Tactical Tailor

Archive for the ‘PEO-Soldier’ Category

Modular Handgun System – Things Aren’t As Bad As The DOT&E Report Implies

Friday, February 2nd, 2018

A recently issued report from the Department Of Defense’s Director, Operational Test and Evaluation Office (DOT&E), on the Modular Handgun System has been picked up by bloggers and the headlines have been sensational. They’re being shared online at face value, with few people taking time to read the source document. You can read the whole thing here, and I encourage you to do so, but I’ll use extracts throughout this article.

img_5740.jpg

I’ve spent the past few days going back and forth with DOT&E and PEO Soldier, who manages the program, to clarify information in the report.

From the received responses, apparently the situation is not as dire as the authors of other stories would like their audience to believe.

Background

Each year, the Department Of Defense Operational Test and Evaluation Office (DOT&E) submits an annual report of test and evaluation activities to Congress.

The 2017 report was published on 26 January, 2018 and includes details on numerous test activities in support of Army procurement, including those of the joint Modular Handgun System. MHS consists of militarized versions of a standard (M17) and compact (M18) pistol, manufactured by SIG SAUER and based on their commercial P320 9mm model. the weapon has a common trigger pack and swappable frames to make the switch from M17 to M18.

img_5739.jpg

The weapon was selected for procurement just a year ago on January 19, 2017. Since then, it has served as a model for fast track acquisition reform.

The procurement announcement was met with displeasure from fans of fellow contender GLOCK who pointed to G19 use by USSOCOM as ample reason to broaden its issues within DoD. The SIG contract award was formally protested by GLOCK, but their effort was not sustained by the Government Accountability Office.

Drop Misfires Background

In August of last year, a blogger demonstrated that the commercially available SIG P320, which the MHS is derived from, would unintentionally discharge if dropped at a certain angle. Almost immediately, the internet began to call into question the safety of the Army’s version of the handgun. SIG analyzed the problem and quickly issued an interesting fix for their commercial gun; a new trigger pack based on the MHS trigger. SIG stated that the Army’s handgun already had a different, lighter trigger than the civilian model and had not demonstrated the same issue. SIG offered a voluntary upgrade to the new trigger for P320 users.

In November, I attended a media round table hosted by PEO Soldier to provide an update on fielding of MHS. One of the topics was unintentional misfires caused by dropping. LTC Steven Power, Product Manager Individual Weapons, Project Manager Soldier Weapons, assured everyone that MHS has not experienced such a failure.

Naturally, when I ran across this statement in the DOT&E report, I wanted clarification, because it went against everything I’d been told.

“During drop testing in which an empty primed cartridge was inserted, the striker struck the primer causing a discharge. SIG SAUER implemented an Engineering Change Proposal (ECP) to correct this deficiency by implementing lightweight components in the trigger group mechanism. This fix may have contributed to the splintering of two triggers during the IOT&E”

DOT&E Report

DoD Drop Testing

Before I get into what I learned about this statement I need to explain how DoD conducts drop testing. The procedure is contained in 4-10 of Test Operations Procedure 03-2-504A “Safety Evaluation of Small Arms and Medium Caliber Weapons” . The actual test is called the 1.5 m (5 foot) drop test which requires that a firearm loaded with a primed, empty, cartridge case be dropped from the height of 1.5 m unto a clean, dry, and level concrete surface at six different angles. The goal is to see if the firearm discharges or if the drop affects the function of the weapon.

img_5738.jpg

SIG SAUER’s Position

Since I had discussed the drop misfire issue with SIG in the past, I thought I should check with them. They responded by telling me that it was DoD’s report and they’d be the best place to seek out my answers.

Requesting Clarification From DOT&E

Initially, I contacted DOT&E with a list of technical questions. In particular, I wanted to know when and how they identified this malfunction. After some deliberation, DOT&E spokesperson, LTC Michelle L Baldanza offered this statement regarding the technical questions I had posed, “I will have to let the report stand for itself. You are welcome to contact the Army about this.”

