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US Army Conducts Airdrop Testing Of Integrated Head Protection System

Friday, August 4th, 2017

FORT BRAGG, N.C. — Successful implementation of new body armor technology requires more than just engineers designing prototype systems in a lab. Feedback from Soldiers who will be using the technology is critical to ensuring that the U.S. Army continues to field world-class technology for its fighters.

The new Integrated Head Protection System (IHPS) is configured with mandible and visor without ballistic applique for "Rough Terrain" static line parachute jump operations. (Photo Credit: Rebecka Waller, Audio Visual Production Specialist, Airborne and Special Operations Test Directorate, U.S. Army Operational Test Command)

The new Integrated Head Protection System (IHPS) is configured with mandible and visor without ballistic applique for “Rough Terrain” static line parachute jump operations. (Photo Credit: Rebecka Waller, Audio Visual Production Specialist, Airborne and Special Operations Test Directorate, U.S. Army Operational Test Command)

Recently, Airborne Soldiers here played a vital part in the feedback process when they recently jumped with a groundbreaking new Integrated Head Protection System (IHPS) during operational testing.

Soldiers from the 57th Sapper Company, 27th Engineer Battalion, 20th Engineer Brigade, geared up to work with the U.S. Army Operational Test Command’s Airborne and Special Operations Test Directorate to test the new armor.

1st Lt. Christopher Lillie, assistant jumpmaster with the 57th Sapper Company, 27th Engineer Battalion, 20th Engineer Brigade, wears the new Integrated Head Protection System (IHPS) helmet with mandible, while shouting commands to position the number one jumper in the door of a C-17 aircraft. (Photo Credit: Barry Fischer, Audio Visual Production Specialist, Airborne and Special Operations Test Directorate, U.S. Army Operational Test Command)

1st Lt. Christopher Lillie, assistant jumpmaster with the 57th Sapper Company, 27th Engineer Battalion, 20th Engineer Brigade, wears the new Integrated Head Protection System (IHPS) helmet with mandible, while shouting commands to position the number one jumper in the door of a C-17 aircraft. (Photo Credit: Barry Fischer, Audio Visual Production Specialist, Airborne and Special Operations Test Directorate, U.S. Army Operational Test Command)

“Operational Testing is about Soldiers. It is about making sure that the systems developed are effective in a Soldier’s hands and suitable for the environments in which Soldiers train and fight,” said Col. Brad Mock, director of ABNSOTD.

The IHPS is one of the six components of the Soldier Protection System (body armor), providing a larger area of protection for the head and face, and includes a system to measure head trauma.

Soldier configured with the new Integrated Head Protection System (IHPS) without the mandible, while wearing combat equipment. (Photo Credit: Rebecka Waller, Audio Visual Production Specialist, Airborne and Special Operations Test Directorate, U.S. Army Operational Test Command)

Soldier configured with the new Integrated Head Protection System (IHPS) without the mandible, while wearing combat equipment. (Photo Credit: Rebecka Waller, Audio Visual Production Specialist, Airborne and Special Operations Test Directorate, U.S. Army Operational Test Command)

According to Leon L. Price, a test officer with ABNSOTD, the purpose of operational test using Airborne paratroopers is to collect data to evaluate the suitability and safety of the IHPS when worn during static line Airborne operations.

Overall, IHPS is only a little lighter than the current Army Combat Helmet, while including numerous accessories, like a mandible, visor, night vision goggle attachment device, rails and a modular ballistic applique (not attached during airborne operations).

Soldier configured with the new Integrated Head Protection System (IHPS) with the mandible, while wearing combat equipment. (Photo Credit: Rebecka Waller, Audio Visual Production Specialist, Airborne and Special Operations Test Directorate, U.S. Army Operational Test Command)

Soldier configured with the new Integrated Head Protection System (IHPS) with the mandible, while wearing combat equipment. (Photo Credit: Rebecka Waller, Audio Visual Production Specialist, Airborne and Special Operations Test Directorate, U.S. Army Operational Test Command)

During the test, Soldiers participated in New Equipment Training, which included familiarization, fitting, and suspended harness. All this was followed by a live parachute jump from a C-17 high performance aircraft at 1,250 feet above ground level over Fort Bragg’s Sicily Drop Zone.

“I gave fair, honest and comprehensive feedback on the IHPS helmet,” said Cpl. Samuel Emling, a Combat Engineer with the 57th. “I enjoyed the testing. The test personnel were extremely professional.”

Soldiers from the 57th Sapper Company, 27th Engineer Battalion, 20th Engineer Brigade, exit a C-17 aircraft over Sicily Drop Zone, Fort Bragg, North Carolina, while performing operational testing wearing the new Integrated Head Protection System (IHPS). (Photo Credit: Jim Finney, Combined Technical Services, Airborne and Special Operations Test Directorate, U.S. Army Operational Test Command)

Soldiers from the 57th Sapper Company, 27th Engineer Battalion, 20th Engineer Brigade, exit a C-17 aircraft over Sicily Drop Zone, Fort Bragg, North Carolina, while performing operational testing wearing the new Integrated Head Protection System (IHPS). (Photo Credit: Jim Finney, Combined Technical Services, Airborne and Special Operations Test Directorate, U.S. Army Operational Test Command)

“Soldiers and test units have the ability to impact the development of systems by training while executing doctrinally-realistic missions, and then provide direct input to the combat developer of the system,” said Lt. Col. Vinny Intini, executive officer at ABNSOTD. “Their feedback is invaluable.”

