June 22 (UPI) -- The U.S. Air Force announced on Monday that it has started fielding the M18 Modular Handgun System to its security forces, replacing the last of its M9 pistols.
The new, 9mm semi-automatic handgun will be distributed to all Air Force groups which have a handgun requirement. Deliveries will be completed by August 2022, the Air Force said in a statement.
"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," Brian Lautzenheiser, lead small arms program manager, said in a press release.
The M18 will become the standard sidearm for all U.S. military branches, and cost the Air Force one-third that of an M9.
The new pistols are largely made of polymer, replacing all-metal pistols. With 17-round and 21-round magazines, it marks the ends of military six-shooters, formerly the primary sidearm of military police units.
The new handgun will also supplant the remaining Smith & Wesson M15 in use by the Air Force Office of Special Investigations.The bulky M15, a relic from the Cold War, is harder to conceal than the M18.
"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," Lautzenheiser said.