What she was telling me was that the information had originated with the Army and all they had done, was collate it into their report. I’d need to go to PEO Soldier for the answers I was seeking.

PEO Soldier Responds

I approached PEO Soldier about this statement, asking how and when it had occurred. They did not provide details on any test failures but rather provided the statement below, which seems to refute the DOT&E report.

When tested in accordance with the TOP 03-2-504A, the weapon passed in all drop orientations.

PEO Soldier

Even then, despite several requests, they refused to provide a date when the 1.5 m TOP drop test protocol was accomplished. It should have initially been accomplished during source selection, while the Army evaluated the vendors’ candidate pistols and I was able to verify this information from other Army sources who were not authorized to speak publicly about the topic.

Splintered Triggers

The DOT&E report mentioned two “splintered” triggers. Of course, this became a central theme to call the program into question. I asked about the issue. The triggers still worked. PEO Soldier related that they “did not remain smooth and comfortable to fire,” saying it was an isolated issue, and not the result of a design flaw or on-going manufacturing problem. To put it into perspective, they’ve only encountered this issue in two pistols, out of approximately 10,000 purchased to date. It’s so rare, it shouldn’t have found its way into a report intended to discuss major issues.

img_5719.jpg

Ammunition / Reliability Issues

MHS includes four 9mm cartridges, manufactured by Winchester, but there are two primary rounds. The XM1153 Jacketed Hollow Point (referenced above) also referred to as a “special purpose”‘and the XM1152 Ball.

Additionally, there are two reliability factors, Mean Rounds Between Failure and Mean Rounds Between Stoppage. Both MRBF and MRBS were measured during Product Verification Testing as well as Initial Operational Test & Evaluation.

MHS was tested for MRBF and MRBS in both M17 and M18 configurations with JHP as well as Ball ammunition.

According to the DOT&E report, the MRBF reliability requirement for MHS is 5,000 MRBF for a 98 percent probability of completing a 96-hour mission without a failure. The MRBS reliability requirement is 2,000 MRBS for a 95 percent probability of completing a 96-hour mission without a stoppage.

During PVT which is an early test, the XM17 and XM18, with special purpose munition, met its requirement for both MRBF and MRBS:

– The XM17 demonstrated 8,929 MRBF (99 percent probability)
– The XM18 demonstrated 8,333 MRBF (99 percent probability)
– The XM17 demonstrated 1,923 MRBS (95 percent probability)
– The XM18 demonstrated 2,155 MRBS (96 percent probability)

During PVT, the XM17 with ball ammunition met its requirement for MRBF but not its requirement for MRBS. The XM18 with ball ammunition did not meet its MRBF or MRBS requirement.

– The XM17 demonstrated 6,944 MRBF (99 percent probability)
– The XM18 demonstrated 3,906 MRBF (98 percent probability)
– The XM17 demonstrated 343 MRBS (75 percent probability)
– The XM18 demonstrated 197 MRBS (61 percent probability)

Obviously, there’s a difference in how reliable the weapon is, based on the ammo used, and pistol configuration. Consequently, the Army decided to investigate the Ball ammo issues and moved to the next phase of testing solely with the JHP cartridge, which they consider is their “go-to-war” ammunition.

During IOT&E, 60 of 120 stoppages for the XM17 and 63 of 85 stoppages for the XM18 were failure of the slide lock to the rear at the last round. At least some of these stoppages were the result of poor grip. Additionally, 60% of these stoppages (75 of 123) were experienced by just eight shooters out of the 132 who participated in the IOT&E. Based on information from the Army Marksmanship Unit which is cited in the DOT&E report, it appears that the majority of those stoppages were caused by shooters disengaging the slide catch with their thumbs.

Once the Army understood it’s a software and not a hardware problem, they began to modify Marksmanship Training to ensure that Soldiers do not unintentionally engage the slide catch lever when firing the MHS. It’s a simpler solution than redesigning weapon parts.