Test Manager Steve McNair, of Program Manager Soldier Protection and Individual Equipment out of Fort Belvoir, Virginia, said the Army is expected to field 7,000 systems to separate brigades during fiscal year 2018 before moving to full rate production for fielding across the force.

“I think I benefitted personally by doing this,” said Spec. Aaron Adams, another Combat Engineer with the 57th. “It helps me with being comfortable jumping with new equipment. I enjoyed participating in the testing because we were the only Airborne unit to do so.”

Soldiers participate in suspended harness training to ensure the new Integrated Head Protection System (IHPS) is suitable when performing canopy control and emergency procedures during operational testing. (Photo Credit: Michael Zigmond, Audio Visual Production Specialist, Airborne and Special Operations Test Directorate, U.S. Army Operational Test Command)

Soldiers participate in suspended harness training to ensure the new Integrated Head Protection System (IHPS) is suitable when performing canopy control and emergency procedures during operational testing. (Photo Credit: Michael Zigmond, Audio Visual Production Specialist, Airborne and Special Operations Test Directorate, U.S. Army Operational Test Command)

“OTC is the U.S. Army’s only independent operational test organization,” Mock added. “Any time Soldiers and their leaders get involved in operational testing, they have the opportunity to use, work with, and offer up their own suggestions on pieces of equipment that can impact development of systems that future Soldiers will use in combat.”

“Operational testing is OTC’s opportunity to contribute to readiness; anything less compromises the Army’s ability to provide the forces that fight and win the Nation’s wars,” added Intini.

Bobby Salazar, from Program Manager Soldier Protection and Individual Equipment, out of Fort Belvoir, Virginia, discusses proper fitting of the new Integrated Head Protection System (IHPS) during New Equipment Training. (Photo Credit: Michael Zigmond, Audio Visual Production Specialist, Airborne and Special Operations Test Directorate, U.S. Army Operational Test Command)

Bobby Salazar, from Program Manager Soldier Protection and Individual Equipment, out of Fort Belvoir, Virginia, discusses proper fitting of the new Integrated Head Protection System (IHPS) during New Equipment Training. (Photo Credit: Michael Zigmond, Audio Visual Production Specialist, Airborne and Special Operations Test Directorate, U.S. Army Operational Test Command)

The U.S. Army Operational Test Command is based at West Fort Hood, Texas, and its mission is about making sure that systems developed are effective in a Soldier’s hands and suitable for the environments in which Soldiers train and fight. Test units and their Soldiers provide feedback, by offering input to improve upon existing and future systems with which Soldiers will ultimately use to train and fight.

The Fort Bragg, North Carolina-based ABNSOTD plans, executes, and reports on operational tests and field experiments of Airborne and Special Operations Forces equipment, procedures, aerial delivery and air transportation systems in order to provide key operational data for the continued development and fielding of doctrine, systems or equipment to the Warfighter.

Army to Begin Fielding New Modular Handguns in November

Tuesday, July 25th, 2017

FORT MEADE, Md. — Soldiers have many reasons to be excited about the new Sig Sauer modular handguns, which the Army will begin fielding in November, said Lt. Col. Steven Power, product manager of Soldier Weapons.

Testing of the modular handgun system, or MHS, this spring by Soldiers at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, resulted in overwhelmingly positive feedback, Power said, and 100-percent concurrence that the XM17 was an upgrade over the M9.

"That's an uncommonly positive thing," Power said, explaining that there's typically some reluctance with any new system. "Typically even in our own households, when you're buying a new car, there's things that people like about the old car better than the new one," he said.

In this case, all of the Soldiers who tested the handgun said the MHS was more comfortable to shoot and they had better confidence with it, Power said.

The first new XM17 handguns are scheduled to be fielded to the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, in November.

The Army's versions of the Sig Sauer P320, the XM17 and XM18, have different ammunition requirements than the commercial 320 pistol, and are painted a different color. The P320 was released for commercial use three years ago.

Improved durability and adjustability over the M9, along with interchangeable grips that fit comfortably, are among the features Soldiers can look forward to with the new pistol, Power said.

The new handguns also have an external safety and self-illluminating sights for low-light conditions.

"A big reason why the modular handgun system is such a leap ahead in ergonomics is because of the modular hand grips, instead of just making a one size fits all," Power said. "The shooter will have a handgrip that fits their hand properly which does a lot to improve accuracy — not only on the first shot but also on subsequent shots."

