Why Gen. Scales’ ‘Christmas Wish List for the American Infantryman’ Is a Cornucopia of Half Thoughts and Bad Ideas

Military procurement is a very precise business, in which the costs, drawbacks, and benefits of different ideas and proposals are weighed in the balance, and those that don’t make the grade are relegated to research status or cancelled outright. It’s also a very messy business, rife with opportunities for graft and corruption, and one that by its nature is prone to wasting money. It’s certainly true that our current system of military procurement badly needs reform to prevent waste of taxpayer dollars and to ensure the best equipment is purchased at the right price.

However, we don’t get from here to there through the kind of process outlined in an article hosted at National Review, written by retired Major General Robert Scales, US Army. I’ve tussled with Scales’ writing twice before, both times concerning his criticisms of the M4 Carbine, but this time Scales presents what he believes are cheap, off the shelf technologies that could easily be bought by the government to improve the infantryman’s effectiveness in combat. Unfortunately, despite his apparently good intentions, Scales does not seem to have a very good grasp of the material, and the ideas he proposes range from wasteful to half-baked, including several combinations of the two thereof. More fundamentally, Scales falls into the trap of wanting to take the easy way out, following the allure of commercial off-the-shelf programs that in every case he outlines promise much to the uninformed, but in practice would not meet the needs of the US combat infantryman.

Since in the two aforementioned articles I have already addressed just about every criticism Scales has regarding the AR-15 family of weapons (including the M4 and M16), I recommend readers click through and read those if they are interested in my refutation of Scales arguments. The first post is a little regrettably flippant on my part, but the second follows through with more detail. I also recommend reading a handful of other articles I have written regarding reliability and the AR-15 family of weapons, including How Well Does Direct Impingement Handle Heat? and Jim Sullivan On The M16 In Vietnam (And Commentary By Daniel Watters), the latter of which handles the subject of why the M16 failed in Vietnam.

However, Scales makes a couple of strange assertions about the M4 that are worth addressing here, separately. One is that “Russia’s newest rifle outranges ours by 40 percent”, which is a very nebulous claim with absolutely no evidence behind it. It’s not clear what rifle Scales is talking about, nor the effective range values he believes are applicable to either it or the US Army’s M4 Carbine. Is Scales talking about the AK-12, and if so does he believe the AK-12 is somehow a 700 meter gun to the M4’s 500 meters, or what? Maybe he means Kalashnikov Concern’s new SVK designated marksman rifle, which is neither designed as a standard infantry weapon nor has even been bought by the Russian military as of the date of publishing. Statements like these are impossible to disprove because it’s impossible to know what Scales means without further clarification. The reader is simply expected to take Scales’ word for it.

The other assertion Scales makes is that “[w]e could equip every close-combat soldier, Marine, and special operator in our military for the cost of a single F-35 fighter jet”, which, like the previous, is almost hopelessly vague. I assume Scales means that we could replace all the rifles in inventory for this much, but with what? Again, we are left in the dark. With our reader’s pardon, though, I’d like to dig a little deeper into this claim, since I hear the unit cost for F-35s referenced so much in discussions about procuring new small arms. Let’s work the problem frontways and backwards, starting with the unit cost of an F-35 itself. How much a single F-35 costs depends on the variant (there are three), but let’s take the cheapest and most plentiful one: The US Air Force’s F-35A CTOL version. The cost of a single F-35A is still difficult to pin down exactly, but it’s easy enough to get as close as we need for our purposes. There are a lot of different sources on this, including a CNBC article slamming the fighter, and F35.com which is presumably biased in the other direction, but the best source seems to be a Breaking Defense article which references a 2015 Selective Acquisition Report on the F-35. That breaks down the cost like so:

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So each F-35 is expected to cost on average about a hundred million bucks, while the low rate initial production units are costing about a hundred and ten million bucks per, in then-year dollars. Let’s go with the hundred million dollar ($100 million) for a single F-35A.

Scales is also imprecise on who exactly we are equipping in his plan, as “every close-combat soldier, Marine, and special operator in our military” includes quite a lot. Since this line is pretty ambiguous (do infantry reservists and National Guardsmen count, or only people in-theater? What about combat units that are out of the rotation, or troops on active duty in potential war zones like Korea?), I’ll replace it with a number I’ve heard bandied about a lot: 140,000 US Army active duty deployed combat troops. If we throw the Marines and miscellaneous others in there, we can probably call it a round 200,000 troops that would need to be re-equipped.

From there, the math is simple: 100,000,000 divided by 200,000 gives us our budget per soldier, airman, sailor, or Marine, which works out to $500 a pop for the cancellation of a single F-35 fighter jet. That is not a lot of money to procure new rifles if Scales demands for a new caliber and a new operating system are to be met, along with the normal standards expected of military rifles. It is certainly not enough money to also purchase new ammunition, accessories, optics, and the other things that Scales thinks would make great “Christmas gifts” to go along with the new weapons.

Going the other direction, I recently wrote about the costs of procuring new rifles, using for my accounting a rifle concept that seems to fall right in line with Scales’ recommendations. Sadly for the Major General, the conclusions I came to certainly don’t line up with Scales’ assessment that US troops could be re-equipped for the cost of a single F-35:

Therefore, a new rifle of this type would probably have a cost breakdown like so:

  • Base rifle, grip, bipod, rails, light – $3,000 – $5,000
  • Long Range Rifle Optic – $2,000 – $3,000
  • PEQ-15 – $600

Total cost for our new long-range infantry rifles would therefore be somewhere in the ballpark of $5,000-$9,000 per unit, not including spares and support. This, however, is an estimate based on contracts with relatively low procurement numbers, so to adjust for economies of scale, we need to look to a larger contract. The French this year awarded Heckler and Koch a contract for over 100,000 of their HK416F rifles, at about $4,200 per unit, including spares and support. If we compare that to the USMC M27 contract, we get an imperfect but serviceable adjustment of 0.70 to account for the economy of scale, resulting in an estimated cost per unit for our rifles of $3,500-$6,300. We’ll just round that to $3,500-$6,000.

So a single F-35 buys you a little over 30,000 guns if you leave off the PEQ-15 (presumably still in inventory after you scrapped all the M4s), given the most optimistic cost estimate for a new rifle system. To buy 200,000 rifles, you need to cancel six F-35s. Keep in mind this is accounting for procurement of rifle systems only, not development of those rifles, and not development and procurement of ammunition, magazines, accessories, etc., either. As we examined in a previous article regarding a hypothetical adoption of the 6.5 Grendel, development of only a few of these items would probably cost hundreds of millions of dollars alone, and procurement of an entire fleet would run well over a billion dollars, not including training and other essential items.

Still, even assuming a few billion dollars worth of procurement costs, we’re only cancelling a small portion of the F-35 fleet, right (the US Air Force alone plans to buy 1,763 F-35s)? Well, there are flaws to this logic. First, if the money is to be freed up by cancelling F-35s, when are these F-35s being cancelled and how are the gaps being filled? It’s my assumption the Scales would like this rifle procurement to happen effectively now, so what does three billion dollars worth of rifles, optics, magazines, ammunition, spares, training, packaging, etc look like in terms of delay in F-35 procurement? The Air Force’s goal for procurement of F-35s for 2016 and 2017 is 48 birds per year, meaning an immediate initial three billion dollar purchase of new infantry weapons would axe almost two thirds of the aircraft slated for procurement in 2017. With current airframes wearing out and desperately in need of replacement by the new aircraft, this raises the question: Is it really worth it?

Stepping back, we have to recognize that we are indulging in a minor fantasy; it may not be that F-35s actually get cancelled to procure new rifles, but that still has us asking where we will find the money to procure these weapons? If new rifles are to be purchased any time soon, how many other programs are we willing to cancel in service of this dream of new infantry weapons?

I think it’s very important to listen to people who – like Scales – went through one of the greatest procurement disasters in modern US military history, that being the M16’s combat debut in Vietnam. Scales may (or may not) have the right motivations, but I think from this disaster he draws some incorrect conclusions. The Major General wants the easy way out, a commercial off the shelf (COTS) procurement program of new and better equipment that would give the US soldier an edge. Yet it was precisely that approach which resulted in the M16’s failure in Southeast Asia that Scales so laments. The rifle was procured off the shelf from Colt with no questions asked after the disaster that had been the government-produced M14 (itself a boondoggle program that had the Scaleses of their day crying for heads to roll – and roll they did). The M16 was introduced prematurely and men died as a consequence. Had those rifles been developed, tested, and procured properly, more of Scales’ men might still be alive today. I don’t say this lightly – the business of military procurement has a grave end: The nation’s fighting men rely on the equipment they are given, and live and die by how that equipment was developed, tested, and procured.

Let’s not fall prey to fraudulent accounting and the allure of easy COTS solutions. As frustrating as our military procurement system often is, it’s also necessary to save the lives of the men who count on it.





Nathaniel F

Nathaniel is a history enthusiast and firearms hobbyist whose primary interest lies in military small arms technological developments beginning with the smokeless powder era. In addition to contributing to The Firearm Blog, he runs 196,800 Revolutions Per Minute, a blog devoted to modern small arms design and theory. He is also the author of the original web serial Heartblood, which is being updated and edited regularly. He can be reached via email at nathaniel.f@staff.thefirearmblog.com.


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  • Otter

    Lovely article. This is why I come here.

  • Isaac Newton

    To play devil’s advocate: if you take the f35 project cost and divide it by the total units it gives a better idea of how much each plane cost the taxpayer in the end ($1.5trillion/2,457 = $610million). If you look at it thru this lense you get close to the $3K (M27) base rifles for 200K warfighters. This is not to say that skipping the procurement of one plane will save $610M since the R&D, capital costs etc. are already sunk.

    • User

      Were close to 2017, the M27 is outdated since atleast 3decades. Were verry close to new Rifles. Who the heck would need to waist money for 200000 M27….. Thats just completly insane, when we waist money now, we might be stuck with those Rifles for way too long again.

      • Isaac Newton

        The author used the M27/HK415F as the baseline rifle and General Scales had advocated piston rifles in the past.

        • User

          Ok, i tought you advocate the M27 as (rather senceless) theoretical M4 replacement. Which ofcourse would not suit the time were living in, and the current development in the smallarms area.
          Sry, have a great day.

          • Isaac Newton

            I don’t really care either way, however, if I were King, I would give the benefit of doubt to individual grunts that would like an M27 over his M4 (if even for psychological reasons) and let them have it.

          • User

            As said the M27 is technically outdated since atleast 3decades, will cost an insane amount of money, and bring no actual performance increase at all.
            Were verry close to new truly modern Rifles. The absolut last thing we should do is waist money on something senceless and than be stuck again for decades.

          • J. Murphy

            How is it ” technically outdated since atleast 3decades”?

            You’re dropping these big assertions without actually supporting them with anything.

          • User

            I go buy some food, im back in an hour and will answer then.

          • Cymond

            Posted 5 hours ago, no response yet.

            FWIW, I don’t think something is “outdated” unless it’s been surpassed. Old tech doesn’t become obsolete until new tech is invented.

          • Kivaari

            I just asked that of him 3 minutes ago, you beat me by 7 hours.

          • User

            Thanks for the remind, forgot it.
            I dont directly mean the M27 is outdated in therms of military use, but simply as said technically outdated, one of the reasons is simply.. Eugene Stoners way to early death. He basicly already abadoned metal bottleneck cartridges, because he knew no sicnificant performance increase could be made.

            So, not just that telescoped cartridges are about 60years old, the ACR programm was at around 1986. The Steyr ACR had a 54,1mm barrel with 76,5cm overall lenght (and can be further shorten even with the same barrel). The HK416 barrel to overall lenght is comperable hilarious… . Its chamber would accept CT cartridges with bullets too, lets say CT 5,56 (.224″/5,7mm) with a good aerodynamic shape. Tilting chamber for certain reasons would be better than rising chamber.
            CT cartridges need less propellant for the same projectile energy, because theyr far better isolating than brass, they far lighter ofcourse (8,92g/cm3 vs 1 to 1,2 g/cm3), volume is less too. Theyr Mechanism is far more reliable, feeds straight, make ripped rims and stuck cases impossible, needs MUCH less space than a bottleneck one, and if build good its lighter because it needs no large bolt. Also because of the lack of a large heavy bolt bouncing back and forth, felt recoil is sicnificantly less.
            Ammunition is possible that is 75% lighter than 5.56×45 brass cased but has 250ft lbs at 1200meter /1312yard. And supersonic range over 1200m + flat trajectory. Having higher KE/mm² than 6.5 123grain with 0,264 G7BC at 1200m.

