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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
sorry if this is a repost:



http://www.armytimes.com/news/2007/05/army_xm8_rifle_070531/


Special report: Too late, XM8

Doomed carbine was victim of Army infighting
By Matthew Cox - Staff writer
Posted : Friday Jun 1, 2007 16:27:14 EDT

When Gen. Jack Keane was first briefed on a new carbine, the XM8, he leaped at the chance to replace the M16 — the same weapon he fought with in Vietnam nearly 40 years ago.

The lightweight XM8 presented a radical new design. It was really a family of weapons — a short-barreled, compact model for close quarters, a standard carbine model, a sharpshooter model and a squad automatic rifle model.

The XM8 was poised to become the Army’s next rifle family. Viewed as the successor to the M16 line of weapons, the XM8 was close to being officially adopted in 2005. Gunmaker Heckler & Koch stood to earn hundreds of millions of dollars on a weapon that would be the premier rifle for all American soldiers for a generation or more.

But the XM8 ignited conflict within the Army weapons community — a rift that acquisition experts say ultimately cost the service millions of dollars, with nothing to show for it.

Acquisition heads at the Army and Defense Department levels also clashed over the XM8, which became the focus of an October 2005 DoD Inspector General audit.

When the smoke cleared, the XM8 was dead, the general in charge of the program would retire and soldiers would continue to have to rely on the same weapons to fight a shooting war with no end in sight.

This is a story about ambition gone awry and a weapons bureaucracy that many argue fails the soldier in the field.
 

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It was October 2002, a year after U.S. ground forces invaded Afghanistan.

Keane, then the Army’s vice chief of staff, had launched a campaign in response to complaints from the battlefield with the goal of replacing outdated soldier equipment. He wanted the latest uniforms, protective gear, weapons — whatever soldiers needed.

“We had been mortgaging equipment for individual soldiers for such a long time to take care of the greater Army … so post 9/11, we put our foot down and said, ‘This is over; we are not going to continue to do this,’” said Keane, who retired in late 2003.

“It seemed to me the United States Army ... as part of the greatest capitalistic democracy on the planet, should have hands down not only the best tanks, the best fighting vehicles and the best helicopters,” Keane said, “it should have the best rifle in the world.”

He told then-Col. (P) James Moran, head of the newly formed Program Executive Office Soldier, to be creative in finding ways around the miles of red tape that define the military’s requirements-and-acquisition process.

Moran was smart, a rising star who knew how to get things done. His Rapid Fielding Initiative would prove highly successful at bypassing the Army’s snail-paced system for issuing soldiers the individual gear needed for the extreme conditions they faced in Afghanistan and later in Iraq.

Fielding new boots and long underwear was one thing. replacing the 40-year-old M16 family would prove to be a far tougher fight.

DoD and Army documents obtained by Army Times reveal that conflicts among the Army commands that must sign off on weapons development doomed the XM8 to fail before testers fired a round from the first prototype.

individuals with intimate knowledge of the failed effort paint a picture of an ambitious crusade against an unbending requirements-and-acquisition system — a behemoth many blame for an atmosphere that places a low priority on what has always been the soldier’s most valued possession — the rifle.

Typically, any potential weapon begins life with a designation by the Infantry Center known as an “operational requirement.” If Infantry Center officials deem the troops need a new personal weapon, they then define the requirements — the necessary firepower, capabilities, weight and other specifications.

But that’s only the beginning. Once the requirement clears the Army’s multi-step approval process, it must complete a second, lengthy review in the joint world before winning Defense Department approval.

Then the search begins in the weapons industry, a process that opens the door to competition, development, testing, production and fielding.

Even if things go well, it’s an exercise that can take years.

The Byzantine process has frustrated legions of leaders who want nothing more than the best gear available for their soldiers.

Moran, however, took a different path. He seized upon an idea he believed legitimately would expedite approval of a weapon that would end the long era of the M16. His weapon of choice was a spinoff of an Army program called Objective Individual Combat Weapon.

Started in 1994, the OICW program already had the endorsement of the Infantry Center as an official “operational requirement,” a critical designation needed for any Army program to succeed.