Members of the 101st Airborne are scheduled to receive about 2,000 pistols in November. Eventually, the Army will distribute the weapons to all units over a 10-year period. From November 2017 until September 2018, the new handguns will be fielded at a different post each month, except for March and April of 2018, according to the current plan.

Power said troops from different military branches have already trained with the new handguns and tested them, but none have fielded the weapons yet. The new weapons have long been anticipated, as the M9 Beretta, first issued in 1986, is nearing the end of its serviceability.

"That's pretty dated technology," Power said of the M9. "The specific performance improvements from MHS over the M9 are in the area of accuracy, dispersion (and) ergonomics. And ergonomics isn't just about the comfort of the shooter."

A lot of the weapon's accuracy can be attributed to ergonomics, Power said, adding that human factors engineering determines how well the weapon works in a shooter's hand.

Sig Sauer earned the $580 million contract to produce the weapons in January after winning the Army and Air Force's XM17 Modular Handgun Competition. The Army will continue to use 9mm rounds, subcontracted to ammunition manufacturer Winchester. Power said the Army did not have a preference to remain with the 9mm rounds, but rather used a systems approach to determine ammunition type.

"There was no prejudice toward 9mm," Power said. "The goal was to pick a system that best met our requirements."

Originally posted to www.army.mil.

US Army Announces Industry Day For Next Generation Squad Automatic Rifle

Friday, June 2nd, 2017

The PM Soldier Weapons has announced a classified (yes, classified) Industry Day at Ft Benning on 25-27 July 2017 for the Next Generation Squad Automatic Rifle (NGSAR) which a single incremental program to replace the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW) in Brigade Combat Teams (BCT) and select support units during the next decade. Remember, NGSAR is one of the Army’s budget priorities.

IMG_2148

It will combine the firepower and range of a machine gun with the precision and ergonomics of a carbine, yielding capability improvements in accuracy, range, and lethality. The weapon will be lightweight and fire lightweight ammunition with improved lethality. The NGSAR will help to reduce the heavy load that burdens Soldiers and that has a significant negative impact on their mobility, survivability, and firing accuracy. Soldiers will employ the NGSAR against close and extended range targets in all terrains and conditions. The NGSAR will be compatible with and dependent on legacy optics and night vision devices to meet required capabilities. It will also be compatible with the Small Arms Fire Control system currently in development and possess back-up sights. It is anticipated the NGSAR support concept will be consistent with (comparable to) that of the predecessor M249 SAW involving the Army two level field and sustainment maintenance system. The NGSAR will achieve overmatch by killing stationary, and suppressing moving, threats out to 600 meters (T), and suppressing all threats to a range of 1200 meters (O).

Loads of technical data and requirements follow.

Mandatory Key Performance Parameters (KPP) described below identify the mandatory system capabilities for the NGSAR. These KPPs are essential to the development and improvement of an effective military capability that will make a significant contribution to the characteristics of the future joint force.

KPP 1 System Survivability:
The NGSAR is a mission critical system that must be survivable to chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear (CBRN) exposure to include effects of electromagnetic pulse and cyber-attacks. The NGSAR must be operational after exposure to chemical, biological, radiological, and cyber-attack (T). The NGSAR must be operational after exposure to chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, cyber threats and electromagnetic pulse (O).

KPP 2 Operator System Training:
Soldiers will be trained to comply with the accuracy requirements in this document under simulated combat stressful conditions. Training on the system will be standards-based, leveraging technology in system design to minimize the training time and resources needed for operators/maintainers to achieve system competency. The following criteria will help to ensure system trainability:
1. TASK STEPS: 85% (T) to 95% (O) of tasks to operate and maintain the system will require less than 10 steps (including sub steps).
2. JOB/MEMORY AIDS: 85% (T) to 95% (O) of tasks that require 10 or more steps (including sub steps) will have job/memory aids that provide written procedures or diagrams to enable operators to perform the tasks without the need for extensive memorization.
3. MEMORIZATION: No more than 8 (T) and preferably 3 or less (O) discrete facts, terms names, rules, or ideas will be required to be memorized on any system task.
4. Instrumentable Multiple Integrated Laser Engagement System (I-MILES) Small Arms Transmitter (SAT) Tactical Engagement System (TES) Small Arms Transmitter (SAT). The NGSAR sight system must not interfere with the design, installation, or operation of the current I-MILES SAT and future Army-Tactical Engagement Simulation System (A-TESS) SATs when installed for Live Force-on-Force training.

KPP 3 Accuracy:
The NGSAR will have the capability to provide the P(i) metrics on the target sets located in the classified annex. This will require accurate P(h) along with ammunition capability.

KPP 4 System Weight:
The NGSAR combat configured weapon including sling, bipod and sound suppressor will weigh no more than 12 pounds (T) 8 pounds (O). This does not include ammunition or magazine.

KPP 5 Ammunition Weight:
The NGSAR ammunition will weigh 20 percent less than tactical brass equivalent caliber ammunition (T) 50% (O). Note the NGSAR ammunition could be a caliber not currently in use by the US Army. In that case the equivalent weights will be calculated through interpolation by the USG.

