US arms manufacturer Sig Sauer contests Estonia's firearms tender ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

Test shooting of automatic firearms in the procurement process. March 2018.
Test shooting of automatic firearms in the procurement process. March 2018. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

US arms manufacturer Sig Sauer Inc. has challenged an automatic firearms procurement conducted by the Estonian Centre for Defence Investments (ECDI) in which the tender submitted by US arms manufacturer Lewis Machine & Tool Company (LMT) was deemed successful.

Sig Sauer was one of three companies whose offers were deemed as having met the minimum requirements of the procurement; the others were Germany's Heckler & Koch GmbH and the US' LMT.

Sig Sauer contested both the decision to declare LMT's offer as meeting the requirements of the procurement as well as the decision to declare it the winning bid.

In early October, one of the competing bidders drew the attention of the ECDI to the fact that LMT may not have supplied 25,000 arms in the last five years as required in procurement documents, referring to the fact that the New Zealand Defence Force purchased 9,000 weapons from the US manufacturer.

Ingrid Mühling, head of communications at the ECDI, told BNS that in addition to the Special Air Service (SAS) special forces unit of the British Army, LMT has also supplied large amounts of arms to the US Department of Defense and the police structures of various US states. Weapons produced by LMT are likewise used by the police forces of several EU and NATO member states, including the UK, Denmark, Finland and Turkey.

"For bidders to qualify, a requirement was provided in the procurement that the weapons offered had to be part of the weaponry of at least one EU or NATO member state and the bidder must produce a list of countries where the weaponry of its national power structures — the army, police, border guard, home defence, for instance — include these weapons," Ms Mühling explained. "In addition, confirmations were required that the bidder has properly fulfilled the sales agreements of 5.56mm and 7.62mm automatic firearms in the extent of at least 25,000 weapons in the last five years."

This requirement was not connected and by law could not be connected to any one specific model of weapon; rather, this was a means by which a bidder's capability to fulfill an agreement to the desired extent could be verified. "The exact amounts of weapons sold submitted by the bidders are not public information, but we can confirm that the amount of weapons supplied by LMT to the armed forces of the US and other countries met the requirements," she added.

LMT's bid earned 99.3 points and was the least expensive in terms of price, support of the weapons' life cycle and guaranteed shots. The shooting test conducted by the Estonian Defence Forces (EDF) indicated that the firing accuracy of the weapons submitted by all bidders was within the required range and there were no significant difference between the weapons in that regard.

€22 million contract

At the proposal of the Tender Committee, Col. Rauno Sirk, director of the Estonian Centre for Defence Investments (ECDI), on 4 December declared the offer submitted by LMT the most successful tender in the procurement, spokespeople for the ECDI said on Tuesday.

In the appraisal of the offers received, the results of a shooting test conducted in March accounted for 10% of the overall score, the guaranteed number of shots throughout the weapon's life cycle 10%, the length of the weapon's useful life 30%, and the price 40% of the score.

"The committee appraised in the first place the reliability and dependability of the weapons as well as the economic feasibility, ie the total cost of the project," Sirk said. "It is our goal to buy an automatic firearm that is precise, handy and dependable in different weather and environmental conditions. The cost of the transaction was not of lesser importance either. In this, we evaluated the life cycle cost, not just the purchase price of the weapons and additional equipment, and we took into consideration the costs that have to be incurred over the next 20 years."

Under the planned contract, Estonia will buy some 16,000 firearms with additional equipment for €22 million over the years 2019-2021. The contract must also include an option for the purchase of additional weapons through 2026.

The ECDI's tender for the purchase of new 5.56mm and 7.62mm automatic firearms for the 1st and 2nd Infantry Brigades and eventually for the entire operations structure of the EDF was announced in June 2017.

Established in 1980, LMT manufactures and supplies arms primarily to the US military and other armed structures. Weapons manufactured by the company are also used by the Special Air Service (SAS) special forces unit of the British Army as well as the New Zealand Army.  

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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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