U.S. Army soldiers will be soon equipped with a new lighter machine gun version of M249 SAW

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United States US Army News

 
 
Monday, July 18, 2011, 07:35 PM
 
U.S. Army soldiers will be soon equipped with a new lighter machine gun version of M249 SAW.
Any U.S. Army 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.
     
Any U.S. Army 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.
Kori Phillips, an ARDEC systems management engineer, talks to Sgt. Jason Reed about the chamber of the lighter version of the M249 machine gun. (U.S. Army picture)
     

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, or LSAT.

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 that the Soldier is overburdened,” he continued. “The Soldier carries too much weight 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.

     
Any U.S. Army 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.
Sgt. Jason Reed, Soldier System Center in Natick, Mass., demonstrates firing the LSAT light machine gun from the kneeling position. (U.S. army picture)

     

Excess weight significantly affects the speed of maneuver 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 tremendous 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 try out the new lightweight 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.

The Army’s chief scientist, Scott Fish, also attended the demonstration and tested the weapon first-hand. He later said he was extremely impressed and eager to learn more about the system.

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