Key System Attributes (KSAs) described below are considered essential to achieving a balanced solution/approach to a system, but not critical enough to be designated a KPP.

KSA 1 Sustainment:
1. Operational Availability (AO): The NGSAR at the system level will be no less than 94.2% (T), 95.1% (O) measured over an extended period of operations consistent with (and indicative of) the annual wartime system usage cycle.
2. Reliability: The NGSAR will be functional in all operational environments (hot, basic, cold, severe, extreme sand/dust). Reliability of the NGSAR, measured at the system level (functions of weapon plus ammunition addressed collectively as an integrated capability) during equipment operation in accordance with wartime usage.
2.1 Class I (Immediately Operator Clearable) Failures: The NGSAR will demonstrate 94.5% (T), 99.3% (O) probability of successfully completing a day of wartime operations (daily average of 450 rounds fired per weapon) without incurring more than one immediately operator clearable (Class I) EFF as defined in the NGSAR Reliability FDSC (EFFs of Class I severity are clearable in 10 seconds or less).
2.2 Class II (Operator Clearable) Failures: The NGSAR will demonstrate not less than 90.1% (T), 99.2% (O) reliability of successfully completing each individual wartime mission specified in the OMS/MP (most demanding mission involves 293 rounds fired per weapon) without incurring a Class II operator clearable EFF (which requires more than 10 seconds to clear).
2.3 Class III (Non-Operator Clearable) Failures: The NGSAR will demonstrate not less than 90.6% (T), 92.0% (O) reliability of successfully completing the 72-hour wartime scenario specified in the OMS/MP (1,349 rounds fired per weapon) without incurring a non-operator clearable (Class III) EFF.
2.4 Barrel Life: The NGSAR will have a barrel life capable of meeting KPP accuracy/dispersion requirements with no more than a 10% degradation for 10,000 (T) and no degradation for 20,000 rounds (O).

KSA 2 Total Ownership Cost (Weapon Only):
Intentionally left blank.

KSA 3 Size:
NGSAR will have a maximum length of 38 inches and no longer than 35 inches with the buttstock in the stowed configuration (T); 35 inches maximum length and no longer than 32 inches with the buttstock stowed (O).

KSA 4 Rate of Fire:
NGSAR shall be capable of a rate of fire of 60 rounds per minute for 16 minutes and 40 seconds without a barrel change or risk of cook-off. Cyclic 200 rounds without cook off (T). NGSAR will be capable of 108 rounds per minute sustained for 9 minutes and 16 seconds without barrel change or risk of cook off. Cyclic 300 rounds without cook off (O).

KSA 5 Controllability:
NGSAR shall enable the Soldier to maintain a clear sight picture during automatic fire engagement of moving targets from the prone position with bipod (T). NGSAR will allow the Soldier to maintain a clear sight picture during engagement of moving targets from the kneeling position (O). Low recoil will allow the Soldier to better control the weapon and remain on target improving probability of hit. Recoil energy limitations will be in accordance with Test Operations Procedure 3-2-045 and Table 1 of TOP 03-2-826A.

KSA 6 Firing Modes:
NGSAR will have the capability to fire in automatic and semi-automatic modes (T). NGSAR will be capable of firing two rounds with one trigger pull with both rounds impacting the target within 1 inch at 100 meters in automatic or semi-automatic modes (O).

KSA 7 Weapon Signatures:
1. Suppressed sound signature at the shooter’s ear will be less than the suppressed M249 (T). The NGSAR will be unable to localize by sound beyond 300m (O). Localize is defined as the detection and subsequent identification of the weapon system, to include the type of weapon, and its location to the degree that an enemy could return effective fire on it. Improved suppression is for combat ammunition only and will not interfere with Training Aids, Devices, Simulators, and Simulations (TADSS.)
2. Suppressed flash signature will be less than the M249 (T). The NGSAR will be unable to be localized by flash out to 300m (O). First round flash will not be greater than the flash from subsequent rounds. Improved suppression is for combat ammunition only and will not interfere with TADSS.
3. The NGSAR thermal signature will be equal to or less than the M249 (T). NGSAR will possess advanced signature management capability to reduce thermal signature (O).
4. The NGSAR suppressed will produce less toxic gasses than the M249 unsuppressed firing M855A1 ball ammunition. The NGSAR suppressed will produce less toxic gases at the shooter than the M249 unsuppressed firing M855A1 ball ammunition (O).