            75% means 315rounds vs 210r 5.56×45 brasscased.

            Does than mean all metal bottleneck plattforms in use are terrible? No. Its just due to certain circumstances still theyr time. But its soon over, thats just a simple fact. And adopting multiple ten thousands M27 would make NO actual performance diffrence, and as said will cost just an absolut insane and hilarious amount of money. Then were stuck with it for the next decades, even tough its soon not comperable at all performance wise, thats just pure stupidity. Thats the absolut last thing which should be done.

            I could write an entire study over it and bring more arguments… but i really dont have time for that.

          • User

            So why arent new modern Rifles not here yet: -> missaimed development programms with interesting but to that time not achievable goals, that sometimes resulted in good new technology but …simply not combined in one system, so this together with the to that time not achivable goals led to a total kill of programms, not making use of the partially good technology like combining them in one system without flaws. Also a portion of bad luck and circumstances.

            The death of Eugene Stoner played a huge part in slowing down smallarms development. The steady but slow development of AAI hunt valley maryland of CT tilting chamber smallarms.
            The extrem lack of innovation and passion in modern smallarms, a AR clone can be selled easy, just advertise it would do everything better than the old rifle even if it absolutly doesnt, some gullible country will buy it when your just a bit lucky.

            A Rifle/LMG with new ammo, needs INCREDIBLE work to become actually sicnificantly better to become worth for adoption (which it soon is). Thats a verry high risk high cost programm for usual companys. Which is the reason why theyr continue cloning AR’s. And also competing with Textron in that area as example would make no sence, you just put money in it and cant even use certain technology due to the patents they already have, your weapon wont be adoped and you make insane minus, that and the lack of innovation and passion is why no other larger companys do work in that direction.

          • Kivaari

            I’d argue that it isn’t technically outdated for 30 years simply because there is no new technology (that is proven) to replace it. Is it outdated if there is nothing better?

          • Spike

            To what are you referring? LSAT? Even that uses old tech. Or are you expecting every soldier to start carrying rail guns or lasers in a few years time? DDG-1000 is meant to have a rail gun and as far as I know the development and test team keeps ripping barrels apart.

          • User

            LSAT and another newer Rifle/LMG construction.

          • Spike

            So what’s newer about LSAT? Other than materials, the tech is at best 40 something years old, its just re-invented.

          • Uniform223

            The ammo…

          • Spike

            Again, the tech is still old – admitted maybe not to this small scale, but still invented long ago – which was User’s argument.

          • User

            Dude… Age doesnt matter, the point of time since when a technology is overcome by another does. Age doesnt matter performance do.

            Its not that the tech the M27 uses is 3decades old (its ofcourse much much older and was just modified), its that since over 3decades better technology exists (but are never focused in one system).

            As said, tiliting Chamber and CT ammo is de facto better. The question is just concept and goals, with the wrong parameters the result will be bad for actual use, as i see the Project in its current form. There is another more modern Project and Rifle with higher developed technology, and with better set parameters, so in comperasion the results does verry drastically increase for its real world performance.

          • CT isn’t ready for prime time now, and it sure as hell wasn’t ready 40 years ago.

            This argument seems entirely semantic and silly.

          • User

            “isnt ready” and why?

            The existing programm heads in the wrong direction yes. But the technology itself in well executed parameters is no problem to use (but that doesnt exist now, so in a certain way your right). And make dozend times more sence than waisting money for a M27 for basicly no performance increase.

            The best chioce is to keep the highly upgraded M4’s now still for a moment, and not make a rushed decision to waist money on the M27. And adopt an actually optimized CT weapon when theyr ready.

          • ostiariusalpha

            I’m sorry, but saying that LSAT/CTA is old tech is entirely misguided. That’s like someone in the 19th century saying that Berdan and Boxer primer centerfire cartridges invented in 1866 are old tech because the centerfire metallic cartridge was invented by Clement Pottet 37 years earlier. It may be technically true, but it entirely misses the point that the technology hadn’t “plateaued” (or whatever), but still had much potential to mature into something suitable for large-scale implementation; as similarly applies to CTA and its predecessors. In fact, there is plenty of room for improvement in case-telescoped ammunition that awaits in the future, the same as metallic, centerfire cartridge have still matured beyond 1866.

          • CommonSense23

            The individual grunts don’t know what they want. I heard guys complaining about why we dont get 416s instead of our MK18s until we worked one of the units that had them. Once our guys saw them complaining about the HKs and most preferred the MK18s it shut people up real quick.

          • Isaac Newton

            I bet the take rate for the (heavier) 416 may not be exceptionally high.

      • J. Murphy

        The IAR has only been around for ten years, it’s based on the HK416, which has only been around for 12 years. How has the M27 been outdated for “three decades” when it has only existed for one? How is the HK416 “outdated” when competitor rifles are also little more then minor improvements on the AR15?

        • MeaCulpa

          In a scence it’s is more than three decades old, it contains basically no new technology, like every other firearm. Having said that I think that the decision to stick with the M4/M16 is the right one, there isn’t really anything that offers a significant advantage out there and a soldiers individual weapon makes a pretty slim difference in the outcome of a war compared to MBT:s, artillery, air power and even machine guns.

          Edit: and that’s coming from someone who seriously dislikes the AR-15.

          • User

            “It contains basically no new technology” Verry well said.

          • J. Murphy

            “It contains basically no new technology” and? Everything in rifle technology is at least 3 decades old, there’s no “new” technology out there. All of the rifles that have been put forward as replacements for the M16/M4 are little more then minor improvements for an exorbitant price. The projects that actually tried to reinvent the wheel (Duplex rounds, Gyrojet, the SPIW project, the ACR project, the OICW project) all failed to produce rifles that were fit for field testing, never mind actually better then the AR15.

          • User

            “there is no new technology out there” You seem to have no clue what youre talking about…

          • J. Murphy

            Do you? You still haven’t actually elucidated on what this “new technology” that’s going to make all current Assault rIfles obsolete is, all you’ve done is say that the M27 contains no “new technology” without actually explaining what “new technology” you want in there.

          • MeaCulpa

            I was just entertaining the argument that the “platform” is more than three decades old. I share your sentiment about possible replacements for the AR. I don’t like the AR but that is just my opinion and makes bugger all difference in the real world.

        • Ron

          The M27 was fielded about 4 years ago

    • Except you aren’t using the acquisition cost. The $1.5T is the total program cost of the F-35 across the expected 55 years in services to includes maintenance, fuel, and cost of disposal.

      It is a new figure that has never been calculated for any other program. And lord knows how accurate it is.

      IIRC the total acquisition cost was less than a third of that.

      • B-I-N-G-O

      • Isaac Newton

        I would risk a guess that $1.5T will end up being on the low end of total cost, but who knows maybe our government will surprise me. But either way a general pitting an aircraft vs. small arm can’t be taken literally. I’m simply entertaining his argument not accepting it.

        • True, but the very nature of his argument is flawed. Replacing all the M4s with another 5.56 carbine will provide little in the way of an increase in capability by infantry forces. Even if we switched calibers the increase would be minimal as the people that have the skills to use the increased range of the new carbines typically already get the DMR rifles and sometimes even semiauto sniper rifles.

          While the F-35 OTOH will provide a tremendous increase in capability in strike missions. It has the ability to carry a similar load out of as F-16/F-18 in a stealth configuration with over 50% increase in range, but when stealth isn’t needed it can carry 40% payload with a similar range as the F-16/F-18. It also provides the Commander of Air Forces with several times the amount of stealth assets that we’ve had in the past along with the ability to deploy them off of carriers something we’ve never had in the past.

          Finally that doesn’t even consider how the F-35B out classes the AV-8B in nearly every measurement.

          The F-35 gets a bad rap by critics, though some of the criticisms are true like the F-35 was never meant to replace the A-10 there was a separate program called the A-X but that was canceled as part of the post-Cold War budget cuts. But for the strike mission profile it was specifically designed for it will provide a much larger increase in capability over the aircraft it is replacing than any carbine upgrade short of Phased Plasma Rifles in the 40 watt range.

          • Isaac Newton

            I don’t take the new aircraft or new rifle paradigm literally. But if the choice was literal, and I was a grunt getting shot at and had to choose between having an “upgraded” rifle or getting an extra smart bomb from an air strike, I would pick the bomb, who wouldn’t?

            I read the General’s article and feel the emotion, and I forgive him for harboring bad feeling about the (early) M16 seeing as he holds it responsible for getting his buddies killed. Some of the other tech he suggests don’t seem like 100% awful ideas.

          • n0truscotsman

            I think the most dedicated critics of the F35 are missing the point of importance: existing airframes are getting long in the tooth, and will approach the 30-40 year old mark by the 2020s. They need to be replaced sooner rather than later.

            Whether its the F35 or something else, the importance of ‘acquire and shoot first’ will become most profoundly important over the coming decades.

          • cwolf

            Agree it is a false equivalency.

            Although a M1400EM 338 Lapua Magnum Trackingpoint could help level the playing field with a SDM (although I’m not volunteering to carry it)(realizing USAIS would object to the loss of close combat firepower). At $17k it’s not that much more than the CSASS.

        • carlcasino

          Comparing aircraft to rifles is a real stretch. I have a bigger picture outlook.. Why do we need 4 configurations of a aircraft? Why do we need that many configurations for a rifle? Answer : because we are still locked in pre WWI mentality of NEEDING Army & Army Air, Marines & Marine Air, Navy & Navy Air, Air Force & Coast Guard without Ground forces? How Quaint. Oops overlooked Special Forces. Not really, they are the future of ground warfare. the days of deploying 5 million ground troops is sooo 1950’s. I am Ex- Military BTW and my concept is we NEVER use our troops as cannon fodder ever again.

          • We have three configurations because it makes a better aircraft. The F-35B is actually the prime design, the A and C were spawned from the B models requirements.

            The A model is B model with all the VTSOL stuff stripped out, designed to land from long paved runways. Using a C model for a land based aircraft would mean that it would have to drag along all the extra stuff needed to land on carriers. So much extra weight and drag that they needed to put a fuel tank in the space that was used for the B model lift fan where the A model has equal range and uses that space for an internal gun. Also the A model has an expanded performance envelope.

            Using a B model from carriers would limit the combat effectiveness, as the B model has a more a lot of performance limitations to enable it to be VSTOL.

            As far as the size of the military, Si vis pacem, para bellum. Having the ability to fight a major conflict is more likely to prevent a major conflict.

          • carlcasino

            My point is, I do not believe it will ever be necessary to fight two ground wars , or even one if we use our assets properly. Will my approach result in collateral damage if the warnings are not heeded? YES! But it will not take many to get even the most radical to not want to commit suicide. using your assets correctly removes the snakes head.
            As long as politicians are in charge of the battlefield ( safe in their bunkers) committing our troops as Cannon Fodder is an easy call. I am 1000% against that approach. IF CONFLICT is necessary then the only course of action is to use ALL our assets to eliminate the cause of the conflict-PERIOD-End of Conversation–There is no such thing as being a little bit pregnant.

          • Ron

            That is actually an inversion of what happen. In 1997 the Marine Corps was directed by SECNAV to abandon their AV-8 replacement and sign on to the JSF, so the B was born.

          • That isn’t the history I’ve read. The earliest program was a joint USMC and RN program from 1993. The Air Force signed on and it became the Joint Strike Fighter program.

            The USN was the one that had to be forced to sign onto the JSF program.

          • Ron

            When I worked HQMC, I had the action memo from SECNAV in my historical files that directed the Marine Corps 1) continue proving Nuclear Weapons Security 2) Abandon the AV-8 replacement program for the JSF.

          • I am sure that it is true, might have been one of the many programs that ultimately got merged into the JSF. The JSF program is a convoluted history of various programs that were merged or canceled to make way for it.

        • Stephen Paraski

          Don’t forget these are our great ‘Military Minds” that wanted to scrap A-10 20 years ago. Yes I am biased because we have a Group of A-10s based north of Detroit. I grew up with Nike Missiles down street at local park.

          • They wanted to scrap them 20 years ago because they were reaching the end of their design service life. Aircraft aren’t something that you can use forever, they have limited service lives.

            In order to keep the A-10 in service as forced on them by Congress they had to reengine the entire fleet. Something that cost almost as much as the initial purchase. The last time they attempted to scrap them and were again rebuffed they had to replace all the wings. Again another expensive program.

