Thursday, November 01, 2007

Explaining Military Procurement

Chris Byrne explains some of the obscurities of military procurement. The conclusion he comes to is this:
So, our barrier to entry here is this: Is the value of changing the chambering away from 5.56 nato equal or greater than $6 billion dollars; and the difficulty of changing chamberings in the middle of a war.

For right now, the answer is clearly no, at least as far as our government is concerned. As I said above, most of the time, the 5.56 chambering is getting the job done; and governments will take "adequate most of the time" over $10 billion dollars" most any day.
Of course how he gets to that conclusion is the interesting bit.

The problem of replacing the M16 series of rifles is they're very difficult to beat by a decisive margin. The design is highly modifiable and therefore flexible to meet mission needs and new capabilities. In order to justify the cost of replacement, you'd need outperform the current rifle in some key metrics by a margin of 15% or 20%. That's pretty difficult.

Similarly, 5.56 isn't ideal for all conditions but it also hits the sweet spot in weight, cost, recoil, and lethality. I personally don't like current general issue M855 ammo. It is designed to penetrate body armor at range. Unfortunately, we sacrificed the wounding ability of the older M193 round to get the armor penetration of M855. Even more unfortunately, our current enemy doesn't actually wear body armor so we've sacrificed something for nothing. But the old M193 round (which I like) and the newer mk262 round (which is nice at range but expensive) would both get the job done. And you can shoot them out of current guns without any problem anyway.

So expect to see the M16 around for a while yet. But look for a possible change in issued ammunition in the future.

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