The United States Army has elected to halt additional upgrades to its standard M4 carbine, ArmyTimes reported this week.
The new upgrades would have included an extended Picatinny rail; a floating barrel; a flash suppressor; a brownish color for new parts to help camouflage; removable iron sights; and an optional sniper-style single-stage trigger specifically for squad marksmen.
“The Army issues market surveys all the time to assess if there’s any new technologies that it might want to look at. In this instance, there weren’t,” Picatinny Arsenal spokesman Pete Rowland said in an email. “Case-closed for now.”
The new upgrades were part of a program known as M4A1+. The program was intended, according to the ArmyTimes, to “improve ergonomics and accuracy.” But after reviewing proposals, the Army determined it was not worth the effort.
The good news for infantrymen is that the Army is still moving ahead with another program—known simply as M4A1—designed to upgrade the Army’s older M4 carbines to M4A1’s.
M4A1’s have been used in special operations since 1994. They feature a heavier barrel that better withstands extended use; ambidextrous safety controls; and conversion of its three-round burst mode to fully automatic.
Now the Army is replacing—base by base—its older M4’s with M4A1’s, an initiative that is currently 25 percent complete and is projected to finish by 2020.
According to the ArmyTimes, the impetus for the change began in Afghanistan when M4 barrels warped during extended firefights. The new barrels are designed to manage fully automatic fire over an extended period of time.
The M4, in turn, was introduced in 1994 to replace the longer M16, which was first adopted in 1964.
The M4A1+ program offered some slight improvements to the M4A1 platform and was designed to “seamlessly integrate with the current M4A1 Carbine… without negatively impacting or affecting the performance or operation.”
Lt. Col. Terry Russell, project manager for individual weapons at Picatinny Arsenal, said the Army was “very confident that these already do exist, or that (companies) can develop them for us in short order.”
The benefits of these improvements, it seems, did not outweigh the costs. Soldier Systems published a complete list of the proposed upgrades and noted that the M4A1+ program sought a “turnkey solution from a single vendor” rather than procuring each component from the best manufacturer.
The program could have been scrapped for any number of reasons, but one explanation could be that the Army could not find a single vendor capable of producing each of these components for the right price and performance standards.