Combat arms units across the U.S. Air Force are getting new and improved 9mm caliber handguns to replace the M9 pistols that have been in service since 1985. The U.S. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center’s Small Arms Program Office acquired approximately 125,000 M18s from Sig Sauer for $22.1 million, and is making them available to Air Force organizations that have a handgun requirement. The purchase includes test ammunition as well as engineering services. It is important for the U.S. Air Force to move forward with improvement and replacement of weapon systems to keep pace with potential adversaries and field the best technology and equipment.
The U.S. Air Force bought the M9s back in the 1980s, and the design has not really changed since then. M9s are larger, heavier, all-metal pistols; whereas M18s are lighter polymer pistols with a more consistent trigger pull and adjustable grips for large and small hands. Providing a modern handgun to Airmen was important in part due to the increasing difficulty of replacing and sustaining older technology in M9s. In response to issues with the age and sustainment of M9s, the U.S. Air Force Security Forces Center developed the Capability Production Document for the Modular Handgun System that the U.S. Army later adopted, resulting in procurement of the M17 and M18 Modular Handgun System.
The U.S. Air Force Small Arms Program Office has worked with the U.S.Army to get these new weapons on contract and in the hands of the warfighters. We are a small team with a lot going on as we work to procure and sustain all small arms from pistols to .50 caliber ground-mounted machine guns. We have a great professional team that understands the importance of assisting the field to meet their needs. The new M18 costs the U.S. Air Force about one-third of what it would cost to buy an M9 today. The program office anticipates that M18 9mm caliber handgun delivery will be complete by August 2022.
On January 19, 2017, the United States Army announced that a customized version of the SIG Sauer P320 had won the Army’s XM17 Modular Handgun System competition. The full-sized model will be known as the M17 and the smaller-sized carry model will be known as the M18. On January 19, 2017, the United States Army announced that the SIG Sauer P320 MHS variant had won the military’s Modular Handgun System trials. The P320 is known as the M17 (Full-Size) and M18 (Carry) in U.S. Military service. Though the pistol will remain chambered in 9 x 19mm NATO rather than a larger caliber, the contract allows the Army and other services to procure SIG Sauer’s proposed XM1152 Full Metal Jacket and XM1153 Special Purpose ammunition.