Special Operations Command recently posted a solicitation on the government ran Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) resource in regards to a need for a domestic U.S. manufacturer to produce exact copies of the Soviet 7.62x54r mm PKM medium machine gun, and the 12.7x108mm KSV heavy machine gun (Entry is fourth from bottom on web page). With these U.S. made machine guns, SOCOM intends to supply foreign forces the command is advising with higher quality machine guns. Explicitly mentioned in the solicitation is that secret squirrels are having issues with leading and mentoring indigenous forces but lack the capability of quality weapon systems or replacement parts. The plan calls for a completely U.S. made product, on U.S. soil, using domestic labor to create a “facsimile” of these machine guns
From the solicitation-
For decades surrogate forces and allies have depended on foreign made weapons which are used in conflicts around the world. USSOCOM intermittently supplies surrogate forces and allies with foreign made weapons from international intermediaries. These foreign made weapons lack interchangeability and standardization which hinders field and depot level part replacement. Developing a domestic production capability for foreign like weapons addresses these issues while being cost effective as well as strengthens the nation’s military-industrial complex, ensures a reliable and secure supply chain, and reduces acquisition lead times.
PHASE I: Conduct a feasibility study to assess what is in the art of the possible that satisfies the requirements specified in the above paragraph entitled Description. As a part of this feasibility study, Proposers shall address all viable system design options with respective specifications to reverse engineer or re-engineer and domestically produce the following foreign like weapons: 7.62Ã—54R belt fed light machine gun that resembles a PKM (Pulemyot Kalashnikova Modernizirovany), and a 12.7Ã—108mm heavy machine gun that resembles a Russian designed NSV (Nikitin, Sokolov, Volkov). Hereafter, foreign like weapons is defined as a 7.62Ã—54R belt-fed machine gun and a 12.7Ã—108mm heavy machine gun. Offerors must describe their approach to replicate foreign made weapons and mass produce foreign like weapons with the same form, fit and function as the foreign made weapon counterpart. The approach must describe all facets of design to production to include the actions, activities, and processes necessary to 1) develop drawings and specifications to replicate foreign weapons, 2) acquire and manufacture materials and parts, 3) bring together a production capability, and 4) develop methods for testing and evaluating the manufactured weapon to drawings and specifications. The approach shall also address the manufacture of spare parts to support fielded weapons.
The wording of the solicitation is extremely bizarre. For one, these weapon systems have been copied and produced in a number of Soviet bloc countries all over the world. Getting ahold of technical data packages and the expertise to produce them would not be a hard job at all for those in the U.S. firearms industry. A number of PKM parts and expertise is already present in the United States as it is. Although the KSV heavy machine gun would be a little more difficult simply due to the lack of its present in the U.S. Even one of America’s NATO allies in Europe, Poland, already has domestic PKM manufacture, NSV manufacture (WKM-B, .50 BMG), and even has an upgraded and modernized PKM at that.
Despite this ease, SOCOM is insisting that manufacturers attempt to “reverse engineer” these designs to produce a machine gun that has the “same form, fit and function as the foreign made weapon counterpart”. One begs to ask that if SOCOM wants these Soviet machine guns so badly, the command could more easily attempt to get the technical data packages and expertise from Polish allies, and simply have a company in the United States produce it. It appears that SOCOM is doing itself a disservice by overcomplicating the solicitation unnecessarily. Of course, there might be a legality that prevents such blatant design theft, and this might be the cause of the wording.