In fact, the MRBS demonstrated during IOT&E is significantly increased if this stoppage is eliminated:

– The XM17 demonstrated 708 MRBS (87 percent probability).
– The XM18 demonstrated 950 MRBS (90 percent probability).

The weapon is capable of meeting the standard, given the right shooters.

Although they have a Conditional Material Release for both types of ammo and have been firing them since November, PEO reminded me that MHS meets, or exceeds, all operational requirements, including MRBS, with the XM1153 jacketed hollow point ammunition for which it is optimized.

While I take issue with how some things are presented, overall, the Army agrees with the findings in the report.

“The DOT&E report accurately conveys the test results.  It is normal and expected during testing to find opportunities to improve a system.  The testing determined that the MHS had a lower Mean Rounds Between Stoppage (MRBS) with ball ammunition than it has with the “go-to-war” jacketed hollow point round for which the system is optimized.  In July 2017, the Army formed a Tiger Team to perform a detailed root cause analysis of the ball ammunition issues.   Their analysis has resulted in a number of modifications expected to enhance MHS performance and reliability with ball ammunition.”

PEO Soldier

Much has been made on other websites about the pistol’s performance with the XM1152 Ball ammunition. Which, by the way, is a new cartridge, unique to this weapon. The truth is, it is safe to operate with both.

However, this isn’t good enough for the Army as they continue to consider performance improvements. PEO Soldier spokeswoman Ms Dawson explained, “It is simply not meeting its reliability requirements with the ball ammunition and has experienced stoppages and issues with “double ejections”.  Double ejections? I’m intrigued.

Double Ejections

Aside from the drop testing issue, I had hoped to get to the heart of “double ejections”. It’s referenced early in the DOT&E report.

“Both the XM17 and XM18 pistols experienced double-ejections where an unspent ball round was ejected along with a spent round.”

DOT&E Report

Until this week, I’d never heard the term used. PEO Soldier echoed the DOT&E definition.

“A double ejection is when a live unfired round is ejected along with the casing from the round that was just fired.”

PEO Soldier

Semi-Auto pistol’s don’t work that way, it’s a physical impossibility. So, I asked both DOT&E and PEO Soldier to further describe the malfunction in case it has a more commonly used name. Neither organization would. And yet, they’ve used it; over and over. PEO Soldier even set up a Tiger Team to get to the root cause of it. Reporters have parroted it as it were a common term. I even approached several individuals with extensive experience in Army pistol marksmanship and they were also unfamiliar with the term. Since nobody knows what it is, I’m not sure how they’re going to fix it. But whatever it is, the weapon is performing while using the JHP ammo.

In Summary

What we’ve learned:
-MHS is safe and passes drop standards
-MHS is reliable
-The trigger works
-Stoppages can be mitigated with training
-It introduces a jacketed hollow point ammunition capability
-The Army is working to improve its performance with Ball ammunition
-No one knows what a “double ejection” is except PEO Soldier, and they’re not telling

But this is the most important at part of this whole story. The Army is very confidant in MHS. In fact, PEO Soldier spokeswoman, Ms Debi Dawson released this statement:

Testing was conducted with warfighters from all Services, and their feedback about the MHS has been overwhelmingly positive.  The MHS meets, or exceeds, all safety and operational requirements with XM1153 jacketed hollow point ammunition for which it is optimized. The test results published in the Director of Operational Testing and Evaluation (DOT&E) report are being used to make the MHS even better.

PEO Soldier

Unfortunately, there are some pieces of data in the report which seem to be given greater importance than they should be, once put into perspective. In another case, testing which is claimed to have taken place hasn’t been accounted for, and refuted in other statements.

Greater care should be taken when providing input to these annual reports. They are used by Congress to monitor key programs. Additionally, the data has been used to undermine confidence in a program that is doing very well, as new unit after new unit is equipped with this improved capability.

