Inside the M4A1 Purchase and Upgrade Program

I got a note from a Kit Up! reader on Monday alerting me to the release of PEO Soldier’s 2011 program almanac and wondering why the Army said on page 243 that even though it had about 500,000 M4s in the inventory, only about 100,000 were part of the upgrade program.

Well, according to Lt. Col. Chris Lehner — the PM for individual weapons — the deal is this:

There are about 12,000 new M4s left on the contract with Colt (which expired back in ’08 when the technical data package was released — in other words, when the patent expired). Lehner said he’d asked Colt to make those 12k guns in the M4A1 configuration (heavier barrel, full auto, ambidextrous controls) since the switch was a minimal impact to the manufacturing process. Those guns are being produced and fielded now.

Then there are about 24,000 new full-up weapons that are funded for fiscal 2011. Those weapons will be produced in the M4A1 configuration. But the big difference is that now that production will be competed. In other words, Colt’s monopoly is over on M4 production.

Right now we are firming up the solicitation for that … for a full and open competition. The interesting thing [with this order] is that that’s just what the Army needs. So it could be many multiples of 24,000 if you think of foreign military sales, other services and other agencies … so it’s a foot in the door for much more business than the 24,000…

Then, the Army has been given money in its FY ’11 budget to upgrade about 65,000 existing M4s to the M4A1.

We’ll compete the barrel, we’ll compete the trigger mechanism and we’ll compete the fire control assembly.

But the reason why the Army isn’t doing all 500,000 is schedule and funding.

Our acquisition strategy for these improvements is to make improvements to the whole fleet. That’s what’s been accepted by Army leadership. … You make improvements as funding and the budget allows you to do.

This raises an interesting dilemma — one our readers have been scratching the surface on over the last couple days. Can the Army get everything it wants with a Tea Party budget slashing Congress in session? Can it at the same time ask for hundreds of millions for M4 improvements while also asking for potentially billions for a whole new rifle (the Improved Carbine search we wrote about yesterday)? I’m not so sure…

And, oh, one more thing. Lehner said as the 100,000 or so M4A1s get produced and go into the field, the priority for those weapons includes deploying BCTs and SF units.

18 Comments on "Inside the M4A1 Purchase and Upgrade Program"

  1. The right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing, or maybe one side of isn't talking to the other side, or you are talking about the upper levels of a U.S. Government agency and common sense is a foreign concept, or the Army believes in throwing good money after bad, or all of the above? And, if they are going to have an all new carbine/rifle, then what caliber is it going to be? It would be nice to design the weapon around the cartridge, instead of trying to design a cartridge around a weapon. But I forget, we are talking about our government here.

  2. The Republican congress will approve this since the cost is a fraction compared to a new weapon or a new aircraft carrier or a new failed f-35. The main thing is the M-4 is going to stay I think this whole new carbine thing is a farce and the real thing is this upgrade since the test are rigged for 5.56mm and the fact the army is going for a duel strategy anyway.

  3. I don't see the M-4 going away. The army is the only service doing these upgrades and competitions. The USMC is not going to buy the upgraded M-4 and any possible new carbine and stated they wont. The Air Force is not doing away with the M-4 and the Coast Guard and Navy are using M-16s . At most the Military is going the way of each service like it was in the 1890s The army had the Kreg carbine the Navy had Winchester 1895s in service and many units had .45-70 rifles in service. Not until the universal adoption of the M-1903 was a Military standard rifle standardized. Is the military going back to the older stranded no one knows. i do know the M-4 is going to be around Christian Lowe didn't mention that the Army is having open competitions for a new bolt and carrier for the M-4 and a new Piston conversion for it too. This a later stage which will start next year.

    With a Republican congress slashing budgets I doubt a whole new rile will get adopted in a the next few years anyway. The Official weapon statement states that no decision will be made before 2013 anyway. Sound like they will wait and see whose president after 2012 anyway. Most competitors of the new carbine program are AR copies anyway the REC-7, HK 416, and the LWRC are all are with new uppers. This may be used to cut cost in that older M-4 lowers could be used and parts too. I don't know but this is all hype and we wont know any real news until competitions and test begin next year. Any way thats my two cents and the fellow feelings of some people on the firearm blog im part of.