            But even with all the money poured into the A-10 they think that the core air frame has maybe 10 years of use left in it.

      • Tritro29

        That cost is already overdrawn at 700 jets. There’s 1400 more to build after that according to plans.

      • Seth Hill

        “The $1.5T is the total program cost of the F-35 across the expected 55 years in services to includes maintenance, fuel, and cost of disposal.”

        55 years of service, seriously? Our oldest active fighter is the F-15 (which the F-35 is to replace) which was introduced in 1976 and will be in service beyond 2030 due to upgrades. The next oldest is the F-16 (introduced in 1978) which is also to be replaced by the F-35.

        The F-35 (2400+ aircraft from what I have read) is expected to replace the following:
        192 F-15, 957 F-16, 291 A-10C, 587 Hornets, & 127 Harrier II

        No word on the 257 F-15Es that are being upgraded also to be in service beyond 2030, but they also may be part of the F-35 transition.

        Then we have the 195 F-22A that was introduced in 2005, which had production ended in 2012. We also have the F-117 (which is much more stealthy than the F-35 is) that was introduced in 1983 and retired in 2008, due to……. the F-22 being brought into service. The F-22 has much better performance than the F-35.

        I have read a number of articles with different reasons for its production ending, a couple of them based it on the fact that in 20+ years the technology of the plane will be obsolete. The fact is that that is a correct assessment and will also apply to the F-35. I don’t see a 50 year service of the F-35 due to the future need of newer stealth technology (based on the histories of the F-117 and F-22. I give it about 10 years before its replacement is started to be pushed, and it won’t be just the US that will push for it since this is a joint program, and an end of production by 2030.

        One other thing, how long before the F-35s will need upgrades done to new radar, avionics, etc that are not part of the $1.5T? I’m betting not long on that.

        • First off the 55 years includes the development time from the point JSF started (but doesn’t include predecessor programs). Also remember that the F-16s will probably be in service in ANG and Reserve units for the next 10-20 years and the QF-16 will probably be in service 20-30 years beyond that. So aircraft service dates don’t just end when the replacement aircraft into FOC.

          AFAIK there were never any plans to retire the F-15Es due to the F-35 or the F-22 programs.

          I don’t know where people get their facts on the F-35, as the F-35’s RCS is about equal to the B-2 which is twice as better than the F-117. And that doesn’t consider MX, the F-117 requires hours of patching up after every mission as many of the seams were literally sealed with tape.

          Like I said the $1.5T is a new number never calculated and is likely wrong because no one knows what happens next week let alone 30-40 years from now. For all we know we will all be killed by cleansing nuclear fire due to WWIII started by the guy who killed the Russian Ambassador in Turkey.

          Now this is purely opinion, and I don’t have anything but intuition to back it up. But I think that the total program cost was only attempted to be calculated for the F-35 program so that critics can use it to attack it. As they’ve made no attempts to calculate the number for any other program before, nor since.

    • noob

      I initially read “[w]e could equip every close-combat soldier, Marine, and special operator in our military for the cost of a single F-35 fighter jet” as “spend $100m on each soldier”. thank god that’s not what he meant, or we’d end up with unmanned ground combat vehicles replacing all but a few.

  • User

    The M4 will be replaced, but it makes NO SENCE to replace it with some average insanly technically outdated metal bottleneck cartridge platform… it will bring no actual performance increase AT ALL, and will just cost an insane shitton of money that is then waisted.
    It wont take long anymore for new truly modern Rifles to come, if the money is waisted now on something average, we would be stuck again for maybe decades with them! That would be hilariously stupid.

    And the coming Rifle will make the Ak12 look like 3rd world equiment…

    Everything should be done to prevent a, wrong, rushed and unconsidered decision!

    • David B

      So the m27 is outdated because it’s a “metal bottleneck cartridge platform”? Which is the standard for all rifles, battle, recreational, and hunting, since it’s currently the most efficient and reliable type of projectile/propellant arrangement able to be manufactured to any scale? But we should wait to improve on this concept because sometime in the coming decades something new might be viable which will make metallic bottlenecks cartridges… still a viable choice?

      • Joshua

        I wouldn’t say it’s outdated, but neither is the current M4A1.

        The issue is the HK416 doesn’t offer anything over the M4A1.

        Sadly small arms have plateud.

        • User

          Smallarms absolutly does not have plateud… metal bottleneck cartridge platform smallarms have. (And even they ofcourse not “fully”, but inprovements in theyr area wouldnt be enough for large scale adoption)

          • User

            *but yes no actual performance difference to upgraded M4’s, and this for an insane amount of money.

          • Ron

            What it can do that the M4 or M4A1 could not was provide higher sustained rate of automatic fire for the standard Automatic Riflemen’s UBL. Colt produced their own version of the IAR for testing with a heat sink added to the barrel to allow it to meet the requirement.

          • Joshua

            The issue with Colts IAR is it was fairly heavy…What was it? 11lbs or something along those lines.

          • Ron

            I am not sure of the exact weight but that there was a need to add the heat sink because the M4A1 could not meet the requirement to fire 36 RPMs for 16 minutes and 40
            seconds without a cook-off at 95 Degrees F ambient temperature

        • David B

          I wasn’t saying that the m27 was outdated, nor the M4A1. Quite the opposite, I realize that with current technology they are the best options. I was just confused about the logic being used by user saying that metallic bottleneck cartridges are outdated because something better might be available sometime soon.

        • Ron

          It does allow for the firing of a 600 UBL 36 RPM until expended without a cookoff

          • Quest

            And the propellant of the coming Rifle&Ammo cant even technically cookoff. It would destroy the weapon first/ you cant carry as much ammo.

          • Ron

            That’s great, and after we shoot the tens of billions of rounds in the reserves and the currently produced with ammo that cannot cook off, that may be relevant

          • Joshua

            All the M4 needs is a PiP.

            Geissele rail, trigger, and CH with a CHF barrel in the SOCOM profile.

            The biggest thing the M27 has going for it is the barrel and rail system.

            The barrel nut/rail interface is an amazing piece of engineering. Probably the best heat dissipating rail design I’ve ever seen.

          • Ron

            Although I agree, both ground services have attempted and failed to complete M16 FOW PIPs in the last 4 years.

          • Joshua

            Because they’re all incompetent morons.

            IMO of course, a PiP isn’t rocket science and it should be hard to do….Yet somehow they make it impossible.

          • Ron

            It has more to do with DoD acquisition requirements that make very difficult to get things done.

          • n0truscotsman

            I love the Geissele rails and SSA fire control group. Awesome stuff. Been running them and Noveske barrels on builds for 2 years now.

        • Uniform223

          I really believe the next big thing for small arms is going to be cartridge design.

          *points to cased telescopic ammo and caseless ammo development*

      • User

        Im speaking months to one or two years, not decades.

        The M27 would be the most insane waist of money ever, for absolutly NO actual performance diffrence….. .

        If were then stuck again with them for decades it would be just completly stupid and hilarious.

        • David B

          I’m not advocating for the adoption of the m27. However, I’ve never seen anything to promote such confidence that there will be a viable technological advancement that can effectively replace metallic cartridges in “months to one or two year”. That advancement will definitely happen, but more along the lines of decades. Till then I see nothing wrong with searching for ways to improve our current inventory of small arms, whether that’s upgrades or replacement with new weapons.

          • User

            We dont share the same baseline of development and technical information on this topic. So ofcourse our opinions matter.

          • User

            Our opinions differ from each other* No idea how i wrote matter…

          • David B

            I’m curious about what information you’re referencing that back your opinion on this matter. I’m not trying to be a technological stick-in-the-mud or anything, and I would love to see a major small arms advancement, however I haven’t seen anything that shows this will happen anytime soon. If you have information that shows this is possible, I would love to see it and would gladly change my opinion based on sound information.

  • .45

    So this guy likes to make vague and exaggerated comments that ultimately mean very little? He fits in with our new administration then. Ooooops, politics.

    • mrsatyre

      Versus the outgoing administration which bankrolled numerous new infantry small arms replacement studies which went nowhere and yet cost ten of millions of dollars? Ooooops, politics indeed.

      • Warren Ellis

        Weren’t those more from the Bush era, when everyone was talking about how we would be running around in super light armored vehicles because tanks were obsolete and couldn’t fight in cities and all that?

        Well, insurgencies really show good a thick slab of armor is in a cityfight.

    • Mark

      Like when a politician said broadly yet not vaguely that, “If you like your doctor you can keep your doctor”?

      Then took over the healthcare sector and wrecked it? Oooooops, politics.

      Then took over the entire student loan sector and wrecked it? Oooopsies.

      Like when a politician said vaguely that we have “shovel ready jobs”?
      Then he cut a taxpayer backed check for a $trillion and funneled it in to state public employee payrolls to pay off the public sector unions? Ooops again! Geegollygosh!

      “I guess those shovel ready jobs weren’t so shovel ready(laughter)” he later said.

      I don’t know about you but I can’t stop laughing to cry every time I pay my taxes.

  • ndndndn

    There is one rifle that is off the shelf and would give an edge in combat. The F90 Atrax.
    Bullpup, ambidextrous, allowance for powered rail electronics, .300 blackout integrally suppressed upper, grenade launcher (airburst function also planned) and has passed nato, australian and e.u military rifle tests. Takes nato mags. Reliability is at FN FNC level, the highest of any 5.56 rifle. Adopted by Australia, It’s ready to go.
    The main advantage would be the much better balance when the rifle is loaded with thermal/night vision optics + suppressor. And the ability to switch uppers in less than 10 seconds.
    Overall not worth it, but it’s probable a rifle that’s MP5 in length would offer significant indoor fighting advantages. After all, don’t all counter terrorist units use 10 inch SBRs inspite of their ridiculous noise levels? And Israel uses the tavor in 13 inch barrel as standard, cause they almost exclusively are in urban combat.

    • User

      Not worth the money, atleast not when beeing so close to new truly modern Rifles as now.
      You dont want to waist money and then be stuck with it over decades, while far far higher performing Rifles then are available.

    • Joshua

      Uh huh. You should probably look up bullet trajectories of .300.

    • CommonSense23

      How do you get the F90 is ambi?

      • Spike

        Curious how it isn’t? Seen plenty of videos of people swopping shoulders with AUG’s, why would an F90 be different?

        • Quest

          With a good brass deflector + the RIGHT load + the right ambient temperature and chamber heat, it sends the cases sideways/forward. Without a good brass deflector or even with one and other load it sends burning hot really fast brass in your face… burn your skin/eye and break your teeth.

          • Spike

            If you’ve seen MAC’s F90 review, Tim’s mate is a lefty and he said he would be happy to use a righty configured one until lefty bolts became available.

  • gunsandrockets

    The Devil is always in the details, isn’t it? Like the following assumption…

    “I assume Scales means that we could replace all the rifles in inventory for this much, …”

    No, that doesn’t track at all. Taking a look at the quote from Scales…

    “[w]e could equip every close-combat soldier, Marine, and special operator in our military for the cost of a single F-35 fighter jet”

    … I think it is much more reasonable to assume Scales means only those personal engaged in close combat who carry rifles. In other words Infantry unit rifleman or their equivalents, which is a far cry from ‘all rifles in inventory’, particularly considering how small the active duty US military force structure presently is. That would be less than 50,000 rifles needed.

    • You misunderstand, the emphasis should be on “rifles”, not “all”. By itself the sentence is ambiguous, sure, but I hope it the ambiguity is removed in the context of a paragraph that takes a close look at what Scales might mean by “close combat soldier, Marine, and special operator in our military”.

      • gunsandrockets

        “Scales is also imprecise on who exactly we are equipping in his plan, as “every close-combat soldier, Marine, and special operator in our military” includes quite a lot.”

        No it isn’t a lot, that’s the point. The number of people who need the best rifle available is certainly much less than 200,000.

        “Since this line is pretty ambiguous (do infantry reservists and National Guardsmen count, or only people in-theater? What about combat units that are out of the rotation, or troops on active duty in potential war zones like Korea?), I’ll replace it with a number I’ve heard bandied about a lot: 140,000 US Army active duty deployed combat troops. If we throw the Marines and miscellaneous others in there, we can probably call it a round 200,000 troops that would need to be re-equipped.”

