For nearly 50 years, US Army troops have relied on M4 and M16 rifles, but that could soon change. While Army leaders have long been loyal to the "combat proven" rifles, questions and complaints have arisen about their design and reliability. So the Army this week advertised its interest in a new weapon, specifically, one that boasts futuristic sights and uses improved ammunition—and there's a good chance it would replace the M4 carbine, a shortened version of the M16, the Wall Street Journal reports. The Army will hold an “industry day” for manufacturers March 30, and will select a replacement after two years of evaluation.
The M16 and M4 require frequent cleaning, and may not be reliable in dusty locations like Afghanistan. Soldiers have complained about jamming and overheating problems; critics have also been concerned with range, lethality, and how the rifles hold up when compared with the Kalashnikov, an assault rifle often used by insurgents. Though the Army has added upgrades to the guns over the years, the M4 performed worse than three other weapons in a 2007 reliability test. Now, says one colonel in a statement, the Army is “challenging industry to develop the next-generation carbine.”