KSA 8 NGSAR Ammunition:
1. NGSAR Combat Ammunition: NGSAR combat ammunition must provide the probability of incapacitation as listed in the NGSAR CDD classified annex. There must be a Tracer and Ball variant; the Tracer ammunition must provide a visual signature observable by the shooter with unaided vision during both daylight and night conditions (30-degree oblique from either side of the weapon) out to 600 meters (T). The ammunition must provide a visual signature observable by the shooter with unaided vision during both daylight and night conditions (30-degree oblique from either side of the weapon) out to 1200 meters (O).
2. Live Fire Training Ammunition: NGSAR live fire training ammunition must be accurate enough to hit single “E Type” silhouettes at 600 meters with 50% probability of hit (Ph) using conventional weapons zeroing techniques, with a maximum range that does not exceed 2400m. The ammunition must provide a visual signature with unaided vision during both daylight and night conditions to 600 meters. The objective version of this round possesses sufficient accuracy to be used for qualification on reduced range scenarios. Normal weapon wear and tear caused by the live fire training ammunition shall be equivalent to or less than the legacy M855 cartridge. Penetration performance of the M855 at 600 meters and the associated testing procedure was quantified for industry in MIL-C-63989. The penetration performance sought is worse performance than the M855 against AISI steel targets at all ranges over 5 meters. The objective live fire training cartridge penetration performance shall be less than the legacy M855 cartridge at all distances over five meters. This shall be demonstrated using the maximum thickness of AISI 1010 steel plate that the legacy M855 is expected to reliably perforate (V50; zero obliquity) at five meters. No perforation of that target is what is sought. For safety purposes, plate thickness may be extrapolated by suitable precision penetration experiments done at greater distances.
3. Force-on-Force Training Ammunition: NGSAR force-on-force training ammunition shall replicate the flash and noise of NGSAR combat ammunition. The NGSAR will possess a feature (such as a training bolt) that precludes the use of combat ammunition. The ammunition will have distinct, identifiable markings to enable identification under both normal and reduced visibility conditions. The operator will not be required to bore sight or zero the weapon to effectively use the force-on-force training ammunition. Any projectile fired must be accurate to hit single “E Type” silhouettes at 30 meters with 50% probability of hit using conventional weapons zeroing techniques. Any projectile shall be made in at least three colors that will wash off with the use of water. The ammunition shall not contain heavy metals, volatile, or ozone depleting chemicals and shall be non-toxic to allow for firing indoor without creating a toxicity problem. The use of this ammunition shall in no way degrade the weapon’s current performance (when the weapon is reconfigured for combat/service ammunition) or degrade the useful life of these weapons. The operator and other soldiers must be able to visually identify that force-on-force training ammunition is loaded into the weapon from a distance of 5 meters under daylight conditions (T). Force-on Force training ammunition must not penetrate human skin clothed in the standard Army issue uniform nor fracture or break the standard Sun, Wind, Dust (SWD) Goggle lens (LEXAN 1.52mm thick) when fired at a distance of 1.0 meter (39.3in) from the muzzle of the weapon. Force-on Force training ammunition must not penetrate human skin nor fracture or break the standard Sun, Wind, Dust (SWD) Goggle lens (LEXAN 1.52mm thick) when fired at a distance of 0 meters from the muzzle of the weapon (O).
4. Blank Training Ammunition: The NGSAR blank ammo will be utilized for force-on-force skill development and will have distinct identifiable markings to enable identification under both normal and reduced visibility conditions. The use of NGSAR blank ammo shall not degrade the weapon’s current performance (when the weapon is reconfigured for combat/service ammunition) or degrade the useful life of these weapons. The NGSAR blank ammo, when fired at one meter will not penetrate human skin clothed in the standard Army issue uniform. NGSAR blank ammo must fully complement all current and planned TADSS devices relying on blank ammunition for force-on-force training devices (i.e. I-MILES) (T). The NGSAR blank ammo, when fired at zero meters, must not penetrate human skin clothed in standard Army issue uniform (O).
5. Drill Ammunition: NGSAR drill ammunition must facilitate the performance of weapon operator tasks similar to live ammunition to include chambering weapons, clearing weapons, weapon maintenance tasks (including verification of proper weapon setup after maintenance procedures) and ammunition familiarity without risk of activating energetic materials. It must be standardized and easily discernible from other types of ammunition by Soldiers under training representative conditions (T=O).

KSA 9 Mobility:
Soldier mobility has a direct correlation to combat effectiveness. The lightweight NGSAR and ammunition with improved ergonomic features will not result in a reduction in Soldier mobility, agility, responsiveness, as measured by time to complete an Army obstacle course, such as the LEAP-A course, relative to the current baseline system with a combat load of ammunition (T). Soldiers carrying the NGSAR with a combat load of ammunition shall demonstrate a 10% improvement in Soldier mobility as measured by time to complete an Army obstacle course, relative to performance with the baseline system (O).

Additional Performance Attributes (APA) listed below are performance attributes of a system not important enough to be considered a Key Performance Parameter (KPP) or Key System Attribute (KSA), but still appropriate to include. Details to be provided during Industry Day.

APA 1 Integration
APA 2 Protective Materials
APA 3 Shot Counter
APA 4 Operational Controls
APA 5 Back-Up Sight
APA 6 Field Stripping and Tools
APA 7 Compatibility with Personal Protection Equipment
APA 8 Visual Signature
APA 9 Sling
APA 10 ID Markings
APA 11 Cleaning Kit
APA 12 Blank Firing Adaptor (BFA).
APA 13 Data Transfer (Intelligent Rail)
APA 14 – Weapon System Maintenance Ratio (MR)
APA 15 – Mean Time to Repair (MTTR)
APA 16 – Special Tools

It’s unfortunate that the Army has chosen to conduct this program at the classified level as they will preclude the vast majority of the industrial base. Few actual firearms manufacturers have facility clearances, let alone employees with active DoD security clearances. Let’s hope they sort this out.