        Why would all the active duty deployed combat troops need Scales Wonder Rifle? The job of most combat troops isn’t to shoot a rifle at the enemy. Even infantry units use less than half of their personal as primarily riflemen. And there are less than 100,000 infantry in the entire active duty U.S. military, deployed or otherwise.

        • “No it isn’t a lot, that’s the point. The number of people who need the best rifle available is certainly much less than 200,000.”

          Is it? Why? Who are we fighting and where? How many troops are we deploying, and how many troops do we need to maintain for deployment?

          Scales doesn’t answer that question. If he gave us a number, maybe we could work with that, talk about whether it’s an accurate number or not. Scales didn’t do that.

          “Why would all the active duty deployed combat troops need Scales Wonder Rifle?”

          Ask Scales?

          “The job of most combat troops isn’t to shoot a rifle at the enemy. Even infantry units use less than half of their personal as primarily riflemen.”

          You mean BCTs? Yes, something like half of the personnel in a BCT are infantry. There are about 32 BCTs in the Army as of 2015, with about 54% if those men being in the infantry battalions, so far as I can tell. So that’s something like 70,000-80,000 combat infantry in the Army’s BCTs alone.

          “And there are less than 100,000 infantry in the entire active duty U.S. military, deployed or otherwise.”

          Wanna give a source on that number? Seems to me like something that’s difficult to verify, given that “infantry” can mean a lot of different things (e.g., does the whole Marine Corps count? If they don’t, who is going to tell them that?).

          You can cut the numbers up however you want to, but they will still be the numbers. Buy a million wunder-rifles, and you’ll have a million of them. Buy a thousand, and you’ll only have a thousand.

          • gunsandrockets

            No, Infantry does not “mean a lot of different things” to anyone with a more than casual knowledge of the subject. No one is going to confuse Infantry with any of the other combat arms or support arms.

            And it isn’t hard at all to estimate infantry manpower. You quoted a primary source yourself when you looked up the current number of US Army Brigades, as did I before I posted. It’s simple math.

            Approx 14 Divisions strength of approx 9 maneuver Battalions each of approx 1,000 manpower each equals 126,000 men. And of course not every Battalion is an Infantry Battalion. And of course not every Battalion has 1,000 men. So 126,000 is crudely on the too high side of estimates of Infantry manpower in the active duty US military force structure.

        • Ron

          By billets there are 50,793 Billet ID Codes, of which 28,392 are infantry BICs, within the active Marine Divisions for who would by the definition need the upgraded rifle.

          • gunsandrockets

            It’s interesting how the Marines have managed to preserve more of their force structure than the Army since the end of the Cold War.

            The post-Cold War reorganization of the US Army from a Division structure into Brigade Teams makes the comparison a little awkward, but the Army has shrunk from about 16 Divisions strength during most of the Cold War to about 11 Division equivalents today.

          • gunsandrockets

            Of those 28,392 infantry, how many are riflemen? As opposed to a grenadier, or a M27 gunner? What proportion of those infantry are assigned to infantry HQ or Heavy Weapons Platoons/Companies?

            I don’t think by definition every infantryman needs an upgraded rifle.

    • some other joe

      From ADRP 1-02:

      close combat – Warfare carried out on land in a direct-fire fight, supported by direct and indirect fires, and other assets. (ADRP 3-0)

      So, basically everyone who can directly see the targets they’re shooting at. Nathaniel’s estimate is light. And Scales knows the definition; he was commander of the Army War College.

      • gunsandrockets

        Are you seriously trying to claim that Scales included Tank drivers as people who badly need a new rifle? Or TOW gunners? Come on now!

        Isn’t it better to use Occam’s Razor and assume Scales meant riflemen need a better rifle?

  • swarfer

    The enormous cost of training, fuel, transportation, maintenance, support services, research, development, procurement, upgrades, salaries, retirement and healthcare dwarfs small arms which are essentially disposable items in the accounting world of the defense department. If you’re going to compare the F35 costs to something, it should be aircraft carriers or nuclear submarines and you have to include lifecycle costs as well. A service rifle or pistol are well developed very low technical level items well within the realm of modern commercial grade manufacturing from multiple sources. It’s cheaper to simply scrap them out and repurchase them on a regular basis. Small arms is one area where very little R&D is needed but of course that won’t stop the better is better procurement crowd from quadrupling the cost and ending up with virtually the same thing following years of testing, inter-service wrangling and congressional interference.

  • Joshua

    Go home Scales….You’re drunk.

    • User

      True that!

    • n0truscotsman

      Its true that the M4 has been vindicated to death. 🙂

  • Joshua

    The M4A1 with KAC RAS is running right around $700.

    The SCAR doesn’t offer anything to justify the extra $500.

  • James Kiser

    That is if the F35 ever goes into service considering it is about 5 years late and has a little self combustion problem

    • Every new program has issues. The F-16 had an issue with crashing into the ground when flown upside down in some conditions that wasn’t fixed for over a decade after it entered service.

      • Amplified Heat

        I understand there are still pitch-limiters in place to keep the thing from tumbling during a climb, too. The F16’s real issues were the crummy engines put out by Pratt that were buggy & not meeting specs…not unlike was being seen on the F35 when I last checked some time ago (which was why the alternate engine was awarded in the first place, because Pratt was on double-secret probation for their previous screw up)

    • Uniform223

      USMC IOCed and the USAF IOCed… please stay current.

      • gunsandrockets

        The F-35b is a great replacement for the Harrier and good fit for the USMC, but arguably the JSF program as a whole and in particular the cancellation of F-22 production in favor of doubling down on JSF was a great error.

        The logic Defense Secretary Gates presented in 2010 for his decision was cockeyed for certain. He argued the US required ground attack assets more than air-superiority in the near future as justification for his decision. But his decision ignored the lessons of recent experience with armed UAV.

        A wiser decision would have been to press on with the F-22, accelerate UAV production and development, and buy some numbers of cheaper aircraft still in production (probably Super Hornets) as a stopgap to replace the oldest legacy airframes.

        I suspect the F-35 really survived because it was a project too large to be killed, with too many services and too many international partners involved.

  • You didn’t click through and read the article. 3,500 is the cost for a rifle system, not just the stripped gun. M1 Garands didn’t come with expensive glass or PEQ-15s.

  • Oh, the old alarmism about how the M1 has shot traps, that’s good stuff right there. 🙂

  • Joel

    It’s too bad that Scales went back to his old and tired anti M4 rant again. The rant was last seen about 2 years ago in The Atlantic (rifles stink, bullets stink, range stinks). He even reuses his F35 comparison (for the price of one F35, …) from the piece in The Atlantic.

    For what it’s worth, it was debunked back then too. (weapons man, view from the porch, etc)

    I hope that National Review got a good price on this “used” article.

  • RSG

    Inquiring minds want to know what rifle Scales has in mind as a replacement. I’m assuming he favors a piston operation of some sort because of “heat”, lol. So the question remains, what mass produced, off the shelf, piston rifles are made here in the US that aren’t “AR15” platforms? The Tavor. The ARX. MCX.

    • idahoguy101

      The M4A1 could be modified to include a gas piston instead of direct impingement. Basically making it a….. HK416

      • Joshua

        It doesn’t need a op rod.

        • Amplified Heat

          It does, however, need a better charging handle. And buffer arrangement. And handguard arrangement. If we go to universal-suppressors an adjustable gas block becomes very necessary, and a pistol-arrangement slightly more desirable. And at this point the whole gun really could stand to be scaled up about 1/3 to 1/2 the way to an AR10 (so longer VLD bullets can be used as well as fatter cartridges like SPC or Grendel when desired, and so there is ample strength in the bolt for these and even hot 5.56 loads like M855A1 or whatever comes after it; the AR15 as it is is basically built-out at this time with no room for additional development)

          • CommonSense23

            What exactly is the issue with the charging handle?

          • Amplified Heat

            It’s in the way. See every other autoloading rifle ever designed, for an example of better methods.

          • CommonSense23

            In the way of what. Its one of the most out of the way charging handles there is.

          • Amplified Heat

            So, you can keep your eye on target while charging the weapon? The very concept of “nose on charging handle” that so many practice has always struck me as humorous, since no other gun besides perhaps the K31 bolt action has a similar ergonomic failing (yet so few are willing to call out the design on it). There’s a reason the AR10 had the forward cocking spur inside the carry handle. Yes, there were heat issues that forced a different layout to the configuration we have today, but the fact is the rear T-handle was not the ideal ergonomic location, and therefore was not the original position. I personally think several of the side-charger configurations improve greatly upon the T-handle, and for ambidexterity, that the G36 ‘flapper’ scheme is very nice (and since it is forward of the would be gas key, it would not get hot like the original handle)

          • CommonSense23

            Why are you trying to charge the gun with eyes on target? Have you really thought that thru?

          • Amplified Heat

            So I don’t have to break my hold on the gun between shoulder/cheek/grip every time I need to do something to the bolt’s position manually. Which is really annoying when using the kind of magnified optic with fixed eye-relief that is required to take the kinds of shots imagined in this article. Or if I want to keep an eye on something down range while working the bolt. Again, like every other autoloading rifle design that’s ever been. It also makes it exceedingly hard to lock the bolt back manually (oh, you can do it, you just have to release firm control of the weapon; great idea)

            Come on, we both know the real reason for the T-handle is there wasn’t a much better alternative when the heat-issue plaguing the original came up. The BAR-style left-side chargers are similar in spirit to the desired ergonomics of the original, but sadly are not ambidextrous as is desired (even though none of the other controls are, humorously enough).

          • CommonSense23

            I am still trying to figure out why you are needing to use a charging handle instead of the bolt release?
            With the AR10 and 15. There is about three main reason to run the charging handle. Loading the gun when the bolt is forward or unloading. Malfunctions. And letting water drain. None of which are things that require pointing your gun at a target.

          • Ron

            I think that is a tactical response taught TTP. I have watched a few of their videos and it among other things had me giving the side way look at it.

          • Joshua

            Reminds me of the argument of fine motor skills not working during combat.

            Eye rolls….Eye rolls everywhere.

          • CommonSense23

            I just googled one of their videos. I have pretty much every type of RSO qualifcaiton their is. And have ran some pretty relaxed ranges by military standards, but what is happening in those videos is insane.

          • Uniform223

            Charging handles are good… WHEN YOU NEED THEM. Other that the AR-15’s bolt catch release is used like… 97% of the time, in my experience.

          • Joshua

            The AR charging handle is by far the best placed charging handle for a gun that rarely needs it.

            The only time it should be used is during stoppages, which you wont be keeping your “eye on the target” anyways and when you first charge the rifle.

            When you don’t need the charging handle except for rare occasions you want it in a position that it will never be bumped for accidentally knocked out of battery during slinging…and the AR CH does this best.

            Trust me, I’ve seen plenty of people put their bolt out of battery by quickly slinging their rifle with side charging handles.

          • CommonSense23

            Cough cough MK17 cough.

          • Joshua

            There is nothing wrong with the buffer on the AR15, and it doesn’t need to be scaled up.

            M855A1 is currently running at 54,600PSI +/-200 PSI, that is less than M855. So no, the rifle does not need to be in the AR10 size.

            No one wants a 10+lb general issue rifle.

            All the M4A1 needs is a better rail system and stronger CH…that’s all.

          • n0truscotsman

            BCM makes an awesome ambi charging handle. Thats about the extent of the ‘improvement’ the design needs

            I need to do some digging, but I had a old gun mag (about 20 yrs old now) that was marketing a reciprocating charging handle on the bolt, which fitted in a slotted modified upper receiver. I always thought it was interesting, if a bit superfluous.

            The Textron 6.5 TC seems to be a modifed “upscaled” design of the AR. But it may be a superficial appearance as I dont know the specifics of the internals.

      • n0truscotsman

        IIRC, Colt had a contender with an articulating link piston-operated design.

        Going back even further, they had the “rhino” prototyped during the post-Vietnam era.

        Attempting to retrofit the Stoner rifle with an external piston is actually a pretty old concept.

    • iksnilol

      Probably whatever rifle has stocks in.

    • Amplified Heat

      The other claim is cleaner operation and longer-lasting lubrication (which is true). Has jack to do with reaching out to 1000yds or whatever the hell that idiot was going on about, though. It also weighs more, which is frankly a far bigger tactical limitation that the folks in charge for some reason absolutely refuse to recognize, even as they seek to press weaker and smaller soldiers into combat.

  • idahoguy101

    When we estimate the cost of a new rifle we should include the optics, lights, grenade launchers, etcetera, to the costs. Often the add on’s are more costly than the rifle is.

