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Weapons: USMC Seeks New LMG
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May 29, 2007: For the last two years, the U.S. Marine Corps has been shopping for a new light (5.56mm) machine-gun (LMG), to replace the M249, which the army and marines began using in the early 1980s. The marines have had a lot of complaints about the M249 in Iraq (jams from all the dust and sand), and many of the marine M249s are simply wearing out.

 

The new marine IAR (Infantry Automatic Rifle) must be between 10.5 and 12.5 pounds empty, use a large magazine (100 rounds or more) as well as the standard M-16 30 round magazine. The heavy barrel on the IAR must be able to handle sustained fire of 36-75 rounds a minute. The higher number is the ideal. It must have the standard rail on top for mounting accessories, be resistant to jamming from dust and sand and, in general, be a lot better than the M249. The marines will buy 4,000 weapons initially, and wants to do so soon.

 

The M249 weighs 15 pounds empty, and has been popular with the troops. But in over two decades, despite several tweaks to the basic design, many complaints have piled up. The marines were not the first ones to take action on a replacement. Three years ago SOCOM (U.S. Special Operations Command) began using the Mk 46 Light Machine Guns. This weapon is a modified version of the American M249 squad automatic weapon (SAW), which is in turn a modified version of a European design from the Belgian firm FN. The Mk 46 is lighter (13 pounds empty, 18 pounds loaded, with 200 rounds, compared to 22 pounds for the M249) and has the rail on top for the quick attachment of sights and such. The lighter weight is accomplished with a newly designed barrel, and removing various bits of hardware SOCOM didn't want. Added is a forward pistol grip and a detachable bipod. SOCOM likes to use the Mk 46 more like a "heavy assault rifle" than a "light machine-gun."

 

U.S. Army Special Forces pioneered the development of the 5.56mm light machine-gun four decades ago, when they obtained the first experimental models for use in Vietnam. The Special Forces and SEALs were very impressed with the light weight, and heavy firepower, from these weapons. But it took over a decade for the regular army to adopt such a weapon, mainly in response to the success the Russians were having with their own version of the lightweight squad machine-gun.

 

The army is also making noise about an M249 replacement, and are watching the marine competition with great interest. So far the marines have received interesting proposals from Colt and Ultimax (from Singapore).

 

 

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trenchsol    H&K   5/29/2007 7:27:24 AM
Is there some kind of a dispute between H&K and US Military ? I have an impression that the Military is, kind of, ignoring H&K. Does it have something to do with OICW project ?

DG


 
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Horsesoldier       5/29/2007 9:04:35 AM

Is there some kind of a dispute between H&K and US Military ? I have an impression that the Military is, kind of, ignoring H&K. Does it have something to do with OICW project ?

DG




I don't think the HK MG4 was submitted for consideration by the USMC.  I believe this is because the MG4 does not offer any significant improvement over the FN Minimi/SAW.  HK does has the SAW variant of the XM8, but that weapon system seems to have a bunch of critical flaws for the SAW role, including no quick change barrel ability.
 
Other than that, I don't think there is any friction between the US military and HK, only the reality that HK weapons, under testing, don't tend to live up to the media/internet hype associated with them.  Not that they are not good to excellent weapons, but they are rarely head and shoulders above their competition.
 
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trenchsol       5/29/2007 9:52:52 AM
Well, H&K UMP is a couple years old now, and I am still not aware of any military or police force using it. Is that for the same reason ?

Considering LMG, 10.5 - 12.5 pounds requirement, that is very light for machine gun. It could compromise sturdiness...

DG



 
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Horsesoldier       5/29/2007 11:17:05 AM

Well, H&K UMP is a couple years old now, and I am still not aware of any military or police force using it. Is that for the same reason ?

Considering LMG, 10.5 - 12.5 pounds requirement, that is very light for machine gun. It could compromise sturdiness...

DG





I think the UMP has enjoyed some sales in law enforcement circles.  For the military, I think the problem is mostly that not many people in the US military have any real operational requirement for submachineguns.  Those that do have such a requirement either prefer to use 5.56mm short barrel carbines or have access to existing inventories of assorted MP5s.  The UMP might be a good replacement for those existing MP5s whenever they need replacement, but my (admittedly limited) experience with military issue MP5s would indicate that they're not likely to need replacing for quite a while (at least the examples my unit has in our arms room are in very good, almost brand new kind of condition).
 
For the weight of the USMC request -- I agree that the weight is low for a dedicated light machinegun.  The Marines seem to have never really warmed up to the idea of a fire team level light machinegun, and have been making rumblings about wanting something more like a standard assault rifle with large magazine capacity (M16 with Beta C-Mag or similar) for some time (though the weapons they're currently looking at are more capable than that option).  Personally, I think they should refurbish their existing SAWs, modify them to the Para-SAW specs if they have not already done so (makes for a much handier weapon for CQC work), and see where the Army research on a SAW replacement goes with its examination of caseless and CTA ammo.
 
 
 
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ChdNorm       5/29/2007 12:07:57 PM
I actually think the Marines might be moving into the right direction. The 249 might be a bit much for the role it fills. The SAW gunner in a fireteam would be almost as effective if replaced with a more classically defined automatic rifle (I'm thinking BAR and BREN types here) versus a light machine gun in all but sustained fires. The individual mobility of the gunner would be greatly enhanced though.
 
