By Mr. Paul Boyce (FORSCOM)December 17, 2007
Recently Army testing laboratories at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, subjected the M4 carbine and three other weapons to a severe environmental test called the "Carbine Extreme Dust Test." The lab environment allowed engineers to push the weapons beyond their technical limits to better inform and understand what is required for the most capable weapons on the current battlefield. This was the third such test for the Army's carbine of choice, the M4.
The weapons were exposed to "heavy dusting," similar to an intense and sustained dust storm, several times for 25 hours. There were ten weapons of each of the four different types of carbines. Each fired 6,000 rounds (60,000 rounds per type). Individually, each weapon fired fifty 120 round cycles with minimal cleaning and lubrication (wiped and lubed every 600 rounds; fully cleaned after every 1,200 rounds). The maintenance performed during the test was the equivalent to not performing even minimal cleaning of the weapon until after firing nearly three basic loads of ammunition (a Soldier's basic load is 210 rounds).
The Army noted all the weapons in the test performed well: the number of stoppages all the carbines exhibited was roughly one percent or less of the total rounds fired by each, meaning the weapons had over a 98% reliability rate under these unique conditions. Though the M4 performed exceptionally well, it came in fourth compared to the other three carbines in this particular extreme single-environment (dust as the only condition) testing.
The Army is taking these test results seriously. These preliminary results revealed or confirmed several areas for potential materiel improvements to the M4 and the other weapon types in the test. A full analysis of the test data is expected in several weeks, and the Army will evaluate those areas that can be improved.
The M4 in particular is a weapon subjected to intense scrutiny and remains one of the most improved pieces of Army equipment: there have been over 390 improvements since it was introduced into the force. But it has become one of the most popular weapons in the Army inventory: every post-combat survey taken in the last several years shows an almost 90% approval rating for the M4 among Soldiers. Official requests and "operational needs statements" from the combat zones show the M4 as the weapon of choice for its size, weight, versatility and performance.
Soldiers shared their comments about the M4 in recent surveys. "The
M4 was an extremely dependable weapon system," writes a 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) command sergeant major who served in Afghanistan.
"We operated at extreme elevations (10,000 feet) along with extreme climate changes from one end of the spectrum to the other. I cannot remember any occasions where an M4 malfunctioned or failed to perform."
A 10th Mountain first sergeant writes "Of all the weapons that I have fired in the Army, I like the M4 best."
Similar comments come from other Army divisions. "The 101st has no issues with the M4 and, as a matter of fact the Soldiers of all MOS's to include cooks, mechanics, administrative clerks and nurses are getting very proficient with the M4," writes a 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) command sergeant major.
"While I am confident in the reliability, accuracy and effectiveness of the M4 in today's fight because of what Soldiers tell us, we're never satisfied with good enough," said General Dick Cody, the Army's Vice Chief of Staff. "We will look at the test results when they are complete and assess any needed adjustments to the M4. We will also determine if our requirements need to change for this weapon."
"The Soldier in the field is our number one priority," Secretary of the Army Pete Geren said. "And that means testing our equipment to the highest of standards so that we can understand and improve their performance in the harshest of conditions. Our commitment is to continue to field the best equipped and best trained fighting force in the world."
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