For full details on the industry day event, visit www.fbo.gov.

Program Manager Individual Weapons Issues Request For Information To Industry For 7.62mm Interim Combat Service Rifle

Friday, June 2nd, 2017

For the last couple of months we’ve been talking about the US Army’s 7.62 rifle requirements.

For quite awhile it looked like they were going to leverage the M110A1 Compact Semi Automatic Sniper System program by purchasing additional Heckler & Koch G28s like they are doing for the Squad Designated Marksman Rifle’s directed requirement for 6069 rifles. Unfortunately, the CSASS weapon would need some changes for the ICSR role. For instance, it’s semi automatic and we understand that was a major sticking point. Consequently, they’ve released a Market Survey to industry in order to identify companies capable of producing a rifle which meets their requirements.

This slide was briefed by PM Soldier Weapons at the recent NDIA Armaments Conference and shows the ICSR as a directed requirement and has been in development for awhile.

IMG_2148

Desired Attributes of Interim Combat Service Rifle:
• The rifle must be a Commercial Off The Shelf (COTS) system readily available for purchase today. Modified or customized systems are not being considered.
• Caliber: 7.62x51mm
• Available barrel lengths, to include 16 and 20 inch barrels, without muzzle device attached.
• Muzzle device capable of or adaptable to auxiliary devices for:
— Compensation of muzzle climb
— Flash suppression
— Sound Suppression
• Fire Control: Safe, Semi-automatic, and fully automatic capable.
• All controls (e.g. selector, charging handle) are ambidextrous and operable by left and right handed users
• Capable of mounting a 1.25 inch wide military sling
• Capable of accepting or mounting the following accessories.
— Forward grip/bi-pod for the weapon
— variable power optic
• Detachable magazine with a minimum capacity of 20 rounds
• Folding or collapsing buttstock adjustable to change the overall length of the weapon
• Foldable backup iron sights calibrated/adjustable to a maximum of 600 meters range
• Weight less than 12lb unloaded and without optic
• Extended Forward Rail

This requirement was initially driven by a need to defeat a threat at 600m, but Army Chief of Staff GEN Mark Milley’s recent testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee indicates that the proliferation of inexpensive armor which defeats out 5.56mm ammunition by our adversaries to be the current culprit. GEN Milley testified that the Army had developed a 7.62 round which will defeat that body armor. The ICSR is intended to fire that cartridge.

While the RFI mentions the production 10,000 rifles, remember, that’s a nice round number and not indicative of the actual requirement. Basis of Issue has been tossed around, ranging from four per squad to pure fleet fielding for IBCTs.

Naturally, this move to a full and open competition also means that the ICSR may not be the same rifle already selected for use as CSASS and SDMR. From a logistics standpoint this seems unwise to have two different (three if you count the legacy M110s) 7.62mm rifles in service at the same time with few, if any, compatible parts.

We’ve already discussed how the basic load goes from 210 rounds for 5.56mm to 104 rounds for 7.62. Now, consider a 12 lbs rifle with additional optic and other accessories, further driving the weight up. In addition to the load bearing burden, there is another issue at hand which must be considered. Not only is the rifle and ammunition heavier, it’s also more arduous to shoot, and that’s just on semi. The Soldier must hold the weapon on target and deal with the increased recoil impulse. Anyone who shoots both 7.62 and 5.56 regularly will tell you that they just don’t shoot as much 7.62 at a time as they do 5.56. When we add full automatic fire into the equation, we begin to enter relatively unknown  territory. Even when the US Army last issued a 7.62 rifle, the M14, only one Soldier per squad had a full automatic rifle (M14E2) which was configured slightly differently than the semi auto M14 carried by his squad mates. Go back further to the days of the M1 Garand and its .30-06 M1 cartridge and you find a completely different weapon for full auto fire, the M1918 Browning Automatic Rifle.


However, finding a COTS, fully automatic 7.62 rifle will be a challenge. Aside from FN’s Mk17 SCAR Heavy and HK417, there aren’t many others. We suspect the Army will end up looking at a bunch of AR10esque “COTS” guns which coincidentally have just recently been modified to fire full auto. They’ll be reliable guns in semi auto fire, but unproven for long-term full auto use.

Granted, it’s easier to get to an intermediate cartridge (6.5mm family) with a 7.62 platform, if that’s the actual, ultimate goal. The impending release of the Small Arms Caliber Study and USASOC’s current evaluation of 6.5 rounds will certainly inform such a move, but it’s still years off.

Based in these factors, there are many who would understandably prefer to just wait it out for the development of an intermediate cartridge and build a gun around that.