Conclusion 

There’s a reason DoD tests. Every program finds unanticipated issues which must be fixed in order to field the piece of equipment across the force. Some come up years after a system enters service. If you read through the entire 2017 DOT&E Annual Report, you’ll find issues of every type, arising for every program showcased in the document. While much has been made online about MHS, when you break it down, it’s not as bad as it’s been made out to be, if you know what questions to ask.

BG Tony Potts Takes Over PEO Soldier

Saturday, January 20th, 2018

FORT BELVOIR, Virginia (Jan. 17, 2018) – The Program Executive Office Soldier workforce, Army Acquisition community members, and Industry witnessed the Change-of-Charter Ceremony Jan. 16 where responsibility for leading the organization transferred from Brig. Gen. Brian P. Cummings to Brig. Gen. Anthony “Tony” Potts.

Presiding over the ceremony was The Honorable Bruce Jette, Assistant Secretary of the Army (Acquisition, Logistics and Technology) and Army Acquisition Executive. The ceremony took place at Howell Auditorium at Scott Hall at the Defense Acquisition University, Fort Belvoir. Dr. Jette presented BG Potts with his charter, which documents the appointment and describes his roles and responsibilities as Program Executive Officer.


Brig. Gen. Anthony “Tony” Potts receives his Program Executive Officer Charter from the Honorable Bruce Jette, Army Acquisition Executive. General Potts became PEO Soldier during a Change-of-Charter ceremony Jan. 16. (U.S. Army photo by Ron Lee)

During his remarks, Dr. Jette said PEO Soldier showcases the Army’s focus on Soldiers, citing PEO Soldier’s mission to provide everything a Soldier wears, carries or shoots. “Our Soldiers depend on you,” Dr. Jette said.

In recapping General Cummings’ tenure as PEO Soldier, Dr. Jette said the Army and its Soldiers benefited from many new products that improve their lethality and maneuverability. They include the Soldier Protection System, Female Improved Outer Tactical Vest, Operational Camouflage Pattern, the RA-1 Steerable Parachute, Jungle Combat Boots, Improved Hot Weather Combat Uniform, the XM17 Modular Handgun System, Enhanced Night Vision Goggles, Family of Weapons Sights–Individual, Nett Warrior, and Joint Effects Targeting System.

“Brian Cummings and his team have done an outstanding job,” Dr. Jette said. “Our job is to ensure Soldier readiness today and in the future.”

Additionally, Dr. Jette said General Potts’ PEO Soldier charter tasks him to take the organization to new places and new challenges.

In his remarks, General Potts said to the PEO Soldier workforce to always keep in perspective who we are and what we do. It’s about fielding the best equipment to the best Soldiers in the world, General Potts added.


Brig. Gen. Anthony “Tony” Potts receives the Program Executive Office Soldier flag from Master Sgt. Eric G. Buggeln, Senior Enlisted Advisor, during a Change-of-Charter ceremony Jan. 16. (U.S. Army photo by Ron Lee)

General Potts comes to PEO Soldier from Natick, Massachusetts, where he was the Deputy Commanding General, U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command; and the Senior Commander, Natick Soldier Systems Center. Before Natick, General Potts served as acting Deputy for Acquisition and Systems Management, PEO Missiles and Space; and as Director, Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense and Army/Navy Transportable Radar Surveillance, Sustainment Management Office at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama. He has served as Deputy Director for Acquisition and System Management, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology (ASA(ALT)); and Director of Resource Integration, (ASA(ALT)), in Washington, D.C. He also served as Project Manager, Aviation Systems, PEO Aviation; Deputy G-3, Aviation & Missile Command; Product Manager, Apache Modernization; Product Manager, Blue Force Tracker–Aviation; and as the Assistant Product Manager for the Army Airborne Command and Control System, at Redstone Arsenal. He also served as Task Force Commander-Balkans Digitization Initiative, the Balkans.

General Cummings leaves PEO Soldier to become the Program Executive Officer for PEO Ground Combat Systems in Warren, Michigan.

