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New Weapons Being Developed for Infantry.

The infantry--with its weaponry--rules. That seemed to be the message coming from the speakers at the annual NDIA Small Arms Symposium, held in Indianapolis, in August. The Army, with its focus on the new Interim Brigade Combat Team, is bringing renewed attention to the foot soldier and his equipment. A major theme at the conference was the challenge facing industry and military leaders tasked with finding the equipment for the future objective force infantryman.

Based on lessons learned from more than a decade of peacekeeping missions--often less than peaceful--the infantry force envisioned for the future is intended to be a single lethal force. According to infantry combat developers from Fort Benning, Ga., future commanders will send one infantry force to the battlefield, rather than choose between light or heavy forces.

Planners expect high-tempo, limited-duration combat. Enemy forces likely will choose asymmetric combat methods. The goal is to develop an objective infantry force that can meet a wide range of conflict, from humanitarian missions to full-scale war. That force--the Brigade Combat Team (BCT)--is expected to be fully operational in 2025.

The BCT combines light infantry with the tactical mobility of the mechanized force. The BCT, in various iterations, ultimately will be the infantry force structure of the Army's objective force.

Experiences in Kosovo appear to be driving the early stages of development in designing the BCT.

Firepower will include more mortars, more Javelins and more weapons of interest to the small arms world.

Army planners envision a sniper squad in every battalion, and a designated marksman in every squad. In addition to the increased number of precision rifles, the infantryman of the future will replace the M16 assault rifle with the Objective Individual Combat Weapon (OICW).

Under development since the mid-1990s, the OICW is intended strictly for infantry soldiers. Facing what appears to the OICW designers from Alliant Techsystems as a general misunderstanding fed by a constant onslaught of misinformation, company representatives were quick to point out that the system remains in the early stages of development (related story, p. 26).

Compared to the M16 legacy weapons, the OICW is heavy and bulky. Alliant Tech-systems engineers point out that the current comparisons to the legacy M16 assault rifle neglect to account for the various attachments needed to enhance the older weapon's performance. Even with the performance-enhancing accessories, the latest version of the M16 cannot match the lethality expected from the OICW, according to its designers.

When asked about the OICW's weight and bulk, company representatives expressed confidence in their ability to reduce the weapon from its current 18 pounds to a more manageable 14. The current weight of the OIGW--with its 15 to 19 pounds including peripheral equipment with similar features--compares favorably with the modular version of the M16, said company representatives.

The Army expects the OICW which includes a laser tracking system and improved accuracy per round, to increase lethality. That factor is expected to reduce the logistical footprint without diminishing the soldier's effectiveness.

Army representatives said the current small arms inventory meets the requirements of the BCT although they are working with the program manager for the BCT as the program evolves.

Other weapons under development at Picatinny include an under-barrel 12 gauge shotgun. The new Lightweight Shotgun System (LSS) weapon was developed in cooperation with Colt's Manufacturing Company Inc., of Hartford, Conn.

Two variants were designed to attach under the barrel of either the M16 assault rifle or the M4 carbine, a 21.5 inch barrel for the former and a shorter 16.25 inch barrel for the latter. Both versions give the shooter the option of a range of standard commercially available 12 gauge or less-than-lethal ammunition. It operates from a straight pull bolt action and uses the sights of the host assault rifle.

The LSS team designed three magazines in two, three and five rounds. While tests at Fort Benning, Ga., in October 1999, proved successful, program managers at Picatinny also are looking at a new stand alone version of the LSS as a future project. The perceived marker for the new weapon includes the special operations community, diplomatic security and law enforcement.

Also at the conference, two new bullpup assault rifles were on display and demonstrated. The 5.56 x 45 mm Tavor from Israel Military Industries is the Israelis' answer to a perceived need for a compact weapon with the same effective range as a full-length barrel assault rifle.

The same could be said for Singapore Technologies' SAR 21 bullpup, which made its U.S. debut at the symposium. Although neither weapon represents a break from past kinetic energy small arms, both weapons attracted attention reflecting a growing trend toward compact but effective small arms.

Both offer innovative adaptations of the latest in materials technology and ergonomics to small arms. They also represent both companies' design and manufacturing capabilities relative to their competitors in the international defense market.
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Copyright 2001, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:NDIA Small Arms Symposium
Author:Ezell, Virginia Hart
Publication:National Defense
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 1, 2001
Words:815
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