 However, as we recently wrote, the US military currently finds itself at the nexus of a US small arms renassiance. Requirements exist. Solutions, although not perfect, exist. And most of all, political will exists to resource the acquisitions. Rarely do we find ourselves in this position, so we must capitalize on the opportunity. Hopefully, the Army fully considers the full impact of fielding this weapon and make wise choices.

To read the full Sources Sought Notice, visit www.fbo.gov.

Army To Issue New M17 Modular Handgun To Ft Campbell Troops First

Wednesday, May 3rd, 2017

Earlier today at the NDIA Armaments Conference, PEO Soldier’s PM for Soldier Weapons, LTC Steven Power stated that the First Unit Equipped for the M17 Modular Handgun will be the 101st at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, during the first quarter of Fiscal Year 18. He also stated that other units on Fort Campbell would also receive the first of 190,000 Pistols the Army plans to buy.

In addition to multiple other Army units on the post, the 5th Special Forces Group ( Airborne) and elements of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment are also there. Yesterday, USASOC Deputy Chief of Staff for Requirements (G8), COL Samuel Ashley stated that despite adoption of the GLOCK 19 by elements of the command, it was part of the Army’s fielding of the M17 as a replacement for their M9 pistols.

IMG_1388

In January during SHOT Show, the Army selected the SIG SAUER P320 as its new modular handgun. However, in Februrary, GLOCK protested the award. The GAO has until 5 June to make a decision on whether or not to sustain the protest. Despite this, the Army has developed a fielding plan for the new pistol, no matter who produces it.

US Army 7.62 Rifle Update

Wednesday, May 3rd, 2017

Last month, we told you about a directed requirement from Army Vice Chief of Staff GEN Daniel Allyn for a new 7.62 Squad Designated Marksman Rifle and internal, service discussions for expansion of that capability as a Battle Rifle, to all members of the rifle squad.

Based on briefings conducted at the NDIA Armaments Conference by PEO Soldier’s PM Weapons team, along with discussions with industry, we have an update on Army plans to field a new 7.62 NATO capability within the next 24 months.

First off, although a contract has been awarded for H&K’s Compact Semi Automatic Sniper System, the weapon remains unfunded for FY17. Currently, type classification is planned for FY18.

However, the Army is also committed to concurrently fielding an SDMR based on the same platform as the CSASS.

According to briefing slides provided by PM Soldier Weapons, an Army directed requirement to engage enemy personnel at the Squad level from 0-600m, dated December, 2016 will purchase “6,069 HK G28E rifles” via an urgent material release.

The Army plans to use the existing M80A1 ammo for the SDMR, which is a 7.62 version of the 5.56mm M855A1. The rifles are said to be configured in a similar fashion to the CSASS, with Geissele M-Lok rail and OSS suppressor. However, the SDMRs will be outfitted with an as-of-yet still unselected 1-6x variable optic rather than the CSASS optic from Schmidt & Bender.

While there has been talk of adding up to two SDMRs per Squad, internal Army discussions continue about expanding the basis of issue of a 7.62 rifle, now referred to as the Interim Service Combat Rifle to all BCT members. However, there is still no formal requirement for the ISCR, and acquisition officials are leaning forward on the foxhole in anticipation, prepared to make this happen as quickly as possible.

PEO Soldier Talks About The Advanced Combat Helmet Gen II

Thursday, March 30th, 2017

PEO Soldier held a press conference earlier today regarding the Advanced Combat Helmet Gen II fielding. Officiating the event was LTC Kathy Brown, PM Soldier Protective Equipment. She was assisted by APM, MAJ Brandon Motte.

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From World War II until the 1980s, the US military relied on a stamped steel helmet with liner, commonly referred to as the “Steel Pot”.

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It was replaced by the Personal Armor System, Ground Troops or PASGT. Its nickname was the ‘Kevlar’ after the material it was made from.

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In the late 1990s, USSOCOM began to take advantage of new para-Aramid materials and embarked on a program called the Modular Integrated Communications Helmet. The helmet’s design was modified slightly to a more streamlined shell than the bulky PASGT and it was quickly adopted by the US Army as the Advanced Combat Helmet, in the early 2000s as active combat in the Middle East stepped up.

Right up front, LTC Brown told us that this is the greatest weight reduction we’ve ever seen in headborne protection. She went on to say , “I’m very proud of the work we’ve done here. Our soldiers and civilians are highly technically skilled.”

For both Large and XLarge the reduction is 24% over the legacy ACH, while for Medium and Small helmets, it is 21%. The average is 22%. For example, the XLarge legacy ACH is 3.88 lbs while the ACH Gen II in XL is 2.94 lbs, or a 24% weight reduction.

The goal of the upgrade program was to offer weight reduction with equal protection of the legacy helmet. They’ve definitely accomplished that mission.

Chief engineer Jacob Hopping said, “Reductions in weight mean more alert Soldiers.” The Legacy helmet is Kevlar, while the new ACH II is polyethylene which accounts for the weight reduction.