By Debi Dawson
Program Executive Office Soldier
Public Affairs Office

Just In Case You Don’t Think Pinks And Greens Are Happening

Thursday, January 11th, 2018

PEO Soldier recently published this informational piece on the the US Army’s proposed Pinks and Greens uniform. A lot of work is being put into this effort.

IMG_4572
Photo by PEO Soldier’s Ron Lee.

What is it?

Pink and Green Uniform is the service uniform from the World War II era. Army officers wore the Pink and Green Uniform from the early 1930s to the early 1950s. It is widely recognized as the best dress uniform the Army has ever fielded.

This uniform will be made from great fabrics and tailored for each Soldier, featuring quality construction and a classic, proven design. New eco-friendly textile production processes will be utilized for the first time in the U.S. through this project.

What is the Army doing?

In 2018, the Army could return to its iconic WWII-era uniform which could become the everyday business-wear uniform for all Soldiers. This would replace the current Army Service Uniform, which would be used as a more formal dress uniform.

Based on Sergeant Major of the Army’s interest and his belief that the uniform would reconnect today’s Soldier with the history of the Army, an exclusive Army Times survey was sent out to its readers. The survey received a favorable response from more than 70 percent of the Soldiers supporting the return of the historic World War II uniform.

Taking advantage of upgrades in fabric technology, the Army has developed design options, sketches and prototype uniforms to support the Army’s decision-making process. This was done in collaboration with the Center for Military History, the Army’s industry partners and the Reserve Officer Training Corps program at Texas A&M University, whose cadets have historically worn a pinks and greens-type of uniform.

Initial prototypes have been demonstrated on live Soldier models to Army leadership and the media in various venues, including at the Association of the United States Army convention and the Army-Navy football game where feedback was instantaneous and positive.

What continued efforts does the Army have planned for the future?

In order to maximize the positive interest in this new uniform, the Army has planned key engagements to assist with a possible design decision and introduction of the Pink and Green Uniform to the Army workforce:

-Limited User Evaluation with 150 Soldiers from the New England Recruiting Battalion
-Traveling historical exhibit of the Pink and Green Uniform at Army Installations and other public events
-Interviews/video/digital images of Soldiers supporting evaluations
-Based on Soldier feedback the Army will make a decision in 2018.

Why is this important to the Army?

The reintroduction of this uniform is an effort to create a deeper understanding of, and connection to the Army in communities where awareness of the Total Army needs to increase. The Army believes this high-quality uniform will strengthen pride, bolster recruiting and enhance readiness.

Resources:

PEO Soldier
U.S. Army Uniforms and Symbols

Related video:

Sgt. Maj. of the Army talks Pink & Green

BG Cummings Says Goodbye To PEO Soldier

Thursday, January 4th, 2018

“I take great pride in knowing I served with you. The most important thing I can do is say, ‘thanks.’ It’s been a wonderful three years.”

BG Brian P. Cummings said good-bye to his headquarters staff.

BG Cummings was selected earlier this year for promotion to Major General. His next assignment is PEO Ground Combat Systems.

SMA Dailey Talks Pinks and Greens

Wednesday, December 27th, 2017

In this video by PEO Soldier’s Ron Lee, Sergeant Major of the Army Dan Dailey discusses the proposed Pinks and Greens service dress uniform.

SMA Dailey At Army/Navy Game In Prototype Pinks and Greens

Monday, December 11th, 2017

You’re looking at the best leadership team the US Army has had in quite some time.

4B54328F-D7F2-4545-8008-642D663BBD5C

Army Chief of Staff Mark Milley is seen with Sergeant Major of the Army Dan Dailey during Saturday’s Army/Navy Game. SMA Dailey is wearing a prototype ‘Pinks and Greens’ service dress uniform which he was recently fitted for by a team from PEO Soldier.

The uniform is referred to as ‘Pinks and Greens’ because it is inspired by an iconic World War Two-era dress uniform. This modernized version is available in male and female versions. If it is adopted, there’s even talk of an optional wear leather A-2 flight jacket.