  • idahoguy101

    General Officers are far removed from on the line combat troops. As in twenty or more years removed. A smart Major or LtCol would have better suggestions than a General would.

  • idahoguy101

    For God sacks, small arms rifle innovation plateaued in the 1940’s. Since then it’s been (we hope) improvements, not innovation that has produced what we have now and in the near term.

    • Amplified Heat

      To be fair, the potential offered by the G36 as far as production was huge; the ability to injection-mold practically everything at once vs. metal forming. Same kind of game-change that going to a predominantly aluminum/polymer construction was. Sadly, HK cheaped out where it was most important while wasting money where it was not, and you got flimsy thermo-plastic receivers with beautifully surface-ground bolt carriers. The mostly undeserved but still somewhat deserved poor reputation of the G36 seems to have sunk the concept for the time being (I suppose the ARX is the next attempt at doing it correctly)

  • dkf

    “Digital precision: The Taliban fire at our men from ranges beyond the reach of our soldiers’ M-4 rifle. Wouldn’t it be great if we could return that fire with greater precision? For about $500, today’s hunter can buy a digital rifle sight that allows an untrained marksmen to hit small targets out to a thousand meters or more with more than 90 percent probability of a hit.”

    A digital rifle scope that can instantly turn me into a 90% accurate 1km marksman?! With a 14.5 barrel firing 5.56?! And for $500?!?!?! Quit holding out General – at least post the Amazon link where I can buy this wunderscope!

    • User

      So true haha…. some 5.56 carbine that is an Ar clone anyways absolutly wont change anything. Good scopes yes, but that doesnt take new Rifles in the first place. And still arent magic.

    • MeaCulpa

      Yeah the mechanically stable scope with quality optics that’s also digital for 500 bucks…. That’s like totally feasible, I think this guy retiring was good for America.

    • I think he means the ATN X Sight.

      • Kivaari

        I wonder how well the ATN X sight holds up in real world use. It looks quite fragile with all the buttons and knobs. Being Chicom and selling for $599, having all those features strikes me as being something that will last half of a day or less.

        • nope@no.no

          Chicom? No. San Mateo, California actually.

          • Kivaari

            Made there or imported and distributed there?

  • Audie Bakerson

    Anyone who considers Russia (a struggling nation whose economy barely beats the biggest states and is content just laughing at our current inept leaders) and not China (which has a far higher GDP and has been actively taunting us and our allies) as the foe to measure by can safely be ignored.

  • idahoguy101

    It’s impossible to have a cartridge and rifle that does everything well. The Special Operations don’t even try. The have choices of what individual issued weapons to bring. Depending on the mission requirement. They have some choice as to what to take. Plus SOCOM units have some unique purchasing privileges that Big Army doesn’t.

    Big Army and the USMC doesn’t have this option. Their non crew served weapons come in only two flavors, 5.56 & 7.62 NATO. Additionally both Services are expected to operate in any and every environment anywhere. They could be deployed anywhere the politicians in charge want to send them. And don’t forget that not being Special Operators all of the troops aren’t the most mature or brightest. So the Army has to have a rifle that can be issued to a soldier that could break an anvil.

  • guest

    I’d like to throw some gasoline at the fire of cost vs actual value, and since this is a firearms blog after all, my little cup of gasoline goes in the direction of that topic:
    Please look at Finland, Israel, Switzerland and others. What do they ALL have in common despite whatever “gun trends” that come and go? They chose the AK. Either an AK more or less directly or AK with a local, national twist so to speak.
    Not saying the rifle (Galil, Valmet, SIG etc take your pick) is perfect, but the basic foundation, the basic concept is such a solid foundation that even the very few problems – if any – can be solved and that “platform” for the lack of a better word can be made “perfect” – as in satisfy the specific requirement that any military may have, such as STANAG mags, ways to eliminate the doubtful “problem” that arises in dubious “tests” where dirt is throw directly into the action trough the opening in the receiver cover otherwise covered by the safety (partially solved with Stgw 90, solved all together in a much more simpler way on AK-12). Ad fkin nauseum.
    The AR however is such a cornerstone of misplaced american patriotism that there are extensive excuses in the form of op-eds, very biased “evaluations” etc all coming in year after year for over 40 years now specifically to keep the platform afloat in an ideological, kind of “but if you just look at it this way….” type of hasbara.
    And by all means, like I said, all have the AK with a local national twist to satisfy some questionable requirements – which are however, give or take, justified in the end.
    So why not? Because ‘muricuh, that’s why.
    And oh yeah, AK is cheap. Since it almost always boils down to economics at some point in any military evaluation, this is kind of like when Gryazev (designer of the GsH-18 handgun) said “why carry that dead weight? (referring to Beretta handgun) Better let the soldier grab two extra loaded mags for the same weight.”
    Same thing here – a penny saved one place is a penny invested in something else.

    • Quest

      My god what a bunch of bs. Ofcourse the Ar isnt perfect. But the Ak is much less too.

      The only reason why the Rifle isnt changed is that new truly modern Rifles are really near, we dont need to adopt some dumb AR or AK clone (or every other metal bottleneck platform!)

      Its a perfect decision to wait this last moment and dont make a rushed
      unconsidered move and adopt some complete bullshit that just cost an INSANE amount of money for literally nothing. If you get some good but still average Rifle it has to be 5.56×45 , it wont be worth the money at all to change to another metal bottleneck cartridge. And if you have this carbine with 5.56×45 absolutly nothing at all will change performance and weight wise.

      So waisting money on something technically outdated and then beeing stuck with it for decades ist just hilariously stupid. The waiting was right, new Rifles will come, but it has to be the right one, and its close.

      • guest

        “Much less too”, lol.
        Good, good. Let the butthurt flow trough you.

    • Dunno what you’re talking about, the AR-15 is just fine.

      • guest

        Nathaniel, as you know, just as much as I do,

        “Rifle is fine” ©®™ 1946-2016 Mikhail Timofeevich Kalashnikov, IzhMash, Tula, et al.

        Is a registered trademark, which is not valid for inferior capitalist junk such as the “oh help me, I need a button simply to assist bolt forward movement” rifles, you know, the ones that jam just because the magazine catch gets bent if the rifle is dropped on the mag. *those* rifles.

        But schlimazl, genick’shen with the hasbara, it’s for a reason IDF uses Galil, and you know it. Whoever does not care for patriotic nonsense, choses the best.

        • Kivaari

          IDF uses mostly M16 rifles. Just do a little IDF infantry images and see how few Galil rifles show up. Israel has used mostly M16s for the last 40 years. The Galil is a has been rifle. They crack at the locking lug area.

        • Whatever, dude.

          • guest

            Yeah, “whatever”. lol

        • Buck

          They don’t use the Galil any more .Buck 100% disabled Vietnam veteran Christian Right wing republican life time member NRA and friend to Israel

    • Kivaari

      Israel issues more M16 based rifles and carbines than anything else. I doubt there are many Galils still in service.

    • Buck

      Except for Israel the countries you named have no combat experience. And Israel carry m16’s. Buck 100% disabled Vietnam veteran lifetime member NRA

    • Stephen Paraski

      Have you seen the cost of last gen AK being imported as a semi?

  • Buck

    Bill Clinton had most of our M-14’s cut up. So when we needed them in Iraq we did not have enough. There is still a need for the-M14. We should make some more and use them as needed . Nothing wrong with M-4’s. Just like the camo patterns we have they change them all the time and waste money by doing so. Why contractor wants to make more money . We have good equiment . Buck 100% disabled Vietnam veteran Christian Right wing republican life time member NRA and friend to Israel

    • CommonSense23

      The M14 is horrible. There was a need for a 7.62 semi auto DMR. And that is somewhat debatable considering how far a AR15 can shoot with 77 or 80 gr rounds. But not a M14.

      • NukeItFromOrbit

        Can you build a better 7.62x51mm rifle than the M14? Yes. Can you get it through the military procurement system in a timely manner? Not really. Hence boxes of old M14s being dug up and DMRed for use in Afghanistan where there was a need for them due to the extreme ranges.

        • CommonSense23

          The issue in Afghanistan isn’t our guns it’s our tactics. The vast majority of our forces aren’t playing to our strengths. They are fighting the Talibans game.

          • Kivaari

            I think we have lost about 7 men this year in Afghanistan. Most to IEDs.

        • Kivaari

          BIG BUT, do we really need one? If so for what battlefield? As of Oct. 16,2016 we lost 7 men in Afghanistan, mostly to IEDs. I’m pretty sure we have killed more Taliban with small arms fire than they have of us.

        • n0truscotsman

          There are *already* better 7.62 NATO rifles in production and service than the M14. The SR25/AR10/MR308/417 and SCAR H comes to mind.

          This was also true when the M14 was pressed back into service, which leads me to question the wisdom behind that decision looking back at it. I *do* know that reconfiguring M14s isn’t exactly a cheap endeavor.

        • Stephen Paraski

          FAL?

        • User

          “Extrem ranges” most 7.62×51 goes supersonic after 800m anyways , which is no more than 5.56×45 mostly with less drop + half the recoil and hald the weight and higher capacity.

          Does 7.62×51 does slightly more damage than 5.56×45 M855A1? yes, but do 2,12mm actually matter in therms of wounding/incapacitating… no. Hitting does, and than it depends on luck trough which part of the body it goes trough.

          • Kivaari

            Do you mean it goes “sub-sonic” at 800m?

          • User

            Oh sh** yes.

            a typo

          • User

            *Edit: goes subsonic

      • Buck

        My war was Vietnam. And I carried an m16.
        The infantry troops I talked to that served in Iraq and Afghanistan seem to like the m14. It was dependable in the sand and they liked the range. On soldier told me a British unit had m14 in a conex . When the British saw what was inside they did not want them. They have them to the Americans . They turned there m4’a and carried the n14 the rest of there tour. I think there were around a 100 rifles. The soldier I talked to said they could not get enough of them. And he said every one wanted them. So having not been there my self I can only go by what these youn men tell me.
        I’m ild sick and broken down today and I have a 5 pound ar carbine. It’s all I can Handel. I used my M1A for years and liked it very much. But got to much for me to handle. The M1-A is my own experience with that type of rifle. And I would carry it to day if I were able. Buck 100% disabled Vietnam veteran Christian Right wing republican life time member NRA and friend to Israel

  • nadnerbus

    The simple economics of the M4 is, they can be had by the military for like 600 bucks. They are a very good, thoroughly bug tested, mature 98% solution at a great price. Even if -and that’s a big if- something like the 416 is a 100% solution, as well as mature and bug free, I think it is ridiculous to say that 2% increase is worth a 3 or 4 fold increase in cost.

  • valorius

    Nathaniel the m4 is a 500 meter weapon like you are a unicorn.

    • Are you suggesting I am a unicorn?

      • Stephen Paraski

        Has he saw your Horn?

    • Uniform223

      *palm to forehead*

      Not this again…

      • valorius

        Every single time it comes up. 🙂

        • Uniform223

          Well if that’s what you’re into

          • valorius

            Clearly.

    • roguetechie

      I knew there was something different about Nathaniel, but being a unicorn was something I never thought that difference could be!

      Seriously though, it’s a 500 meter rifle with proper ammo choice and even so so levels of training once you factor in every gun having a good optic mounted.

      • Amplified Heat

        Pretty sure every rifle is a 500m rifle unless it’s got a sight that is wildly impractical/heavy for more common closer ranges, an integrated range-finder or extremely well trained shooter, and solid bipod or other ground support while being fired very carefully from a static position. That’s the funniest part of this general’s blather, it’s like he thinks all infantry are scooting around on patrol in the prone position pushing bipods and looking through 10X scopes all day.

      • Stephen Paraski

        A old Winchester in .270?

        • roguetechie

          Nope, a properly assembled rack grade m4 and issue optic that is properly zeroed is easily a 500 meter rifle!.

      • valorius

        If they are at all serious about the M4 being a 500 meter rifle they’d immediately get rid of the 1:7 twist and go with a 1:8.

        • *blinks*

          Um, alright.

          • valorius

            Um, got something to say on the point? Cause from all i’ve seen, M855A1 gives groups 50% smaler with 1:8 than it does with 1:7.

            The only reason 1:7 is used at all is because of M856 tracer, which is pretty useless in an age of universal night vision.

          • some other joe

            Because we use night vision in daylight to adjust bursts? Or all rounds are looks like lasers under night vision?