At the heart of that weapons program was the XM29, which combined a 5.56mm carbine with a 25mm airburst weapon to maximize ground soldier firepower. But after a decade, development had stalled in the face of technical challenges that made the weapon too heavy and bulky.

Moran’s solution seemed logical enough: Break out and perfect each of XM29’s components separately. The XM8, or the 5.56mm carbine portion of XM29, would be OICW Increment I and the airburst weapon would be Increment II. The Army would bring them back together when lighter materials became available; that would be Increment III.

To start from scratch would have called for the Infantry Center to write a new requirement for a new carbine — a time-consuming prospect that was not even on the horizon.

As Moran figured it, the XM8, even broken out from the air-burst weapon, was still in line with the Infantry Center’s original operational requirement.

But Moran miscalculated when he believed the XM8 would be covered by the original Infantry Center requirement, according to acquisition experts familiar with the program.

That failed gamble ultimately cost the service $33 million and an opportunity to arm its solders with a new weapon.

Moran refused numerous Army Times requests to discuss XM8. He retired from the Army as a brigadier general Aug. 1, 2006.

More than four decades have passed since the Army adopted the M16 in the mid-1960s. Following a shaky start in the Vietnam War, the weapon dubbed “the black rifle” became the standard long arm throughout the U.S. military.

Despite refinements over the years, the M16 family, which includes the newer M4 carbine, made by Colt Defense, currently is under scrutiny for reliability problems identified by troops in Iraq as part of an Army survey. That has prompted one congressman to pressure the Army to release the survey results and question whether a competition for a new personal weapon is in order. Army officials so far have refused to release the survey data. They and Colt insist the M16 and M4 are highly reliable weapons.

The Army says it has no plans to hold a new competition for a personal weapon. Over the past four decades, the Army worked on development and testing of new rifles such as OICW, but defense spending almost always focused on big-ticket items like the latest armored vehicles and aircraft.

after terrorists on Sept. 11, 2001, plunged the military into an open-ended ground war, however, some among the Army’s senior leadership quickly came to believe soldiers were fighting a war with outdated equipment.

“Post 9/11, I knew that there were so many things on the [verge] of being given to soldiers that they needed ... but I knew we would never get there in time,” Keane recalled, characterizing the system as “too bureaucratic: too many procedures, too many rules.”
 

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The Army stood up PEO Soldier in June 2002 to combat the problem. In October of that year, Keane ordered Moran to launch the RFI — a program that created a special kit of “off-the-shelf” soldier equipment — rugged boots, lightweight long underwear and modern weapons optics — based on conditions faced on the battlefield. To date, more than 800,000 soldiers have received an RFI kit before deploying to the war zone.

“I thought, ‘thank God for Jamie Moran;’ you talk about a guy who was at the right place at the right time when we were trying to do something for soldiers and get them the kind of gear they need,” Keane said. “He was tough enough to wade into the acquisition corps and fight for what he needs.”

But Moran’s ambitious push for the XM8 was in trouble from the start, a victim of the tension that existed in the Army’s small-arms development world, individuals familiar with the program say.

Based in Fort Benning, Ga., the Infantry Center is responsible for writing Army requirements for soldier weapons. PEO Soldier at Fort Belvoir, Va., and its subordinate Project Manager Soldier Weapons at Picatinny Arsenal, N.J., are responsible for developing weapons that meet those requirements.

The two commands hold the most influence over what weapons soldiers take into combat, and they began to clash in September 2002, when PEO Soldier described “Urgent U.S. Army Requirement for the XM8 Lightweight Carbine,” in a Sept. 9 memo.

“Program Executive Office Soldier has an ongoing requirement to reduce the weight of the equipment carried by its warfighters. This requirement includes reducing the weight of their weapons,” wrote Col. Michael Smith, the head of PM Soldier Weapons at the time.

“The XM8 Lightweight Carbine is currently under development as the weapons portion of the XM29 Integrated Airburst Weapon System. … This lightweight weapon will provide the warfighter increased mobility during combat. This increased mobility equates directly to an increase in combat survivability and combat effectiveness.”