E5CFA691-C901-4BEE-80ED-F6A5AA2CF90E

Update: Here are a few more photos from PEO Soldier.

PEO Soldier Provides Update On Jungle Combat Boot and Improved Hot Weather Combat Uniform

Friday, December 8th, 2017

Yesterday, the US Army’s Program Executive Officer Soldier, responsible for the development, procurement, and lifecycle management of weapons and equipment used by the individual Soldier, hosted a media round table to update us on the Jungle Combat Boot (ver 2) and Improved Hot Weather Combat Uniform. These two pieces of vital clothing are intended for use in a hot, wet environment.

IMG_5559

Providing the update was COL Stephen Thomas, Product Manager, Soldier Protection and Individual Equipment; LTC Jonathan Allen, Product Manager Soldier Clothing and Individual Equipment; and CPT Dan Ferenczy SCIE Assistant Product Manager, Environmental Clothing and Footwear. Both COL Thomas and LTC Allen came on board over the Summer while CPT Ferenczy has been working on this project for about a year.

COL Thomas kicked off the event with a brief overview of PM SPIE. He was followed by LTC Allen who brings a lot of energy to PM SCIE, which he refers to as the “Varsity Team” of PEO Soldier. He wanted to thank everyone who got them to where they are today in this project, Army and industry alike.

Jungle Combat Boot
Current issue boots are less than optimal for wear in the jungle. They lack puncture protection and feature additional layers for comfort which retain moisture. Initially, the Army evaluated Commercially available boots but found that they didn’t dry quickly and lacked drainage and traction in mud and didn’t shed excess mud.

IMG_5558

Intended for use in a tropical, or hot wet environment, the Jungle Combat Boot has been a fast tracked acquisition. Within six months of the directed requirement being issued, the Army had taken delivery of the initial generation of boots and was fielding them to two Brigade Combat Teams in the 25th Infantry Division.

Fielding of an initial capability was so fast because readiness is the Army’s number one priority. However, the PM SCIE team has relied heavily on Soldier feedback to refine the requirement. For example, Soldiers want a boot that is more flexible, lighter weight and has a less thick sole than those initially fielded. The version 2 JCBs will also dry an hour faster than currently issued boots and feature a puncture resistant sole incorporating material which resists 200 lbs sq in of force. This will not only protect from thorns but also man made threats such as the “punji stakes” used in Vietnam.

IMG_5561

PM SCIE is currently working with industry to conduct a wear test of a Gen 2 boot incorporating changes in 2nd Quarter FY18. In alphabetical order, the vendors are Altama, Bates, Belleville, McRae and Rocky. Based on feedback next March, PM SCIE will combine the best attributes into a common requirement. However, boots will continue to be refined until Soldiers are satisfied.

When asked if the Army had been working with SOCOM and the Marine Corps, both of whom also have Jungle Boot requirements, LTC Allen answered that they had. He related that the Army, Marine Corps and SOCOM teams work regularly together, sharing information. But, while the overall objective is a common boot for all services there are different requirements. For example, Marines prefer a 6-8″ tall boot, whereas Soldiers desire a taller boot.

Improved Hot Weather Combat Uniform
The IHWCU is intended as an alternative for the Army Combat Uniform for wesr in jungle environments. While the two uniforms share the Army’s Operational Camouflage Pattern, the design and fabric are both different.

IMG_5557

The overall layout of the uniform is the most obvious difference. CPT Ferenczy said that they had also incorporated a quick dry fabric and long with general performance improvements. Overall, there are fewer layers and seams.

Jacket Improvements
No mandarin collar
Old style shoulder pockets with buttons
No breast pockets

Trouser Improvements
No rear pockets
Gussetted crotch
Articulated knee
Mesh ankle wrap

IMG_5562

Aside from the fabric improvement, there are five major features on this uniform I’d like to point out. First, the lack of both chest and rear pockets. Second, the return to a more traditional, vertically oriented, button flapped shoulder pocket. Third, the reverse rake on the trouser cargo pockets, with the front of the pocket and flap being higher than the rear. Fourth, the introduction of a gusseted or diamond crutch for increased mobility and to reduce blowouts. Finally, the incorporation of the mesh ankle wrap. This feature has been quite popular and works like a gaiter to protect the Soldier’s legs from bugs and other pests when the trousers aren’t bloused due to heat and drainage concerns.