        • roguetechie

          I use 1:8 on my AR’s pretty much exclusively at this point for the versatility and because it gives me better results than I get otherwise.

          So I can’t disagree with you there.

          • valorius

            From everything i’ve read, M855A1 gives groups 1/2 the size of 1:7, with 1:8.

          • Joshua

            You meAn M855? A1 is to long to work well in 1:8 rifling.

          • valorius

            No it’s not. That is what you call a completely erroneous statement.

            American Rifleman, may 2014:

            “The M855A1’s developers have described it as yielding “match-like” accuracy, which most rifle shooters would define as one minute-of-angle (m.o.a.), or groups measuring no more than 1 inch at 100 yards. While the new ammunition has proved more accurate than the green-tipped load it replaced, testing did not yield match-like accuracy, especially in the standard 1:7-inch twist-rate found in today’s M4s and M16s. At 100 yards, the best group with a 1:7-inch barrel was 1.62 inches (1.6 m.o.a.). At 300 yards. it similarly fired 1.6 m.o.a. (4.9 inches) and widened to 1.8 m.o.a. (7.5 inches) at 400 yards. At these same distances, firing the M855A1 through a 1:9-inch twist barrel reduced group sizes by approximately half.”

  • valorius

    M16″A5″ models with pistons (if that’s your thing) that are not out-ranged by the latest russian guns as the general claims, could certainly be acquired for far, far, far less money than you’re suggesting Nathaniel.

    • I think if you did that, you’d soon have troops begging for their M4s back.

      Most new military rifle offerings on the market today cost well over $1,000 per unit for just the base rifle. I think the HK416Fs bought by France were ~$2,000 per gun, for the base rifle.

      We ain’t shopping at CDNN.

      • Stephen Paraski

        And what is price for last gen Russian gun? Did the esteemed General take Larry Vickers word on “Balanced Action AK”?

        • Well, apparently even the fairly pedestrian AK-12 was too expensive for the Russian government, and it was supposed to cost about a grand.

      • valorius

        With the bulk we buy in, we should be crushing CDNN prices. Let’s see what Trump can do about this $ subject.

  • valorius

    The lack of a manual, cleaning kits and a fwd assist led to the M16s failure in vietnam, not COTS.

    • Lack of cleaning kits were part of it, but so was adapting the commercial .223 Remington ammunition specification, and the lack of chrome lining.

      • Amplified Heat

        And the fact that jungles kind of suck, generally. We’ve seen 10 year old modern ARs surviving in Iraq; have we seen anything similar in more tropical climates (thankfully, those regions are a bit less restive these days, but I assume there’s always some conflict in a given climate, somewhere)? If there was anyplace that the steel parts would galvanically corrode to the aluminum, it’d be a humid jungle or coastal bayou.

        • Yep, the jungle sucks for guns. We saw the exact same thing with the M1 in the Pacific, the rifles just went to pot without maintenance.

        • Joshua

          We do plenty of training in jungle environments.

      • valorius

        Having a cleaning kit that states “The m16 requires no cleaning” was a big big big oops.

  • Kivaari

    This discussion of what the Taliban is doing to out-range our forces baffles me. Just what magical rifle do they have that out-ranges the M4? Certainly the AKM or AK74 doesn’t out-range the M4. It seems we are complaining that the use of medium machine guns by the enemy puts us at a disadvantage, when the answer is we should shoot back with machine guns. Look at today, literally, we are not losing men to small arms fire in Afghanistan. We lose very few men to IEDs. We don’t need a new rifle.

    • My understanding is that mostly when they talk about being out ranged it is machine guns duels between the PKM and the M240 or the M249.

      • CommonSense23

        Throw in the Dshka also. The Taliban is smart. They don’t engage US forces where there are weak at. They either do long range harassing fire from outside our machine gun range and leave before air can be brought. Our get to close ranges to negate our advantage in rifles and optics and prevent CAS/Arty from being brought on.
        But people like Scales will talk about being outgunned as if its our M4s that is the issue.

        • Uniform223

          True they aren’t stupid.

          What i found out was that the foreign fighters were much more skilled and trained than the local F-tards.

          When ever our air assets would do a show of force the local enemy activity would drop faster than a rock in water. It was like having an invisible woobie.

          • mrsatyre

            Training doesn’t equal intelligence (as demonstrated amply by General Scales). Lots of stupid people in the military. Anyone can train a moron to shoot a gun, and drill into him which gun to use under which conditions. The Taliban aren’t smart, or they wouldn’t be Taliban.

      • Kivaari

        That’s my point it isn’t a shortcoming of the M4.

      • Amplified Heat

        Exactly; when the enemy can lie in wait with far heavier weapons that would be utterly practical for patrolling infantry, it’s kind of just something that has to be accepted and dealt with through tactics. Even if you got an M4 to shoot a VLD bullet of any caliber with the same ballistic range as 7.62x54r, this idiot would then be complaining that it doesn’t hit as hard as the LMG round.

        • Riot

          “far heavier weapons”
          The 30 caliber pkm is half a pound lighter than the m249 and has a half foot longer barrel.

          • Amplified Heat

            Which is still a heck of a lot heavier than the M4s this article is about replacing. Ammo’s part of the equation, too, btw (weight and volume). The M249 is a total pig, though, for what it is. That prototype DSA RPD with the short quick change barrel and modern furniture chambered in Grendel would be a very slick replacement (slightly harder hitting than 5.56 but with 308’s ballistic drop)

          • Riot

            The minimi is a PoS when compared to the far older pkm.
            The weight of the M4 isn’t related to your initial point however, we aren’t talking about a M2 browning or a 14.5mm -pkms are something that is easy to patrol with and should be expected in clashes.

          • Amplified Heat

            I thought we (or rather, General Idiot in the article) were talking about infantry M4s & 223s in general being outranged by opponents in Afghanistan (they always lump in Iraq, but my understanding is that it’s pot-shots from ‘cross the valley in A-stan that is the real concern). While AK74’s do reach farther, in Afghanistan the weapons of choice are 7.62x54R PK’s or the occasional PSL. There is no physical way for a mass-issued infantry weapon to return that level of firepower; the days of mass-issuing 308 automatics or 30-06 BARs are long gone because they are wildly impractical. The AR15 is not capable of competing, so why are we trying to make it through these little incremental changes?

            So, what is the solution? There is no solution, or rather, it does not lie with the small arms. Since the start of hostilities when these shortfalls led to the re-issue of M14s as a stop-gap, we have infinitely more advanced communications and observation tactics that coordinate ground troops with air or indirect firepower, generally mooting the need to directly confront superior firepower at extended ranges. Still, the vast majority of the time, these ‘engagements’ last as long as it takes the Taliban fighters to run away after taking pot shots at NATO forces, so neither comms nor artillery nor air power nor magical long-range sniper-M4s shooting 308 would likely have the needed effect, which is to kill these fools dead before they can run away.

          • Kivaari

            The trajectory of the 556 v 762 isn’t much different.

          • Amplified Heat

            At the extreme ranges which are the concern of the article they are, unless you’re talking heavy VLD bullets not currently in use (not to mention the loss of energy at these ranges does truly eat away the rounds effectivness). Again, I’m extremely dubious these ranges even matter that much for the average infantryman.

          • Kivaari

            That’s part of my point. The grunt on patrol is well equipped for action taking place at 500m or less. Long range engagements have been a battle of machine guns until other assets get delivered upon the target. Where most of the small arms injuries occur are well within the range of the existing small arms. Shooting back with an M4 may feel good to do, just like the opponent thinks they are doing good by spraying AK bullets in the general direction of the blue forces.
            What matters regarding the M4 is how does it perform in those engagements under 500m. There it is superior to the AKM. The PKM is by all accounts an excellent machine gun. It can’t be all that much better than the M240. It would come down to how many red forces are being engaged and what is the balance of small arms for the initial contact. After that those other assets need to come into play.
            All of this is a mute point now, since we really are not doing much toe-to-toe combat in theater. This year we lost 7 men.

          • roguetechie

            Why is it that you state pkm “can’t be much better than 240″?

            We’re in the process of buying nearly $30,000 lightened M240’s just to ALMOST get into an equal footing with PKM’s that cost a tiny fraction of that!

            Additionally, we’ve knowingly accepted tradeoffs in expected service life of each $30,000 gun in order to make 240’s that still aren’t pkm light…

            Then there’s the mk48’s we bought early on in desperation to match the pkm for weight and punch, winding up with guns that beat themselves to scrap appallingly quickly even with first world maintenance and logistics support fully behind them!

            Honestly, as of right now we really have nothing that comes close to matching pkm’s lightness, durability, service life, and etc…

            Yet here’s scales whining about rifles when even he himself admits that our machine guns are the issue.

            If you only pick one reason to ignore the Scale’s, Schatzes, and Williams’ of the ” reformer” movement that constantly push for expensive, untenable, and ultimately counterproductive “solutions” at every opportunity…

            That reason should be that they’re advocating to change the rifles rather than fix the damn machine guns!

            Machine guns aren’t rifles and rifles aren’t machine guns!

            They have distinctly separate and VITAL roles that they need to play in order for us to prevail in combat, and attempting to merge them or otherwise create some “universal solution” is like throwing away all your sockets and end wrenches and only using a crescent wrench!!!

            Don’t be bamboozled with bullshit into accepting the combat crescent wrenches of infantry small arms solutions!!

          • Kivaari

            Well, I agree with you. The PKM is a great machine gun. The M240 is a great machine gun. Lightening them is a positive effort.

          • roguetechie

            Not at the price we pay for this lightening!

            Had they went with the Barrett lightening proposal I’d be in agreement with you, but this bastardized titanium monstrosity is not in any way a good thing.

          • lostintranslation

            Why can’t the US just make a reverse engineered copy of the PKM?

            You could make it in 7.62×51.

            There might be a financial incentive to copy the cheap steel/lacquer cased ammo. 🙂

          • roguetechie

            To be honest, that’s always been what I believe we needed to do. The Bulgarians already make a 308 pkm that weighs exactly the same as their identical x54r offering.

            What we definitely should NOT do is buy the Polish version which has a stretched receiver and bastardized push feed mechanism!

            The incredibly frustrating thing is that the PKM is incredibly simple, cheap, and well suited to the mass manufacturing technology Russia had/has plenty of…

            There is absolutely nothing complex or hard to understand about it’s formula for success

          • User

            my god…. “copy of the pkm”. Ever heard of the CT LMG? Far, far, far, far, far, far better.

          • lostintranslation

            I have often heard that polymer cases do not transfer heat and consequently heat is no longer a problem.

            There may be several potentials:
            -The heat generated by the propellant is magically removed from the system.
            -A new propellant is developed that generates minimal heat.
            -Superalloy barrels amazingly become super cheap.
            -Ammunition is developed that will not easily; ‘cook off.’

            I would be interested in a ‘scientific review’ of how the heat load is dissipated, distributed, or mitigated.

          • User

            Dude… youre totally off topic. CT (cased telescopic) not CL (caseless).

            CT has less propellant use for the same velocity = less pressure and less recoil.
            Polymer is 1g/cm³ denisty vs brass with 8,7g/cm³ !
            CT chooks off far later than metal bottleneck cartridges because polymer is far more isolating.
            The chamber heats much slower too.
            And even with caseless you refer to, it was solved 30+ years ago! With HITP High-Ignition-Temperatur-Propellant…

            PKM copy -vs- CT LMG by Textron. No comperasion. Why waist money to make a crappy outdated pkm copy?

          • lostintranslation

            I’ve heard the comment, many times, that polymer conducts less heat to the chamber.

            Polymers are invariably temperature sensitive and as the temperature increases they lose their structural integrity….becoming more plastic. They can also become sticky.

            When heat is generated in CT, or CL the heat has to be dissipated, or it becomes destructive.
            Currently, that lump of ejected brass, or steel, has some role in dissipating heat from the system.

            ……..And so it seems, that with new technology, like magic, the heat generated just disappears.

            If this “was solved 30+ years ago!” why has it, apparently, gone nowhere fast. Is this a world-wide brass manufacturers conspiracy?
            Or, is there a problem?

            What I’m concerned about, is a technology that only enables short bursts in arctic conditions.
            Perhaps we might need to return to the (Maxim) water cooling jackets of old.

            With regard to the PKM, perhaps, ‘a bird in the hand is worth……….!’

            I’d be interested to read some balanced scientific literature references to support your assertions.

          • User

            You have no actual technical knowledge in the area as it seems.

