The US Army released its second draft of the request for proposal (RFP) for its Modular Handgun System earlier this week. The draft gives the designation for whichever handgun is selected as “XM17”. From the draft RFP:
The U.S. Army Contracting Command – New Jersey, Picatinny Arsenal, NJ, on behalf of the Program Manager Soldier Weapons, has a requirement for the Modular Handgun System (MHS). For the purposes of this Request for Proposal (RFP) and resulting contract(s), the MHS will consist of the handgun(s), associated ammunition, and supporting accessories to include spare parts. Interested vendors will be required to supply all of the items as described in section B under the resulting contract.
The acquisition strategy is to conduct a full and open competition that will utilize the tradeoff method to evaluate and select the best value system submitted that meets the MHS requirements as described in this RFP and attached purchase descriptions in accordance with the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) Part 15, Contracting By Negotiations.
The MHS procurement is intended to be an open caliber competition, which means the choice of caliber is left to the discretion of the Offeror. Offerors are permitted to submit up to two (2) proposals configured to the specific caliber it chooses for evaluation. If an Offeror chooses to submit two (2) proposals, their submissions must all be chambered in a different cartridge of the Offeror’s choosing. In addition, each proposal must be submitted independently from each other.
Each proposal will consist of either a two (2) handgun solution (one full size and one compact), or one (1) handgun solution that meets requirements for both a full size and compact weapon, plus the following ammunition: ball, special purpose, dummy drilled inert (DDI) and blank, as well as, accessories as listed in Section L.18.104.22.168.3. Offerors will have 150 days from the issue date of this RFP to submit proposal requirements as described in section L of the RFP.
Each Offeror will be required to conduct a Contractor Product Instruction/Training Demonstration session to the Government on the hardware and the manuals submitted in accordance with section L.5 of this RFP.
The Government intends to award up to three (3) Firm Fixed Price (FFP), Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contracts based off of the initial evaluation of the proposal submission by following the evaluation procedure contained in section M of this RFP. The Government will then make a final down-selection to a single contractor by following the evaluation procedures contained in section H of this RFP. The period of performance of the base contract(s) will be ten (10) years for the handgun, accessories and spares and five (5) years for the ammunition.
Military.com also covered the draft RFP in a recent article:
Army weapons officials plan to open the official competition next year with the goal of awarding a contract to a single gun maker for nearly 300,000 new pistols by 2018.
“We expect to release the final solicitation in 2016,” Col. Scott Armstrong, the head of Project Manager for Soldier Weapons, said in a June 17 press release from Program Executive Office Soldier.
“This will be followed by a phased down-select process that will run through 2017. When all is said and done, the XM17 will provide Warfighters with greater accuracy, target acquisition, ergonomic design. The new handgun will also be more reliable, durable and easier to maintain.”
This is the second draft solicitation the Army has released for its effort to replace the M9, a pistol Beretta USA has made for the U.S. military since the mid-1980s.
“Each vendor may provide up to two separate proposals of handguns with different calibers to the Army for evaluation and testing in early 2016,” Armstrong said. “Vendors must submit mature designs that are production ready. They are free to select a caliber that best meets the XM17 requirements.”
One of the major goals of the MHS effort is to adopt a pistol chambered for a more potent round than the current 9mm, weapons officials said. The U.S. military replaced the .45 caliber 1911 pistol with the M9 in 1985 and began using the 9mm NATO round at that time.
Soldiers who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan have complained that the 9mm round is not powerful enough to be effective in combat, Army officials maintain.
But experts from the law-enforcement and competitive shooting worlds have argued that tactical pistol ammunition — no matter the caliber — depends on proper shot placement to be effective at stopping a determined adversary.
The Army began working with the small-arms industry on MHS in early 2013, but the effort has been in the works for more than five years. If successful, it would result in the Defense Department buying about 500,000 new pistols during a period of significant defense-spending reductions.
MHS is set to cost at least $350 million and potentially millions more if it results in the selection of a more potent pistol caliber, sources said.
Current plans call for the Army to purchase more than 280,000 handguns from a single vendor, with full-rate production scheduled for 2018, according to the release. The Army also plans to buy approximately 7,000 compact versions of the handgun. The other military services participating in the XM17 program may order an additional 212,000 systems, Army officials maintain.
Many in the industry, including myself, are doubtful that the Army would select a caliber other than 9mm for the final production handgun, but leaving the ammunition specification open not only gives a chance to non-NATO calibers like .40 S&W or 5.7mm FN, but also new types of 9mm ammunition that could improve effectiveness.
Even if the old M882 9mm Ball round is retained, a new handgun could offer the Army lighter weight, lower cost, and longer lifespan over the very respectable but now dated M9.