While the goal has been to reduce the amount of fabric on the garment, I’m surprised they’ve retained the lower leg pockets which don’t seem to offer much capability considering they will constantly catch on vegetation and fill with water. I’m also curious if any of these features will find their way over to the ACU.

Fabric
The current fabric being used for the IHWCU is a 5.7 oz, 57/43 NYCO blend by Invista. According to CPT Ferenczi, this new fabric also offers improved air permeability (breathability) of 70cfm versus the 30cfm of the ACU’s 50/50 NYCO. Thanks to the new fabric and design, the IHWCU boasts a 30 min faster dry time over the current 90 minutes for the ACU.

However, the Army is preparing to conduct a lab test of new hot weather fabrics and based on what they find, they plan to conduct an additional wear test of promising fabrics later this year.

When You’ll See Them
According to LTC Allen, 65,000 sets of the IHWCU are currently in production. In January, they plan to issue four uniforms and one pair of boots each to soldiers in one Hawaii-based battalion of the 25th ID.

IMG_5560

Unless you’re in one of the test units at the 25th ID, there’s no word yet in when you’ll be issued the IHWCU and JCBs. The Army is still at least a year out from a final decision and hasn’t decided if these will become Clothing Bag items, common to all Soldiers or issued at CIF as Organizational Clothing and Individual Equipment.

PEO Soldier photos by Ronald T Lee.

101st Begins Fielding of XM17 Modular Handgun System

Thursday, November 30th, 2017

Late last week, the US Army’s 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, received the first of over 2000 new XM17 Modular Handgun Systems, making them the First Unit Equipped with this capability. Division commander, MG Andrew P. Poppas commented, “this is another 101st, first.” MHS consists of the XM17 and XM18 compact pistols as well as XM1152 Ball and M1153 Jacketed Hollow Point (Special Purpose) ammunition.

BFF43412-0B33-4535-A2B4-8998C4E3569D

To learn about this initial fielding, which occurred just 10 months after contract award, I was invited to Program Executive Officer Soldier at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. On hand was LTC Steven Power, Product Manager Individual Weapons, Project Manager Soldier Weapons, located at Picatinny Arsenal, New Jersey.

C3085CD3-CF4C-461E-86A3-97BC939FE3F4

Mr Daryl Easlick of the Maneuver Center of Excellence Lethality Branch discussed the history of the MHS requirement which dates back to 2008 as an Air Force requirement for a Non-Developmental Item handgun. The Army adopted responsibility for the M9 handgun replacement because of life cycle concerns. They also wanted improvements in ergonomics, safety, and integration of accessories via a rail along with integrated night sights. All of these improvements would have been extremely difficult to make happen with the M9 platform. The answer was a new pistol which coalesced as the Modular Handgun System requirement.

B8CC5EBA-2813-4E2C-AA5F-42B8D494A0D6

Mr Tom Taylor and Steve Rose of M17 manufacturer, SIG SAUER, were also on hand to provide supporting information. The MHS is manufactured in their factories in New Hampshire. They’ve teamed with Winchester is the largest provider of small caliber ammunition to the US Government. Despite the open caliber nature of the MHS solicitation, MHS is a 9mm weapon, which falls in line with FBI studies. Winchester’s Mr Glen Weeks says that the new ammunition is 25% more lethal than previous ammo. The so-called Special Purpose round is a Jacketed Hollow Point, based on already available ammunition and features a 147 grain projectile. The ball ammo offers a 115 grain projectile.