  4. I think a more salient question would be why a full-sized rifle was replaced by a carbine instead, rather than replacing the 5.56.

  5. Tea Party budget slashing Congress in session? The so called "Tea Party" are pro military. DUH! They are for slashing rampant libtard spending. No where can I see that they will slash defense spending. You still have the stan, Iran, Nk. They need to slash unemployment for bums, welfare for "breeders", and all those other social freebies the dem's use to get re-elected. Congress needs to update the upper (HK 416/417) or go with a better and Modern carbine. The M-4 is long in the tooth and needs to be replaced.

  6. I'm refering to what the basis of the article was. Sorry blame Bush for everything is a tactic of the left. Does it apply to you?

  7. Rick james- I don't see the left walking into my combat AOR and treating me like I matter. I am currently deployed to Iraq. Republican senators/rep are always here shaking hands thanking GI's. Obama has to have his PR toadies round up Obama lovers in uniform for his shameless photo ops. Been there seen that have you?

  8. My apologies. Im way off topic also. Guns or Butter? That is the question.

  9. To put it short, the carbine was a pea-shooter that messed up.

    The Garand was able to knock the enemy down at the very least.

  10. Daniel E. Watters | December 13, 2010 at 5:44 am | Reply

    FWIW: Colt's existing contract for the M4/M4A1 did not expire with the granting of TDP license rights to the government. Orders can be placed on W52H09-07-D-0425 until the end of calender year 2010. Deliveries will stretch out several months into 2011.

    The granting of license rights does not mean that the government owns the M4/M4A1 TDP. For the next few decades, any second-source contracts using the M4/M4A1 TDP will require royalty payments to Colt.

  11. Too bad some multibillionaire doesn't arm a whole division with a new rifle/carbine & new caliber for a deployment in Afghanistan so the troops would at least have a better point of reference for their after deployment surveys.

  12. I hate to break ot 2 u trojanII, but ur wrong, u should look p the facts, b4 u shoot ur mouth off!!! :-{

  13. U sir c what u want 2 c. It's not that bush caused all the problems, it's just that he didn't care………..

  14. So; Bush Cheney and Rumsfeld openly ridiculing Gen Shinseki for informing them that they didn't have enough troops in Iraq to properly manage the rebuilding of Iraq makes the W. Bush administration greater than "libtards". It's comical how the rightwingers forget about Shinseki when they start patting themselves on the back for Patreus' "surge". The surge being what Bush was told was necessary to effectively manage the war. Furthermore, Bush's minion Paul Bremer issuing Coalition Provisional Authority Order #2 automatically made the war last 4 times longer than necessary and probably 100 times more expensive than what it should have been. That's not even touching on the original justification for the war in the first place. The US would be in much better shape if Gore had become president.

  15. go fuck yourself rob

  16. Republicans support the military; tea baggers dont

  17. From what I understood about upcoming purchases; the army was buying 12,000/25,000/28,000 in M4A1 config then that 65,000 was to be upgraded to ambi, piston, monolithic upper. If that went well the whole 500,000 would then be upgraded to full auto as well as the other improvements I mentioned. (since the 500,000 are M4's not M4A1's) Of course I could be completely wrong, I can interpet army decisions as well as the next guy. The army bamboozles me.

  18. | February 1, 2013 at 3:47 am | Reply

    You are terribly uneducated Jon. Less than 1 percent or the “2 percent” came from the middle class. The American dream is some bs they sell you to keep you brainwashed believing you can actually grab that carrot on the stick they’re dangling in front of you. It’s so you can keep the 2 percent rich. You are their slave, you are second class to them and if you don’t think this is true then your a ver myopic minded individual. Step out of the box, open your mind sheep. They think they’re are better than you and that they “deserve” a better life than you and your kids. Unacceptable. Watch “the men who built America” the money is still in the same families hands. Anytime someone from middle class makes it, please believe it been done purposely so people can see and believe that one day they can achieve that through hard work. Bs. Mitt Romney was born into money, didn’t have to earn it. Yet, he makes 20 million a year off investments(no job) while the average American works his/her ass off for 25k. Your a zombie, wake up.

    To everyone actually speaking about the carbines, sorry. Didn’t mean to side track so much. This dude is an idot

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