The US Air Force Security Forces Center (AFSFC) has commenced the delivery of the M18 SIG Sauer modular handgun system to security forces units across the air force.

The development is part of the Reconstitute Defender Initiative and efforts to modernise weapon systems and increase troop capabilities.

M18 handguns will replace the M9 Beretta, which entered the service more than 30 years ago.

In addition, the weapons system is also expected to replace the M11-A1 Compact used by the US Air Force Office of Special Investigations and the US Army M15 General Officer pistol used for military working dog training.

The M18 is designed to provide improved ergonomics, target acquisition, reliability and durability. The gun can be customised with small, medium or large handgrips to suit individual troops.

“The M18 is a smaller platform weapon, but it gives the shooter more capabilities over the bulkier, larger M9 pistol.”

Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland 37th Training Support Squadron armoury non-commissioned officer in charge staff sergeant Richard Maner said: “This is going to help shooters with smaller hands. It also has a much smoother trigger pull, leading to a more accurate, lethal shooter.

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“The M18 is a smaller platform weapon, but it gives the shooter more capabilities over the bulkier, larger M9 pistol.”

AFSFC has so far delivered more than 2,000 M18s to different units of the USAF.

All security forces units are expected to receive full authorisation to use the M18 weapons system by 2020 with the remainder of the airforce set to follow.

AFSFC Small Arms and Light Weapons Requirements programme manager master sergeant Shaun Ferguson said: “Once all security forces units have been supplied the new weapon, we will supply special warfare airmen, guardian angel / (pararescue) communities, OSI and other high-level users.

“Aircrew communities and other installation personnel will be issued the handgun as well based on requirements.”