            It does not just exist just one Polymer ..as you might know.. , and there ofcourse are many with verry great abilitys. Not having any problem with heat. Also its just fired and ejected.

            Heat isolation = less powder used for the same velocity => less pressure => less heat flux => less barrel wear
            + less heating of the barrel, and less heating of the isolated chamber.
            + even with normal propellant it takes way longer to cook off because not just the chamber is cooler but the polymer isolates the propellant form the chamber heat much much better than brass.

            CL has heat problems yes, but CT not, and even less than brass cartridges… CT has less heat transfer to the barrel and far less to the chamber. The generated heat goes mostly in muzzle velocity, the rest that has to be “dissipated” goes ejected in form of the cartridge, like a brass cartridge… So what are you even talking about.

            Ofcourse it gone nowhere CL is verry problematic and just has large disadvantages compared to CT. Im just saying that its already solved since 3decades and you act like it would be impossible to solve in the frigging 21 century.

            “like to read” ever heard of physics…? There is some literature but i dont have the time to search them all together, i realyl have better things for my time. And at the end of the day it doesnt matter. We wont waist money to copy a PKM, but adopt a perfected CT cartridge in the coming time, you wont change that fact.

          • lostintranslation

            The difference between commercial promotion and reality can, unfortunately, be quite significant.
            Confucius says; A man who swallows the whole coconut has complete faith in his ……..abilities.

            “ever heard of physics.” ………….No never!!!!
            “you have no actual technical knowledge in the area as it seems.” …….No never!!!!

            Have just been; ‘shooting the breeze.’ 🙂

          • Kivaari

            It’s too complex, needing the old M1919 style case belt extraction.

          • wtf@over.com

            Moot, not mute.

            Your first point (grunt on patrol) would make sense, if you hadn’t made the last point (not on patrol anywhere these days). The only thing patrolling is Predators and allied forces under trainer/adviser assist. As a general rule our allied forces and the bad guys all use the same guns now, so this entire debate is a form of fighting the last war. The amount of armchair quarterbacking and “my opinion is righter than your opinion” BS on this site, and elsewhere, is pretty comical. Wayne’s World levels actually. Not that anybody engaged in actual fighting anywhere on the planet is even old enough to have seen Wayne’s World on TV, just on Youtube or whatever these days.

            Lastly Imagonna have to point out the total inanity of your comment “where most of the small arms injuries occur are well within the range of the existing small arms.” Let’s read that sentence aloud and think about a few times, before you post another comment next time, shall we?

          • Kivaari

            Regarding the last sentence. Being within range is being within the accepted normal combat range. Closer in and not just a wild spray and pray blast where an un-aimed shot is directed at a specific target. A spray from an AKM from 1000m I don’t consider being in normal combat range.

          • Joshua

            However, Dshkas are used often.

            We can’t cart around M2A1’s up and down mountains, yet they will emplace Dshkas and just wait for us.

            No general issue rifle is going to compete with that.

          • Riot

            That I will agree with.

    • Riot

      The ak74 (which the Taliban has very little of) definitely outranges the M4.
      It’s more bolt actions and pkms that are discussed when outranging coalition troops is brought up.

      • Amplified Heat

        Even then, the real advantage is the Taliban have already ‘ranged’ the ambush point, and have their gun sights adjusted accordingly. That’s the aspect of all this super-long-range infantry fantasy that is the most ridiculous. Even if you were responding with the exact same weapons, you would be at a distinct disadvantage (having to walk your fire onto a distant target or very accurately judge range)

        • Stephen Paraski

          Great Point. What is historical army that conquered Afghanistan? Russian? British? Alexander the Great? What “Value” is there? Opium Poppies?

          • Tritro29

            It’s a crossroad out of most established states out there. Afghanistan is a grey area. You control or cause trouble in the neighborhood you keep every-one busy and stop possible transit of goods, oil, drugs.

          • some other joe

            Lithium. And what Trito says.

      • Kivaari

        If ~21% of small arms fire, and 7.62mm, it isn’t the AK74. In practical use the AK 74, simply wont perform as well as an M4. Especially wound wise.

      • Uniform223

        “The ak74 (which the Taliban has very little of) definitely outranges the M4.”

        > the m4 fires the 5.56x45mm and the ak74 fires 5.45x39mm. By all accounts and studies those two calibers are very comparable to each other in “effective” range. So unless one or the other is firing from an elevated position, how exactly how does the ak74 outrage the m4 as you claim?

    • Tritro29

      Most of that magical rifle is the PKM. All the rest is too heavy for the flexibility required. The PKM, SVD/PSL and some G3’s are the main cause for concern as far as range is concerned. Pro: They usually aim like goats.

    • Uniform223

      People seem to have this belief that every single engagement in Trashghanistan was always with the Taliban or AQ always having the upper hand in terms of weapons or having the higher ground.

      • Ho Ho Ho

        All of this is basically irrelevant. Our enemy wasn’t outgunning us. We have overwhelming superiority.

        The issue is that we were fighting An Idea, with guns and bombs. Doesn’t work. Especially when the real people behind the Idea are living in Pakistan anyway (or Saudi, or Iran etc) and we were fighting third-degree yokel stooges while the big dogs slipped away. Fighting an idea with small arms is like the Greek fighting the ocean with a sword. Good luck with that.

  • FelixD

    Just two questions. Is it time to return to the arsenal system? And, can we please bury the dead horse of M16 failures of 49 years ago?

  • Tom Currie

    Hmmmm…. Interesting article. I have to agree that Scales is way off target.

    On the other hand, as one of the people who had to deal with what you very accurately admit was “one of the greatest procurement disasters in modern US military history” I have to take your unbridled support of the M16/M4 with more than a few grains of salt. Especially when you refer to “the M4’s 500 meters” effective range?!?! As what? An indirect fire weapon for H&I (harassment and interdiction) fire, perhaps. I might believe 350m, in the hands of a well trained rifleman (which pretty much eliminates the US Army, sorry guys, but we gave up on serious rifle marksmanship training for regular Soldiers before anyone still on active duty today was sworn in).

    The simplest thing we could do to improve the effectiveness of the US military ground combat soldiers would to to teach them to shoot — unfortunately THAT seems to be beyond the resources (specifically time and money) that we are willing to commit.

    • Indirect fire? If the M4 M855 is indirect fire at 500 yards then so is 308 175gr SMK as at 500yards both about 40-50inches of drop IIRC.

      But yes I agree training is probably the most important thing for taking back the Infantry half-kilometer. Using an ACOG hitting a stationary man sized target at 500 yards isn’t that hard as long as you are in some rested position, and have some modicum of marksmanship skills.

      • Tom Currie

        I was referring more to the practical accuracy than to the ballistic drop per se. At 500m any soldier with an M4 is simply lobbing rounds in the general direction of an enemy, making it essentially H&I fire. I probably should have chosen a better comparison, but the bottom line remains that anyone claiming a 500m effective range for a issue M4 is in need of either a new rangefinder or some serious mental health treatment.

        • Kivaari

          Not so much if the carbine has a decent optic. Optics make the M4 into a decent range weapon. Personally I use Leupold Mark 4 1.5-5x20mm scopes and that gives a reasonable 500 m gun on discernible targets. I’d agree with you if you are referring to iron sights or red dot glass.

          • Tom Currie

            So you’re running a Leupold Mark 4 on your full auto SBR?

          • Kivaari

            It’s a Colt M4 Commando semi-auto. I’d run it on a select-fire gun.
            I tried all kinds of sights from Aimpoint CCO, EoTech, 1x32mm prism sight and found that the Mark 4 was just an overall better optic choice. On 1.5x it may as well be a red ot but it has the ability of 5x so longer ranges are pretty easy. With a GG&G QD mount it weighs a little bit more than the others, but it is superior to all of them.

        • Ron

          It is hardly indirect fire, as there is only like 13 or so MOAs of super elevation from the RCOs 100m zero involved
          On those odd and rate occasions were US forces are shooting at well defined and relatively stationary targets, the optically equipped M4 and A4s have been able to kill at ranges far beyond 500ms, I know of documented case in eastern AFG where a Marine riflemen shooting an A4 hit and killed a Tailban at 760 meters (verified with a vector-dagger) with one shot to the chest.

    • CommonSense23

      NSW is issuing free floated M4A1s to their snipers due to the ability of the guns to effectively engage targets out to 600 yards. There have been plenty of cases of dudes hitting people at 600 yards plus on first round hits with the MK18 Mod 1s with MK262.
      The issue is with the fact that people just aren’t anywhere as capable as trading rounds as we want them to be.

      • Joshua

        Not to mention AMU generally always runs FF M4A1’s with match grade triggers with the auto sear removed.

        • Uniform223

          Too bad the U.S. Army never went ahead with the M4A1+

    • There are a lot of ways to define “effective range”. How was Scales defining it? Nobody knows.

      500m is one value (used by Fort Benning and others), you could use another. Whatever values you use, his claim makes no sense.

      • Tom Currie

        I don’t believe ANYONE was agreeing with Scales’s baseless assertion, I was simply pointing out that your baseless assertion. I suppose it is possible to quibble over the definition of effective range (after all, we did have a president who quibbled over the definition of “is”) but I would think that most of us define effective range as the greatest distance at which the hit probability and terminal ballistics of a weapon remain militarily useful. Again, even within that definition, reasonable people can still quibble over what exact hit probability is needed and to what degree the terminal ballistics play a significant role, especially against soft targets. But even granting you all possible leeway, I would still have to say that anyone claiming a 500m effective range for a military issue M4 is living in a total fantasy world.

  • Amplified Heat

    Has anyone figured out Scales’ financial connection to HK, yet? It’s the only logical explanation for this crusade of his. Is he on the board of directors, or is he just leasing a property from them?

  • 22winmag

    “Very nebulous claim[s]with absolutely no evidence behind [them]. ”

    That is a perfect description of Washington Post headlines and New York Times editorials all in one.

  • n0truscotsman

    Everybody b–ches about shot traps.

    I see it with the M1 Abrams. I see it with the Leo 2. I see it with the Merkava. All this wailing and gnashing of teeth about shot traps and ‘omg! shots can go into the optical ports!”

    IMO, it mattered a little bit more in WW2 when engagements were closer, although now? meh…

    • James Kachman

      It actually has to do with the types of rounds tanks are expected to face. Shot traps are only really a thing against solid shot rounds, which just aren’t used anymore. Against sabot or HEAT rounds, the issue of shot-traps disappears.

      • Warren Ellis

        So what would happen if somehow modern tanks did face off against WW2 tanks for example, and through magic let a WW2 tank get close enough to fire at its front? I mean do modern tanks really have shot traps that people like to go on about?

        I understand that with modern sabot rounds that they’ll either just bend or break (if they can’t quite go through all the armor) and otherwise will just smash right through so “shot traps” can’t really affect them.

        • James Kachman

          *shrug* I’m no tank engineer, so I can’t speak with any authority. The area between the Panther D’s mantlet and the hull (which actually had a chin added to it to reduce shot traps!) is typically given as an example of a shot trap, and some modern tanks do have similar features. So perhaps, but that still raises the question of if the shell would retain enough energy to penetrate the roof. And if the WW2 tank could actually hit the shot trap, which isn’t a guarantee even at knife-fighting ranges.

      • For the second time, BINGO.

  • Ron

    Most of the capabilities of the F35 are SAP and very few people are read into what it can do.
    Honestly the best part of the A-10 is the culture of those who fly it and not the platform, it really is not better at anything but type 1 CAS which only is applicable in COIN, but for COIN the A10 is the Corvette dropping off the kids at school because the other cars are Lambos and Ferraris when you really need a minivan.

  • Joshua

    And they are. SFOD-D has some MCX’s in .300 that they use subsonic suppressed.

    For a general issue weapon .300 would suck ass.

  • Uniform223

    This article deserves a standing ovation!

  • janklow

    the only real question is “who is paying Scales to make this tired argument, and what rifle are they selling?”

  • Uniform223

    Also just because the man is a retired general doesn’t automatically make him an SME.

  • Mystick

    “every close-combat soldier, Marine, and special operator in our military”

    I take from that every soldier with a MOS that puts a gun in his or her hand’s. I wouldn’t call that “nebulous”.

  • Sorry you are wrong, and I will prove it quite easily.

    First off the F-16 and F-18 both have a combat radius on a strike package is 300-400nm. While the F-35 in an all internal configuration is 600-700nm. Yes the ferry range of the F-16 and F-18 are better, because the F-16 and F-18 can load up on drop tanks while the F-35 can’t. But ferry range is not a combat metric.

