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Wednesday, Jul. 20, 2011

Soldiers may soon have lighter machine gun

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PICATINNY ARSENAL, N.J. — Any Soldier who has ever served as a squad automatic weapon gunner is resigned to the burden of lugging a heavy weapon and ammunition on patrol. Soldiers may soon have a solution, however; one that cuts the weight of small-arms ammunition nearly in half and provides a potential replacement for the SAW that weighs a whopping 8.3 pounds less than the current M249.

The weight reduction comes in the form of a new light machine gun and ammunition developed by engineers from the Lightweight Small Arms Technologies program.

The program is managed by the Joint Service Small Arms Program, which is part of the Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center at Picatinny Arsenal.

“LSAT is all about reducing Soldier load,” said Maj. Matt Bowler, a military adviser to the small arms program. “We know the Soldier is overburdened ... so anything we can do to reduce Soldier load increases the Soldier’s effectiveness, his capability on the battlefield and his survivability.”

The weight reduction provided by the LSAT will have a significant impact for the SAW gunner, the most heavily burdened Soldier in the squad.

According to a study conducted in 2005, the average fighting load for the SAW gunner is 79 pounds. That is nearly twice the weight a Soldier should carry, according to Army doctrine. Excess weight significantly affects the maneuver speed of the SAW gunner and therefore the entire squad, which relies on suppressive fire from the SAW gunner to support its movement. So how is such a weight reduction achieved?

“We are using cased telescoped ammunition which uses a strong plastic case instead of a traditional brass case,” said Kori Phillips, a systems management engineer with ARDEC.

Weight reduction for the weapon was achieved by designing the new weapon platform using the latest materials technologies as well as modeling and simulation to achieve minimal weight without compromising performance.

With a basic load of 1,000 rounds, the LSAT light machine gun and its cased telescoped ammunition is 20.4 pounds lighter than a traditional SAW with the same amount of standard, brass-cased ammunition.

To test out the new techlightweight ammunition and machine gun, a small group of Soldiers and members of the Army and Navy Senior Executive Service attended a live-fire demonstration in June at the Marine Corps Base in Quantico, Va.

One Soldier who appreciated the lack of brass during the live-fire demonstration was Maj. Gen. Nick Justice, commanding general of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command.

“I’m used to getting hot brass in my face since I am left handed,” Justice said.

A video of the demonstration can be seen at www.youtube.com/PicatinnyArsena1.

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