As the warfighter awaits congress to hammer out the FY 2010 defense budget, the Pentagon has indicated that it will once again attempt to find a replacement for the venerable M16/M4 carbine. Eugene Stonerâs half century old design has served the United States and many of its allies for decades and must be replaced with a more modern and reliable design. Controversy has surrounded the M16 since its inception as a plastic rifle with parts originally manufactured by the toy company Mattel. Reliability issues have followed each subsequent upgrade and persist to this day, the most recent being the Wanat battle in Afghanistan, where the rifle failed and troops died. Experts agree that the primary design flaw of the M16 is the gas operation, which sends gases directly into the chamber fouling the precision tooling of the weapon. The Pentagonâs response to this problem has always been the same: âtraining and cleaning.â Troops on the ground have said the requirements if the M16 family of weapons is unrealistic for sustained combat operations of a single battle much less a campaign. http://www.idga.org/article.cfm?externalID=1496&mac=IDGA_OI_FeaturedQ409&utm_source=idga.org&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=IDGAOptIn&utm_content=11/3/09 Regardless of this decades-old debate, the warfighters will be getting new weapons, and many of the possible choices have been on the battlefield for years. The contemporary replacement possibilities are the H&K 416 and the FN SCAR, both of which have been operated by SOCOM for some time, with positive results in the combat zones. The Pentagon may also revive the XM8 program, a previous attempt to find an M16 replacement, which was cancelled. The other possible option on the market may be the Barrett M468 in 6.8mm. There are numerous possible modern and reliable replacement rifles/carbines on the Market for the M16; however, another debate is the caliber. As mentioned above, the M468 is an intermediate caliber between 5.56 and 7.62mm. There are reports that the 5.56 is too weak for mud brick or doped up insurgents. Some have called for the new rifle to be a 7.62mm. Barrett chose an intermediate caliber, though they could offer their weapon in any caliber the DoD chooses. The major drawback of introducing a new caliber into the military is the lack of interchangeability. Nothing else uses the 6.8mm round; and it would require full integration into the global supply chain, which would take a lot of money and additional time for training and wartime stockpiles of ammunition to become operationally realistic. Choosing either a 5.56 or 7.62 round would eliminate compatibility issues with training and supplies. The advantage of the Barrett design is that itâs only the upper. Their upper can be used with the standard M16/M4 lower, thereby resulting in lower cost and training times since the warfighter is already trained using the same lower. The other weapons possibilities are total redesigns from the ground up with state-of-the-art composites, engineering and a half century of lessons learned. SCAR and the H&K 416 would basically be COTS or Commercial of the Shelf purchases since they have been produced for years for other militaries, law enforcement and the civilian markets. The military would have to construct a dedicated military production line, however; just as they did with the Beretta 9mm. Ultimately, this procurement will be a lively competition, not just the actual competition between the manufacturers and their weapons, but between the congressional backers of each system as well as the Pentagon brass who have a stake in the winner. Millions of weapons are for the U.S. military alone and millions more possible on the global arms market. All parties understand that the M16/M4 replacement will cost billions of dollars, possibly generate billions more, and have the possibility for a half century life cycle for spare parts support and ammunition requirements.