The US Air Force has announced that it has begun fielding the first of approximately 125,000 new SIG Sauer M18 Modular Handgun System 9x19mm pistols. The Air Force announced that it has opted for the more compact M18 over the M17, selected by the US Army, in May 2018. The very first pistols began reaching Air Force Security Forces in March 2019.
Now the pistols are being rolled out across the remaining Air Force Security Forces (with personnel based at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska amongst the first to receive them in May 2019) and other combat arms units. The new pistols will be replacing the USAF’s Beretta M9s in service since 1985.
The procurement and roll-out process is being handled by the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center’s Small Arms Program Office. Brian Lautzenheiser, lead program manager, said in a statement that:
It is important for the U.S. Air Force to move forward with improvement and replacement of weapon systems to keep pace with potential adversaries and field the best technology and equipment available for our warfighters. The USAF Small Arms Program Office has worked with the Army to get these new weapons on contract and in the hands of the warfighters. We are a small team with a lot going on as we work to procure and sustain all small arms from pistols to .50 caliber ground-mounted machine guns. We have a great professional team that understands the importance of assisting the field to meet their needs.
Merrill Adkison, Small Arms Program Office senior logistics manager, explained that it was important for the Air Force to provide Airmen with a modern handgun as servicing the older M9s is being increasingly difficult, adding that the “M9s are larger, heavier, all-metal pistols; whereas M18s are lighter polymer pistols with a more consistent trigger pull and adjustable grips for large and small hands.”
The USAF’s procurement is in line with what we reported last year, that the USAF’s 2020 Budget Justification Book suggested the Air Force was seeking 131,200 pistols over four years at a projected cost of just under $25 million. The US Air Force currently anticipates that the last delivery of the new M18s will be completed by August 2022.