The target weight for XM8 was 5.9 pounds, a 20 percent reduction over a similarly equipped M4 carbine, weighing in at 7.4 pounds.

Infantry Center officials quickly challenged the need for such a venture, according to a report by Capt. David LaFontaine, a project officer for the Small Arms Division of the Directorate of Combat Developments, or DCD, at the Infantry Center. The report detailed an Oct. 1, 2002, contract meeting in Oberndorf, Germany, which included representatives from Picatinny Arsenal and Heckler and Koch, the firm slated to build the XM8.

“I made it clear that XM8 was ... not a DCD effort,” LaFontaine wrote, stating that there was no operational requirement document or supporting analysis for the XM8. “We have not done analysis to support any of the capabilities being considered, including the weight level.”

During developmental testing, some testers raised concerns that weight-saving design features such as the all-polymer receiver degraded the performance of XM8. In the end, such criticisms, however, didn’t prevent XM8 from sailing through the Army’s approval process.

Asked about the weapon, DCD officials insist the Infantry Center was very supportive of the XM8 effort.

“We are always open to people that have new ideas, new technology, new capabilities,” Jim Stone, deputy director of the Infantry Center’s Directorate of Combat Developments, told Army Times.

“When it came down to writing the [Capabilities Development Document] for XM8, it was written here. I think it was a team effort.”

But when the CDD was completed in June 2004, the key document required for XM8’s future development recommended changes that sent the program in a radically different direction.

Within the OICW Increment I document, the Infantry Center indeed supported the XM8 family of weapons, but added a new requirement — a new light machine gun to replace the M249 squad automatic weapon. Infantry Center officials described the addition as “the number one need” for soldier weapons.

The new requirement caught XM8 program officials, including Lt. Col. Matthew Clarke, completely off guard.

“Everybody was taken a little bit by surprise,” Clarke told Army Times. “You never heard wind of that before.” At the time, Clarke was one of XM8’s key program officials as the head of Product Manager Individual Weapons.

The Infantry Center’s move prompted Claude Bolton Jr., the assistant secretary of the Army for Acquisitions, Logistics and Technology, to order a competition to decide which commercial weapons maker could best meet this new requirement. As a result, the XM8 — which does not include a light machine gun variant — was on hold. In March 2005, Bolton invited small-arms makers to participate in the OICW Increment I competition to select a replacement for its M16 rifles, M4 carbines, M249 squad automatic weapons and selected M9 pistols.

The OICW Increment I program, meanwhile, had come to the attention of DoD Inspector General officials. The DoD Inspector General’s office criticized the Army in a formal audit of the program, stating Bolton should not have opened competition until the Army followed DoD guidance to provide documentation “that justified the continued development and acquisition of OICW Increment I.”

In a May 27, 2005, memo, the DoD IG recommended Bolton’s office suspend the competition process until the Army provided more proof that it needed a new family of weapons.

In addition, the IG criticized the Army for underestimating the program’s cost, a critical factor in determining who has authority over the program.

The IG put the cost at $2.19 billion for 1.3 million weapons. The higher cost required the program to come under DoD oversight, the IG memo stated.

The Army argued that the program cost — approximately $2.08 billion for 800,000 weapons, according to PEO Soldier briefing documents dated June 29, 2005 — would allow the Army to oversee the program under DoD guidelines.

What had started as an Army effort to expedite fielding of a new carbine by fast-tracking its own development process now had become mired in DoD bureaucracy. Army program officials attempted to garner support within DoD, arguing that soldiers deserved the best weapons available now — while they were in the war zone.

In a July 7, 2005, e-mail to Anthony Melita, deputy director of defense systems with Land Warfare and Munitions for the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisitions, Technology & Logistics, Moran wrote, “Various organizations and individuals seem to be at work to try to stop a competition to provide the best possible weapons to our soldiers in combat. We had eight vendors respond that they could achieve this new requirement. … We owe it to the soldiers in the field to allow the competition between these competitors to proceed.”

Bolton’s office suspended the competition process on July 19, 2005, but continued to maintain that the program was on track, even when he canceled the competition in October 2005.

The head of H&K blames the death of XM8 on the conflict between Moran’s office and Infantry Center officials.