    On a PGM strike mission the F-16 has to sacrifice much of the stations for sensors and fuel. And ends up carrying about 4,000lbs of bombs, and 2-4 AAM. While the F-35 carries all the sensors and fuel internally, with the ability to carry 2 AAM and 4,000lbs of bombs (3,000 on the F-35B). Yes the F-16 is carrying two additional AAMs over the F-35, but often when they utilize those AAM the F-16 pilot will to drop all it’s bombs, and fuel scrubbing the mission in case it gets into ACM. While the F-35 has access to nearly it’s entire performance range while carrying a full fuel load and bombs.

    If the F-35 doesn’t need to be stealthy it can utilize 6 additional stores stations and has 40% greater useful load than the F-16.

    The F-35 was never meant to replace the A-10, and attempting to do so is a mistake. But that is what was forced on the USAF by shrinking budgets. In the early 90s there was an A-10 replacement program, but it was canceled as part of the post-Cold War cuts. There was another one attempted but Congress refused to give the USAF money for it.

    • Marcus D.

      And even over Iraq, shoot downs were rare, despite the heavily defended airspace. Most of the combat aircraft losses were accidental, in which total I include those we shot down ourselves.

      In any event, my principle point is that for CAS, the F-35 is inadequate to the task. Attacking fixed points or tanks from altitude is all fine and good, and it has a reasonably high survivability for intrusion bombings. But it does not dare drop to low altitude for precision bombing, and has essentially no strafing capability. Yet the Air Force wants to can the A-10 with the unfathomable claim that the F-35 can perform this essential function. Yes, the A-10 is very long in the tooth, but with its wing replacement program and uprated avionics, both programs on which the Airforce has been dragging its feet to feed the bloated F-35 budget, ensure a capability that is not met by high altitude aircraft or combat helicopters.

      • The only reason why the air losses in Iraq were low is because of stealth. Anything heavily defended got a stealth strike, not a traditional strike package. Without stealth aircraft our combat losses in both Iraq conflicts would’ve been much much worse.

        High altitude =/= low precision anymore. An aircraft out of AAA and MANPAD range with modern electro-optics can have a better view of the battlefield than an aircraft at 500ft zooming by at 200-300 kts. A good portion of the friendly fire incidents involve the A-10, and other low altitude assets. As they just dive in, rock & roll, and zoom out. And the Pi of the smaller bombs and missiles are smaller than the Pi of the A-10’s main gun.

        The A-10 isn’t a magical beast either. Yes the A-10 can survive some AAA and MANPAD hits, but that aircraft is not usable until the damage is repaired sometimes that requires the aircraft to be shipped back home. That is why during ODS A-10s were pulled of attacking Republican Guard units because of their embedded anti-air assets were damaging too many A-10s. Instead those units were handed over to other aircraft using Paveways.

        So in airspace heavily defended with AAA and MANPADs the A-10 will also use stand off weapons like AGMs and other PGMs. And in airspace where SAMs are a threat the A-10 is a no go, as SAMs will smack the A-10 out of the sky nearly as easily as a F-16.

        • Ron

          The A-10 has caused the majority of blue on blue deaths because although it is the slowest of the currently flying attack aircraft it still is flying too fast to PID adequately vehicles let alone troops for a type 1 attack, as seen by the destruction of numerous Marine LAVs, AAV-7s and Brit Warriors.
          I am not so concerned with the P-sub-I for the gun but instead that it is not as effective as many non-fires guys make it out to be. It is good for killing vehicles (not so good for modern MBTs) and great for suppressing large areas but not really to good for killing troops. First its ammunition is not well suited for anti-personnel work because of its construction to survive the high velocity firing, type of explosive fill and fuzing normally means it does not produce significant amount of frag and most of the time it functions well into the ground without filling the air with frag. Second aircraft movement induced dispersion on a gun run produces large areas within the beaten zone where intended targets are relatively safe from effects, so unless you catch at 30mm round to the chest all that will happen on a gun run is a lot of dust is kicked up and the targets don’t get killed .

  • some other joe

    Your 200k figutr for user is light. From ADRP 1-02:

    close combat – Warfare carried out on land in a direct-fire fight, supported by direct and indirect fires, and other assets. (ADRP 3-0)

    So, it’s basically everyone who directly sees and aims at the target he engages. Scales knows this, too; he was commander of the Army War College.

  • I would take any site that tries to put RCS into numbers with a huge grain of salt. Because as you can see, Global Security is probably the most well researched and they publish three different numbers for the B-2. And show a two different area values for a given energy return value.

    In official USAF releases they reference that the F-35 has a RCS about equal to the B-2 which is two timers better than the F-117.

    It should be noted that all USAF stealth is oriented toward X-band as the primary frequency it protects against, and to a lesser extant the S band. So the VHF RCS is not applicable as that isn’t the frequency range they were designed to protect against.

    I doubt that they will retire the F-15Es unless they have a major MX issue comes up. They may send them to ANG or Reserves and may not upgrade them, but the cost to keep them airborne is pretty minimal compared to other much older air frames.

  • There is no such thing as a fixed RCS value, so already your numbers are patently false.

    Also, F-35’s radar signature is classified, so…

  • Dc9loser

    The M4 with legacy ammo has a killing range of about 150m. Better ammo, M855A1 and the like will extend that but here we are a 15 years into an infantry war and the ammo issue is just being addressed. The M4 is a fine weapon but it is not the best out there. We can do better and it is a crime to not do better, costs be damned as we are not talking about very much money at all. We are however talking about the difference between victory and defeat and that is the big picture the author’s penny pinching avoids. The entire F35 program will be nixed, and it should be. That is however another discussion. If our troops had been equipped with a proper rifle and ammo 15 years ago I have to wonder how the entire last decade and a half of debacle would have gone? Much better saving trillions. The author of this article is akin to the supply Sergeant counting out rounds and making sure they are properly signed for as the Zulus push through the thin Red line. How about crunching the numbers on this war comparing hits vs kills over the last 15 years. There are hundreds of Taliban soldiers with numerous pinhole pass through wounds who proudly show them to the next generation of Taliban fighters at Haji happy hour. If they were all dead instead would that have made a difference? YES.

    • User

      “We can do better” and we do… but, its just dumb to make a rushed decision. Any metal bottleneck cartridge will have NO change for adoption.
      New technology is verry close, so its better to wait a moment, than waist millions over millions on something that has no sicnificant advantage. And than be stuck with it again for decades.
      Its the right decision do wait.

      Result=
      1. A weapon with the same cartridge will have no actual performance increase (like the M27).
      2. A metal bottleneck cartridge has no chance cor adoption, and would not increase performance as much as needed without big disadvantages in other areas
      3. Still wait for a moment and adopt the technology thats in development and actually have a really high performance.

    • Ron

      The problem with killing at distance has less to do with the round used and more to do with hitting the target. There are numerous cases of 5.56 weapons killing at 6-800 meter range during the GWOT, but those are rare not because the round won’t be debilitating if not deadly but instead because the opportunities to make those shots is rare. The enemy for some unknown reason does want to get shot and does things like conceal himself, hide behind cover and when he knows you are watching not allow you to PID him as an combatant at longer ranges, so we often won’t shoot when the opportunity presents itself.

  • Vanns40

    Although I haven’t spoken with him in some time I’ve known Bob Scales a long time. He’s a really great guy and though, as I said, I haven’t spoken with him, I wonder if he has been the recipient of just plain bad info that he accepted and made the mistake of not checking? No excuses here, just a thought.

  • L. Roger Rich

    We have a new President in town.

    • User

      Read the rules, Firearms not Politics.

      (or its just some saying im not familiar with)

  • cwolf

    If you look at an Infantry platoon/company, you see a mix of weapons based on a variety of missions and roles. Solving the Afghan tactics/range issue might be a Trackingpoint M1400EM solution or it might be an M6 knee mortar marriage with a Mk285 smart grenade, or a grenade launcher based Pike missile. Pick the best tool for the job within the overall weapon mix and weight constraints.

    The good news is we should start thinking about procuring an Infantry/CA specific rifle that meets their needs. Maybe it should be a ‘better’ caliber (realizing that is a 20 cases of beer discussion) and a major investment. Certainly consider a modular family of uppers. Certainly look at smart sights (a Trackingpoint 556 with Shotglass is roughly $6k MSRP)(Shotglass is a remote viewing connect to the scope). I don’t own stock in Trackingpoint….it’s just an example of a smarter sight.

    Focusing on the 20% of the force that does 80% of the shooting/killing makes sense. The non-Infantry/CA can be fine with a basic weapon.

    The rifle as a Ph/Pk system (gun, ammo, training, sights, etc.) that hasn’t moved much past WWII.

    So, the overall general idea isn’t bad. Obviously, it needs to be developed in the system and validated with testing with all the moving parts and roles (maintainers, suppliers, etc.). Until we can get to the man portable rail gun or 40 kilowatt blaster. 🙂

    • User

      “Better caliber” … caliber is a diameter, speaking about 5.56 (5,7mm) its one of THE best possible caliber/diameter for Infantery smallarms. -Why? Simple: with the right bullet lenght you have good bullet weight that exactly meats the sweetspot between KE= 1/2m x v² and p=m x v. For the same Energy, a lighter faster bullet will have less recoil than a heavyer slower bullet + for the same energy the cartridge is lighter because it uses just a bit more powder (verry light material), instead of “more of a bullet” (really heavy material).

      = less recoil, less weight, + flatter trajectory, further point blank range, better hit propability, higher steel penetration etc.

      There is just a single bullet construction that makes sence to go ~ 6 to 6,2mm wide, in therms of military smallarms.

      And “start thinking” … well your way over 10 years of time, the project is activly going.

      Also, good luck trying to let a tracking point lock onto an OPFOR solider that shows a at maximum 15cm silhouette, + modern camo + maybe thermal shielding camo + is hidden in envoirmental foliage.

      Theyr neighter large animals standing uncovered in the wide open like on trackingpoint shots. Nor paper targets on a range.

      • User

        *oh and i forgot, aerodynamic is much more influenced by FF – Form Factor. A fully shape optimized 5,7mm with some more powder. Will totally blow 5.56×45, 6.8SPC, and in most aspects 6.5 completly out of the water.

      • cwolf

        I agree the 556 is a low recoil good general purpose round. Especially since many folks like full auto.

        In this case the issues as I understand it is Bad Guys using RPG and MG in mountains at 800-1,500m. Part of the dialogue is defining the mission/terrain scenarios. And part of the dialogue is discussing a full range of solution options. Maybe a rifle isn’t the best solution.

        I used Trackingpoint to simply give a concrete example for a potential smart sight. Even the built-in laser ranging sights with auto aiming point are an improvement. All of that can be field tested at the NTC. And I believe we also need higher fidelity dynamic live fire ranges with moving targets to give Soldiers better training. Iron peep sights are not a very good solution.

        Cheers.

  • User

    “Better caliber” … caliber is a diameter, speaking about 5.56 (5,7mm) its one of THE best possible caliber/diameter for Infantery smallarms. -Why? Simple: with the right bullet lenght you have good bullet weight that exactly meats the sweetspot between KE= 1/2m x v² and p=m x v. For the same Energy, a lighter faster bullet will have less recoil than a heavyer slower bullet + for the same energy the cartridge is lighter because it uses just a bit more powder (verry light material), instead of “more of a bullet” (really heavy material).

    = less recoil, less weight, + flatter trajectory, further point blank range, better hit propability, higher steel penetration etc.

    There is just a single bullet construction that makes sence to go ~ 6 to 6,2mm wide, in therms of military smallarms.

    And “start thinking” … well your way over 10 years of time, the project is activly going.

    Also, good luck trying to let a tracking point lock onto an OPFOR solider that shows a at maximum 15cm silhouette, + modern camo + maybe thermal shielding camo + is hidden in envoirmental foliage.

    Theyr neighter large animals standing uncovered in the wide open like on trackingpoint shots. Nor paper targets on a range.

    • User

      *the comment for some reason did not connect to cwolfs comment. So could be ignored/ deleted.

  • LilWolfy

    At least he didn’t say it has an aluminum gas tube this time…

    Absolutely hilarious how such poor standards in presstitutism pass muster in the information age.

  • lano

    amen!

  • Kevin Hebden

    Just a small thing I noticed. “General Scales” is also a delusional bad guy from a Star Fox game!