Along the way of fielding helmets, the US Army worked on a program with the US Marine Corps called Enhanced Combat Helmet which uses High Density Polyethylene to defeat rifle caliber threats. It’s currently used in high threat environments like Iraq, and is available via Rapid Fielding Initiative.

Additionally, the Army has access to ballistic appliqués which attach to the top of a helmet and offer full rifle caliber threat protection. Once again, these are only used in high threat environments.


The Advanced Combat Helmet Generation II looks almost identical to the ACH Soldiers have been wearing for 15 years, but it weighs 9 ounces to almost a pound less than the legacy helmet. The new helmet is made from ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene, a lighter material than Kevlar, but reportedly just as strong. (Photo Credit: Ron Lee, PEO Soldier)

The ACH Gen II is going to look very similar to your legacy ACH, just lighter. While the helmet will be issued in Tan 499/Coyote 498, rather than the Grey looking Foliage Green, there will continue to be a helmet cover and, when used, the ballistic appliqué can be hydrodipped in colors or camouflage patterns as needed.

Since Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support is handling this contract, the other services will also be able to requisition this helmet for their use via NSN. While the Army still hasn’t worked out a strict timetable on fielding of the ACH Gen II, it will be a one-for-one replacement of the legacy helmet and offer a full refresh of the Army’s head protection for both combat and training.

Jacob Hopping mentioned that, “In a few years, working with material developers and manufacturers, we’ll be able to maximize weight reduction and increase threat protection to optimize protection for the head.” While much work is being done with HDPE, he mentioned that perhaps the next Gen Kevlar may show even better protection.

LTC Brown said that this new capability is at the current limits of materials, but engineer Andy Meloni added that they’re not only only looking at materials, but new manufacturing processes are also under development. Andy Meloni supports the ACH II as a matrixed engineer from the Natick Research, Development and Engineering Center.

Ultimately, the Army is looking for a revolutionary leap in the performance-to-weight ratio of ballistic material but they see that as still a decade away. Until then, they’ll look at ways to integrate increased capability to current equipment.

Below is an article by the Army News Service which describe some this capability as well as some other armor technologies. (more…)

US Army Issues RFI For Cold Temperature and Arctic Protection System

Thursday, March 30th, 2017

The U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Command (NSRDEC), Natick, MA is conducting a market investigation to identify domestic suppliers and manufacturers of potential sources for materials, individual garment items and complete clothing systems for the development of a Cold Temperature and Arctic Protection System (CTAPS). This RFI will exclude handwear and footwear. The effort will develop a multi-layer system that will provide a minimum of no melt and no drip next-to-skin layers, environmental protection from wind and water, and provide tailorable protection for temperatures spanning a range from 45 Deg F to -65 Deg F in as few garments as possible.  Essentially, it’s a replacement for Extended Cold Weather Clothing System (ECWCS) Generation III which is an adaptation of USSOCOM’s Protective Combat Uniform.

Here are some slides from late last year describing CTAPS. You’ll also notice a reference to “Environmental Protection System,” an overarching program, of which CTAPS is but one component. For example, there will also be a hot/wet aka jungle component of EPS.




According to the RFI, new cold weather materials, end items, and systems should be light weight with better durability, provide high compressibility/good recovery for packing in the ruck, have improved moisture management, and be fast drying while maintaining insulation. The performance of the current seven layer (it’s actually levels not layers, but the RFI refers to them as layers) ECWCS Gen III is the baseline for characteristics and protection upon which materials, individual garments, and complete clothing systems will be compared. The individual garments or layers of the clothing system can be categorized into three areas: base layer (next-to-skin), insulating layer, and outer shell. While flame resistance is not a requirement at this time, materials and items that are flame resistant will be considered. It is also desired to expand no melt/no drip performance beyond the base layers without negatively impacting other performance attributes.

The Government will require 90 days after the 21 April 2017 submission date to make an initial assessment of the proposed technology(s) potential to fulfill CTAPS needs. The Government will integrate selected technologies and designs into test garments for field evaluation in winters 2018 and 2019 to establish operational effectiveness and Soldier acceptance. A test method matrix upon which materials and/or end item garments and systems will be evaluated is attached. Concurrently, NSRDEC will be seeking test methods to better predict operational effectiveness in the field. The Purchase Descriptions of the current ECWCS materials are available upon request. Interested sources may submit any combination of material samples (textiles), end item samples (garments), or complete system samples (ensembles) along with technical information as outlined in item (a) below. The samples will be degraded or destroyed during evaluation and will not be returned to the vendor. If a source chooses to submit samples, no payment will be made by the Government for such samples.

I’m glad to see the government going at the RFI in this fashion. This way they can take a look at best of breed in each category. Unfortunately, when full systems are evaluated against one another, costs are easier to anticipate and control but individual components may be wanting. Natick has been briefing this program since last Summer’s OR and while everyone in industry is excited, there has been some hesitation over the Army’s intent to own the IP for any solution it adopts. This may preclude some of the best solutions from being submitted.

For full details, visit www.fbo.gov.