589C272A-3C25-48E4-9B77-338318BEA64F

Above, you see a Safariland holster which is a component of MHS. It offers several mounting options and is commercially available. However, it’s important to note that this is an interim solution which will be fielded with all of the Low Rate Initial Production MHS, which is limited to just 10 percent of the total procurement. According to Ms Sequena Robinson, Product Officer, Product Manager Soldier Clothing and Individual Equipment, at PEO Soldier, they should have fininshed source selection on a new holster system to support MHS by the time it moves to Full Material Release. PM SCIE, has worked closely with PM SW to offer the holster component of the MHS.

LTC Power was reticent to discuss the full fielding schedule. Not because of delays. To the contrary, the Army is looking at ways to speed up the fielding. Not just this program, but across the board. In fact, MHS was sped up by 18 months. In just 10 months, Both Army and SIG got a lot done. SIG had to produce pistols in the exact configuration the Army planned to purchase and two iterations of testing, all before an actual purchase contract was awarded. Then, they required additional testing of production guns which had to be produced in a new secure area in their factory. Winchester had to accomplish the same things for the new ammunition as well.

8F500713-B994-4117-B469-053A3DABCEAE

SFC Andrew Flynn serves as the 101st Division Master Gunner. He is responsible for the Division’s small arms and in particular the roll out of MHS. His comments on the pistol were that it is an “excellent weapon. Soldiers will be able to transition to it with no trouble.” LTC Power also mentioned that the consistent trigger pull of the MHS aids in familiarity and decreases training time.

With fielding of MHS, Infantry team leaders and above will now wield dual weapon systems; both carbine and pistol. The concept is that, due to increased capability, the pistol is now an offensive weapon, day or night. 1LT Andrew Borer and CPL Jory Herrmann of C Co, 1st Bn, 506th Inf Regt, 1st BCT, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) were in the range during the initial fielding. Both were confident that MHS makes them more lethal. Interestingly, this significant Basis of Issue change was possible because of cost savings compared to the legacy M9 program.

According to Division Master Gunner SFC Flynn, they have identified a requirement to train its Soldiers who are dual armed, transition techniques. MCOE’s Mr Easlick commented that they are using lessons learned from SOF elements like the 75th Ranger Regt and Special Forces Groups. However, the Army’s intent is not to provide both pistol and carbine for all Soldiers. Mr Easlock mentioned that while every Soldier who closes with the enemy could benefit from a pistol and carbine, balancing training and resource requirements led them to this current course of action. However, the Army continually assesses its basis of issue for all equipment.

598DF9E0-760F-4BC4-B0F6-F549292B30D3

The Soldiers of the 101st like the modularity aspects of the pistol. Particularly, the ability to change the grip. On the range some swapped their grips from the standard Medium version in order to be more comfortable and consequently, more lethal. However, based in glove sizes within the Army, most Soldiers will likely stick with the Medium grip.

LTC Power addressed questions regarding concerns over SIG’s civilian P320 firing when dropped. He said that the XM17 incorprates components which prevent that flaw and that the Army’s test protocols are more stringent than law enforcement testing. In fact, according to LTC Power, who witnessed Army testing, the XM17 did not exhibit this flaw at all.

Integration across program offices to support MHS has been excellent. It is a system and the Army plans to increase its capability. I’ve already mentioned the holster and ammo pouches coming out of PM SCIE. But the Army has an unfulfilled requirement to suppress MHS. Additionally, they are working through the Soldier Enhancement Program to field a Pistol Aiming Laser. Finally, MHS slides are pre-cut and feature mounting plates for red dot optics. This is an upgrade capability that hasn’t even been addressed yet.

D03A54FF-46FA-455E-B87F-212F82CD1342

In addition to the 101st, other units on Ft Campbell, such as Criminal Investigation Division, are also fielding MHS. In the case of CID, it is the XM18 which features a smaller frame.

The next fielding of MHS is with 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade at Fort Benning, Georgia. Ultimately, the Army has a requirement to field over 238,000 MHS.

US Army photos by SGT Samantha Stoffregen, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) Public Affairs