS Arms have their own internal ceramic coatings for firearms that look pretty good.
While we were at SOFIC 2010, the Smith & Wesson (S&W) M&P AR carbines/SBRs Defense Review viewed and handled sported both FailZero nickel-boron-coated internals AND and what DR understood to be an anti-IR external coating (unconfirmed/unverified).
9) AR Combat Match Trigger. DR contributor Mike Pannone has written about the the advantages provided by a good combat match AR trigger.
10) Monolithic Rail System. Companies like LMT and Colt already offer AR rifles/carbines/SBRs with monolithic Mil-Std-1913 “Picatinny” quad rail systems, and there seems to be a movement toward monolithic rails for the AR rifle platform. A monolithic rail means that the rail system is integral with the upper receiver, i.e., all one piece.
12) Improved/Upgraded Accessories. This might include aftermarket accessories like buttstocks (Vltor IMod, MagPul CTR (Compact/Type Restricted), LMT SOPMOD), flip-up BUIS (Back Up Iron Sights), pistol grips (like TangoDown, MagPul, and ERGO Grip), automatic windshield-wiper-type ejection port dust cover, flash hiders (flash suppressors), etc.
13) Higher-Capacity Magazines. Enhanced-capacity rifle magazines like the SureFire HCM (High Capacity Magazine) 60-shot and 100-shot 4×2 “Quad Stack” mags (box magazines) and Armatac 78-shot SAW-LITE Mag and 150-shot SAW-MAG drum/double-drum mags could be real game changers, particularly if future U.S. Army infantry soldiers/warfighters are able to employ true full-auto fire from their carbines.
The following is the latest Individual Carbine Draft RFP in full:
Solicitation Number: W15QKN-11-R-F003
Agency: Department of the Army
Office: Army Contracting Command
Location: JM&L Contracting Center (JM&L-CC)
Jan 31, 2011
Solicitation Number: W15QKN-11-R-F003
Notice Type: Presolicitation
Added: Jan 31, 2011 8:58 am
This is a DRAFT Request for Proposal (RFP) W15QKN-11-R-F003 for the Individual Carbine (IC). This notice also serves as the official announcementof the Industry Day (Pre-proposal Conference) for the IC program. Thisannouncement is issued for planning purposes only and constitutes a requestfor exchange of information pursuant to FAR 15.201. The purpose of exchanginginformation is to both improve the understanding of Government requirements byindustry, and improve Government knowledge of industry capabilities. Offerorsare directed to NOT submit proposals at this time.
The Government has determined a need to find the best IC weapon that provides the best value to the Government. The Individual Carbine will enable the engagement of enemy combatants with a highly reliable weapon system throughoutthe range of military operations and environments. The IC will also possessthe ability to utilize current and future weapon accessories and opticsthrough the use of an integrated rail system. The IC will replace selectedcurrent capability weapon system(s) and leverage commercial technologyadvancements. The IC requirements support future system enhancements foraccuracy, lethality, reliability, signature suppression, ammunitionimprovements, maintenance and other weapon/accessory technologies.
This IC DRAFT RFP, for the Individual Carbine IC, is issued under a Full and Open Competition environment, subject to FAR part 15. The Government intendsto award up to three Indefinite Delivery, Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) typecontracts, with a final down select to be made to a single contractor fortheir design. All resulting delivery orders will be firm fixed price. TheGovernment will select for award(s) the proposal(s) which represent the BestValue to the Government.
Potential Offerors are invited to participate in a question and answer forum with IC personnel, focusing on the IC DRAFT RFP. This Q&A forum will providean opportunity for potential Offerors to ask questions prior to the release ofa final solicitation. Offerors shall submit questions electronically no laterthan March 10, 2011, to Peter Snedeker, contact information is provided end ofthis announcement. It is anticipated that questions submitted will be postedon FedBizOpps along with corresponding answers. In addition, an Industry Daywill be hosted for further clarification.
Industry day is scheduled for March 30, 2011. Only interested parties withinthe Small Arms Industry will be granted admittance. This date and informationis subject to change: please monitor FedBizOpps frequently for any schedulechanges. The format of the Industry Day will consist of a presentation by theGovernment with a written question and answer session following (restrictionswill apply). The meeting will be held at:
Doubletree Hotel Washington DC – Crystal City300 Army Navy Drive, Arlington, Virginia, United States 22202-2891Tel: 1-703-416-4100Fax: 1-703-416-4126There are rooms available under the “IC Industry Day”
Comments/Questions regarding the Draft RFP submitted after Industry Day willnot be addressed. Interested parties should contact Peter Snedeker no laterthan March 17, 2011, to register for the event. Hotel reservations should bebooked directly with the hotel.
Note: No information exchanged with industry will be considered in theevaluation process. Offerors are directed not to submit proposals at thistime.
In addition, this announcement serves as notification that export controlprocedures regulated by the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR)are in effect. The DRAFT Purchase Description AR-PD-173 Attachment 0009 hasbeen marked Distribution D. Offerors that are interested in receiving thisdocument must be in compliance with ITAR and possess the proper authorizationto receive this technical data.
AR-PD-173 is marked distribution statement D – DISTRIBUTION STATEMENTAUTHORIZED TO THE DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE (DOD) AND U.S. DOD CONTRACTORS ONLY.
AR-PD-173 will be available upon request, provided that all necessary paperwork is properly completed by the requester, submitted, and approved prior toany release. In order to process a request for the drawing package or otherinformation each requester (U.S. & Canada) must complete and submit thefollowing forms:
FORM: DD2345 Military Critical Technical Data AgreementAttachment 0010: AMSTA 1350 Technical Data Request QuestionnaireAttachment 0011: Non-Disclosure Agreement
Foreign Vendors Contractors shall comply with all applicable laws andregulations regarding export-controlled items, including, but not limited to,the requirement for Contractors to register with the Department of State inaccordance with the ITAR. The Contractor may consult with the Department ofState regarding any questions relating to compliance with the ITAR and mayconsult with the Department of Commerce regarding any questions they may haverelating to compliance with the Export Administration Regulation (EAR).Please reference the following link consulting these regulationshttp://www.pmddtc.state.gov/regulations_laws/itar.html
The Contractor’s responsibility to comply with all applicable laws andregulations regarding export-controlled items exists independent of, and isnot established or limited by, the information provided above.
This is a special notice only and is for planning purposes only. THIS IS NOTA FINAL SOLICITATION AND DOES NOT OBLIGATE THE GOVERNMENT TO ISSUE A FINALSOLICITATION. THE GOVERNMENT IS NOT OBLIGATED TO REIMBURESE ANY PARTICPATINGCONTRACTORS FOR ATTENDANCE AT INDUSTRY DAY.
Contact Information:Peter [email protected](973)724-4009
The DRAFT RFP is an attachment that can be found on Procnet http://procnet.pica.army.mil/
US ARMY TACOM-Picatinny Procurement Network
Contracting Office Address:
US Army, Army Contracting Command, Joint Munitions and Lethality (JM&L) Contracting Center, Picatinny Arsenal, New Jersey 07806-5000
Point of Contact(s):
Peter Snedeker, Contract Specialist, (973)724-4009
Notice Type: Presolicitation
Posted Date: January 31, 2011
Response Date: July 30, 2011
Archiving Policy: Automatic, on specified date
Archive Date: July 29, 2012
Original Set Aside: N/A
Set Aside: N/A
Classification Code: 10 — Weapons”
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