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The US Army has issued a request for proposals for the Objective Individual Combat Weapon (OICW) increment 1, which will consist of a family of weapons to replace the M4 carbine, M16 rifle, M249 light machine gun and some M9 pistols in use in the army today.
The programme is mired in controversy, with rivals to HK Defense arguing that the competition is not free and open. Originally the gun was going to be developed together with the XM25 25 mm grenade launcher.
HK Defense has been developing the 5.56 mm XM8 carbine as an additional capability for the army. In budget documents released at the beginning of this year, the army set aside US$32.5 million to buy 10,400 XM8 carbines in Fiscal Year 2006. That procurement is now on hold pending the competition.
Rival companies which did not compete for the original grenade launcher contract have protested, arguing that since the focus of the programme has changed to the gun, it should again face competition.
The army denies that it is favouring HK Defense. The service says it decided to put the programme up for competition because of a recent decision to include a light machine gun (LMG) in addition to the original carbine, special compact and designated marksman variants, service officials said.