The Air Force has officially begun procurement of the Army's Modular Handgun System to replace its existing pistol arsenal, the service announced on Monday.
The Air Force Life Cycle Management Center’s Small Arms Program Office acquired approximately 125,000 M18 service pistols for $22.1 million to replace the M9 sidearms that airman have wielded since 1985.
A compact variant of the striker-fired M17 that, based on Sig Sauer's P320, the Army adopted under the MHS program in 2017, the M18 delivery should wrap up by August 2022, the service said.
“M9s are larger, heavier, all-metal pistols," AFLCMC Small Arms Program Office senior logistics manager Merrill Adkison said in a statement. "Whereas M18s are lighter polymer pistols with a more consistent trigger pull and adjustable grips for large and small hands.”
The Air Force acquisition comes on the heels of the Marine Corps, which officially began procurement of the M18 in late May with a target completion date of "late 2023."
With the Navy and Marine Corps were supposed to purchase 60,000 and 35,000 new MHS pistols, respectively, the Air Force was scheduled to purchase up to 130,000 M18 sidearms, Military.com previously reported.
The push to replace the M9 came in response to issues with the age and sustainment costs of the existing pistol arsenal; according to AFLCMC, the M18 costs just one-third of that of an M9.
“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 available for our warfighters,” Small Arms Program Office lead program manager Brian Lautzenheiser said in a statement.