“The right hand didn’t coordinate with the left hand,” said John Meyer Jr., a retired Army major general who became the CEO of H&K in June 2005. Meyer criticized the Army for not having a “coherent, coordinated game plan for the future development of small arms.”

Small-arms officials at Benning said the Infantry Center gave the XM8 program every consideration, describing the lengthy “user assessment,” which involved a variety of soldiers, from basic trainees to Rangers, shooting XM8s.

“The whole purpose of the user assessment that the Battle Lab ran was to try to give it an objective look,” Stone said. “We and a lot of people said, ‘ok, there is some goodness here, but maybe there is not enough goodness to spend a whole lot of money on it.’ … The XM8 really didn’t offer us a significant leap in capability.”

But acquisition experts argue that the failure of PEO Soldier and the Infantry Center to agree on a united direction for the XM8 program cost the Army this chance to arm soldiers with a potentially better weapon.

“There was not a common vision between the two,” said Col. Robert Carpenter, an acquisitions officer who formerly worked PM Soldier Weapons. “We have a broken process. When you don’t have a requirement and acquisition process with a shared vision, you are not going to get anything, and you are going to waste a lot of money.”

Keane is still bitter about XM8’s demise. The loss of the H&K-made weapon didn’t matter as much to him as the Army squandering a chance to raise the standard for soldier weapons.

“To have the best means you have to regenerate to get the best every so often,” Keane said. “And I also thought that watching what H&K was doing with weapons technology, to have them competing would force competition to a much higher standard. We could not help but win in the deal. . . . In this case, our bureaucracy failed our troops.”
 

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Everything I've read over the last year on Iraq & Afghanistan regarding rifles & rounds, has pointed out the inadequacies of the 5.56 and requests from the field for a larger caliber. I would have to think that part of the XM8's demise would be related to that as well?
 

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IIRC the XM8 was to be multi caliber capable amongst other then innovations which today are now new product expectations.

- Janq
 

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Negative Nancy
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Janq said:
IIRC the XM8 was to be multi caliber capable amongst other then innovations which today are now new product expectations.

- Janq
not if it has anything at all in common with its parent, the G36. The G36's barrel extension is molded into the upper receiver making rebarreling nearly impossible.

the army already turned this gun down back in the 60s when it was called the AR-18 and cost probably 1/5 the price. radical new design my ass.
 

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lol I HATED the XM8... Looks like a damn toy.

But it was quite impressive with what it had going for it.
 

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Janq said:
IIRC the XM8 was to be multi caliber capable amongst other then innovations which today are now new product expectations.

- Janq
You may be thinking of another weapon system.

Pretty sure the XM8 was never spec'd for anything other than 5.56x45 NATO.

:confused:
 

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I'm going by memory and it's been some time but I believe H&K had marketed if not intended to develop it as being multi-caliber too....above and beyond 5.56.
I recall seeing reference to as much at a conference years ago toward the XM8.

- Janq
 

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Same here, I did read something about they would have to redo it all it to 6.8 or what ever they choose.
 

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Negative Nancy
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i've said it before and i'll say it again: until the entire weapon is changed significantly (i.e. all of it), we'll be using the AR-15 platform.
 

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Janq said:
I'm going by memory and it's been some time but I believe H&K had marketed if not intended to develop it as being multi-caliber too....above and beyond 5.56.
I recall seeing reference to as much at a conference years ago toward the XM8.

- Janq
I know it was definitely meant to be easily reconfigured into other types of weapons platforms such as sniper, compact carbine, & even SAW via barrel change, etc. but I've never seen it referred to in any other caliber beyond 5.56 NATO.
 

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Yes, definitely toward reconfigurability toward different mission 'platforms' but that's not what I'm referring to.
I recall it being multi-caliber capable as well, be it by design or future intent that I cannot recall exactly. I do know for sure it was at a conference that I saw this info and it was back in the late 90s.

- Janq
 

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I think we will most likely go to a piston AR well before a new platform. The issues will be much diminished by a short stroke system like the LMT setup. This way the Army can jjust retrofit the system, not have to retrain soldiers, and re use its lower assemblies.
 
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