Army takes HK416s from special unit


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Travis McGee
March 12, 2008, 11:03 AM
Navy Times
By Matthew Cox - Staff writer
Posted : Tuesday Mar 11, 2008 17:13:09 EDT

The Army has stripped the Asymmetric Warfare Group of its weapon of choice — the Heckler & Koch 416 — saying that its mission requires the unique outfit to carry the standard issue M4 carbine.

The decision reverses a policy that allowed the AWG to buy 416s instead of carrying M4s when it was established three years ago to help senior Army leaders find new tactics and technologies to make soldiers more lethal in combat.

Members of the AWG have declined to comment on the issue, but sources in the community told Army Times that the unit fought to keep its several hundred 416s, arguing that they outperform the Army’s M4 and require far less maintenance.

In a response to a March 6 Army Times query, the Army acknowledged initial approval of the AWG’s move to the 416.

“The AWG is empowered to procure, on a limited basis, select non-standard equipment to assist in identifying capability gaps and advise on the development of future requirements. To this end, the Asymmetric Warfare Group did purchase H&K 416 rifles,” said Army spokesman Lt. Col. Martin Downie.

“The AWG also advises units on training, tactics and procedures. In this capacity, the use of the standard issue M4 is required. In support of this mission set, the decision was made to transition to the M4 and the AWG is now turning in its H&K rifles.”

This is the latest round of controversy surrounding the M4 since late November, when the weapon finished last in an Army reliability test against several other carbines.

The M4 suffered more stoppages than the combined number of jams by the three other competitors — the Heckler & Koch XM8, FNH USA’s Special Operations Forces Combat Assault Rifle (SCAR) and the H&K 416.

Army weapons officials agreed to perform the dust test at the request of Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., in July. Coburn took up the issue following a Feb. 26 Army Times report on moves by elite Army Special Forces units to ditch the M4 in favor of carbines they consider more reliable. Since then, Coburn has questioned the Army’s plans to spend more than $300 million to purchase M4s through fiscal 2009 rather than considering newer and possibly better weapons available on the commercial market.

Army officials have downplayed the test results, maintaining that soldiers using the M4 in combat praised the weapon in a recent study by the Center for Naval Analysis.

But this isn’t the first time the M4’s performance has come under fire.

U.S. Special Operations Command decided nearly four years ago that it wanted a better weapon than the M4. After a competition, it awarded a developmental contract to FN Herstal to develop its new SCAR to replace all of the command’s M4s.

But even prior to USSOCOM’s decision, the Army’s Delta Force replaced its M4s with the H&K 416 in 2004 after tests revealed that its piston operating system reduces malfunctions while increasing the life of parts.

The M4, like its predecessor, the M16, uses a gas tube system, which relies on the gas created when a bullet is fired to cycle the weapon. Weapon experts say the M4’s system of blowing gas directly into the receiver of the weapon spews carbon residue that can lead to fouling and heat that dries up lubrication and causes excessive wear on parts.

The AWG followed Delta’s example when it stood up in March 2005 to advise the Army’s senior leadership on how to identify and counter emerging threats on the battlefield. With Army approval, the unit bought several hundred 416s for its members to carry when they deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan and other hot spots.

Many senior sergeants in the AWG were angered that soldiers in the unit had to turn in their 416s, a process that began last fall, said a U.S. Military officer with knowledge the special operations and AWG communities.

“They were outraged,” he told Army Times. “It’s a reduction in capability. It’s a waste of money that was already spent, and it makes the job more difficult since [the M4] is much more maintenance-intensive.”

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asknight
March 12, 2008, 11:48 AM
Outrageous! Thank you for posting this. I'm certain it will receive much thought and discussion.

cracked butt
March 12, 2008, 11:59 AM
In the end, it doesn't matter which weapon is better, it matters more who has the better propaganda and lobbying- COlt or H&K.

MarcusWendt
March 12, 2008, 12:01 PM
Obviously there is a general with a job offer after he retires.

The M-4 failed the test, but we continue to use it to the exclusion of all others. Nice. Typical Government logic.

casio02478
March 12, 2008, 12:08 PM
Well, I hope they get the SCAR soon, and it lives up to the hype. Our best should get the best equipment there is.

Evil Monkey
March 12, 2008, 12:12 PM
Why don't they go one better?

G36 for everybody!

HorseSoldier
March 12, 2008, 12:16 PM
Gosh? Did they take cool toys away from CAG-Lite? Dreadful. Shocking. Appalling. I'm astonished to see senior army leadership do anything so logical.

AWG has zero real requirements for any non-standard equipment, except for a desire to dress as cool as Tier One units. Why they let them have 416s and Glock 19s in the first place is a mystery to me.

Feanaro
March 12, 2008, 06:01 PM
There's a much simpler explanation than corporate lobbying or bribery, me thinks, though it comes down to the same thing: money. No one wants to fork out the cash to buy everyone in the military a new superdewperwundershutzen. The M4 is here to stay.

351 WINCHESTER
March 12, 2008, 08:43 PM
It's the same old game with the govt. It's all about money. Our govt. wastes quadzillions of our tax dollars on God only knows what, but they can't give our troops decent battle rifles.

Coronach
March 12, 2008, 09:38 PM
No one wants to fork out the cash to buy everyone in the military a new superdewperwundershutzen. The M4 is here to stay.Kinda. More like, even if the tested guns are better, they're only marginally better. Given that money is a finite resource, are we better regunning everyone to get marginally better performance, or better putting that money towards something else, like improving body armor, supplying optics and NVDs, etc etc etc.

Now, as soon as something comes along that is significantly better, there'll be more impetus to change. I've always wondered why the .mil is simultaneously messing with new guns and new calibers (to the extent that they are), yet linking each to the old version of the other. As in, 6.8 SPC and other would-be 5.56 NATO replacements must fit in a M16/M4 magwell, and the SCAR/XM8/Other_New_sweetness is designed around 5.56 NATO. If you really want to change, get a new gun and design a new caliber. Otherwise you're limiting your self to incremental change.

Mike

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