The Air Force Security Forces Center, in partnership with the Air Force Small Arms Program Office, has begun fielding the new M18 Modular Handgun System to Security Forces units. The Air Force Life Cycle Management Center’s Small Arms Program Office acquired approximately 125,000 M18s from Sig Sauer for $22.1 million. (U.S. Air Force photo/Vicki Stein)

Modern 9mm handgun acquired for Air Force use

Combat arms units across the Air Force are getting new and improved 9mm caliber handguns to replace the M9 pistols that have been in service since 1985.

The 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.

“The Air Force bought the M9s back in the 1980s, and the design has not really changed since then,” said Merrill Adkison, Small Arms Program Office senior logistics manager. “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.”

Adkison added that providing a modern handgun to Airmen was important in part due to the increasing difficulty of replacing and sustaining older technology in M9s.

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In response to issues with the age and sustainment of M9s, the Air Force Security Forces Center developed the Capability Production Document for the Modular Handgun System that the Army later adopted, resulting in procurement of the M17 and M18 Modular Handgun System.

The new M18 costs the Air Force about one-third of what it would cost to buy an M9 today.

“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,” said Brian Lautzenheiser, lead program manager in the office. “The USAF Small Arms Program Office has worked with the 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 program office anticipates that M18 delivery will be complete by August 2022.

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