The U.S. Army’s CSASS Program

I have had the opportunity to shoot the M110, which as you know was developed, circa. 2007,  by Knight’s Armament Company, Vero Beach, Fl. I’ve also fired the M24 on a number of occasions and broken bread with both camps. The M24 devotees argue that nothing touches the accuracy of the M24 and the M110 group touts the M110’s ability to deliver accurate, high volume of fire, which is particularly desirable for urban operations and counter-sniper work. In spite of broad based support for the M24, a large number of these rifles underwent a caliber change from .308 to 300 Win Mag, and received an advanced chassis, to create what is now known as the M2010. After several years in the Afghan theater, the Army discovered what the U.S.M.C. has know all along; that it’s nice to have a caliber that bridges the capabilities of the .308 and 50BMG.

The U.S. Army has an initiative, CSASS (Compact Semi Automatic Sniper System), which has been in play since July 2012. Two years later, PEO Project Manager Soldier Weapons has released a “final” RFP.

These are the general requirements as stipulated in the solicitation’s Synopsis as release 12 June 2014…

The CSASS will more effectively execute a broad spectrum of missions than the M110 Semi Automatic Sniper System (SASS). The CSASS will provide the following upgrades: improved reliability, improved accuracy, and improved ergonomics; reduced weight and length; advanced coatings; improved optics; reduced felt recoil; enhanced suppressor performance; enhanced modular rail capabilities; an improved bipod, trigger, pistol grip, and buttstock.

Now, here is paragraph 3 from ATTACHMENT 0005 – STATEMENT OF OBJECTIVES FOR Compact Semi-Automatic Sniper System (CSASS) W15QKN-14-R-0065 which support the CSASS requirements above.

3. Background.  Since its initial fielding in 2007, the M110 has provided Army snipers with a very reliable and effective anti-personnel sniping capability. However, advances in warfighting technology have promoted the need for increased sniping capabilities to counter constantly changing threats particularly in urban environments and at extended ranges. As a result, the CSASS initiative evolved directly from Operational Needs Statements submitted by deployed units and sniper feedback. The CSASS capabilities and features have been identified from sniper inputs during weapon Integrated Product Team meetings, conferences, observations and interviews with conventional Army, Special Operations, NATO/allies snipers and Sniper School instructors. Evolutionary weapon improvements were initially envisioned as pre-planned product improvements (P3I) within the original Department of the Army approved/validated M110 Operational Requirement Document(Catalog of Approved Requirement Documents (CARDS) number 02056). The CSASS will enhance the sniper’s capability to perform missions with greater lethality and survivability.

The U.S. Army is looking for a more compact, reliable, accurate and configurable system which is not at all unreasonable until you dissect those requirements.

1. Compactness – three practical mechanisms to achieve compactness: incorporate a folding stock, reduce barrel length and / or move the breech rearward to create a bull pup system. I’ll go on record as being a huge fan of a bull pup design an opinion not shared by the Army. I’m not sure that I understand that position given the AUG, Tavor, etc.

2. Accuracy – accuracy in any rifle but particularly true of any semi-automatic system stems from the quality of the barrel, barrel profile, length and the tolerances of the chamber. Longer and thicker barrels will increase accuracy, but add weight in the process, and tighter more precisely machined chambers will increase accuracy but increase the probability of ejection failures thus degrading from reliability.

I’ve pointed out just a couple of inconsistencies in the requirements. So, I can understand the frustration that exists with manufacturers as they try to meet the CSASS requirements.

So here is what the Army is saying. I want a semi-automatic rifle that is lighter, shorter, more reliable, maintain a 1.67 MOA, suited to urban and long range engagements, equipped with a better bipod, better optics (whatever that means) more effective sound suppressor and improved ergonomics.

The CSASS initiative right along with the new UCP initiative, and the carbine competition are just a few examples of why the U.S. Army has to reshape the business side of running the U.S. Army. I think the dollars spent on just these three projects could have been directed to activities where there is at least a marginal return on that investment.


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