I think H&K tends to suffer from their own self promotion to some degree. I am taking nothing away from them, they make some damn fine firearms. But, they seem make any selection process personal. If they don't win, the controversy they try to create to force the adoption of their products tends to kind of piss people off a little. I have no idea if that's how they do it with the DoD or not ... but that's how their LE reps often do things.
 
The UMP has seen some success in the LE market. Most departments have purchased them as simply one for one MP-5 replacements. They have snatched up quite a few of the Federal level LE contracts in the last few years as well. If I'm not mistaken they're current issue for the Border Patrol, US Marshals, and Treasury Dept.'s HRT/SRT/WET/SWAT or whatever name of the week theyre using now.
 
On the whole, the UMP wound up just being a day late. The SMG is out ... the chopped AR is in.  After enough experience with 5.56 in a LE capacity people finally noticed that it is a better choice, and always has been.
 
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trenchsol    RPK   5/29/2007 1:29:58 PM
Well, RPK and RPK-74 look good on paper.......joke. It would not accept M-16 magazine, and the caliber isn't right. But, maybe they had something like that in mind. RPK is light, but it overheats, far as I know. Specification does not require high rate of fire (it is with magazine change taken into account, most likely), so overheating is tolerable, maybe.

DG


 
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flamingknives       5/29/2007 1:53:18 PM
Mr. flamingpicky would like to point out that the Bren is a light machine gun in usage, design and designation, while the BAR is an automatic rifle.
 
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ambush       5/29/2007 11:47:25 PM
 

Automatic Rifle Concept: Part I?History and Empirical Testing

by CWO3 Jeffrey L. Eby
 
From: Marine Corps Gazette

‘Those German units fortunate enough to have officers who understood the effect of modern firepower went into battle in dispersed skirmish lines, with as many as six meters between each man and with each man granted the freedom to make use of whatever cover was available during his forward movement.’1?Bruce Gudmundsson
Stormtroop Tactics

 

The relationship between the lethality of weapons and the dispersion of the troops found on the same battlefield has been a consideration for commanders since man first engaged in combat. From the Spartan phalanx to German stormtroop operations, combat leaders have been forced to adjust their tactics to the technology of the day. The dispersion of the troops has always been a critical aspect of the tactics employed. As the lethality of weapons has increased so has the dispersion necessary to preserve combat power.

History
Throughout history, advances in technology have driven tactical changes. As smaller units of combatants have gained greater firepower, dispersion has become a critical function of survivability on the battlefield. Dispersion is not merely a function of physical distance between elements but also incorporates the elements of mobility, command, and control. One end of the spectrum of dispersion is a massed armed force in physical contact, slow to move, and under the direct observation and control of its senior leader. The opposite end of the spectrum is a force of individual skirmishers moving quickly and guided only by a general intent. Commanders have continually adjusted the deployment of their forces in order to most effectively bring fire to bear on the enemy while simultaneously attempting to minimize the effects of enemy fire on their own forces.

The combatants of World War I learned a number of lessons as they attempted to resolve how to increase dispersion in the face of increased firepower, while still maintaining some type of control over their squads and platoons. By increasing the training standards of the individual soldier they hoped to enable themselves to decentralize command and increase dispersion.2 Better trained soldiers could operate more effectively without direct supervision.

Realizing that coordinated rushes drew fire, soldiers began advancing using stealth, microterrain, and individual rushes.3 The development of a light machinegun and trench mortar?fielded at the squad level?increased the unit’s firepower without having to resort to linear formations of riflemen.4 Without the need to “build up the skirmish line,” squads could maneuver freely, furthering dispersion while maintaining offensive momentum.5

By the beginning of World War II almost all combatants possessed squad organizations built around light machineguns and automatic rifles (ARs). Armies fielded units capable of the dispersion necessary to survive and operate on this new, more expansive battlefield in both offensive and defensive operations.

As World War II progressed, American Army and Marine Corps squads focused on gaining further firepower that improved their survivability and allowed for further dispersion and movement. Army experiences in the bocage country of Normandy and the woods of the Huertgen forest led to two and even three Browning ARs (BARs) at the squad level. The American “light” machinegun?a water-cooled, .30 caliber model?could not be used in the assault due to its weight.6

The Marine Corps developed the fire team concept. As early as the Corps’ Nicaragua experience, Marines recognized the need for a squad-level automatic weapon.7 Through World War I and into the Pacific campaigns of World War II, Marine Corps squad development continually evolved toward smaller maneuver elements, each armed with an AR. In keeping with the “triangle” concept, the Corps finished World War II with the 3 fire team, 13-man squad still utilized today.8

By Vietnam the Marine Corps rifle squad lost the BAR as an AR largely due to logistical, vice tactical, concerns.9 Attempts to replace the BAR with a modified M14, a never fielded M15, or the M60 medium machinegun proved to be failures.10

After the Vietnam War the Marine Corps led development of the M16A2 to replace the M16A1. However, with the loss of the M16A1’s fu

 
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Rasputin       5/30/2007 10:56:09 AM
Might be abit sensitive here, but is there any reason as to why there are no small scale inservice field trials for all of  the said weapons?

Get the manufacturers to supply quantities of the LMGs together with technical support, and ship them to Iraq and Afganistan to be evaluated by the troopers in combat.

The fastest way to get the answer for the servicablility of the LMG trials would be to equip or simply make available quantities of these weapons to units in Iraq. Not only to special units like LRRP or SF units, but also to the front line infantry units, either equip them or let them select to their preference. Give them some trainning, loading swapping magazines and clearing jams, then see how suitable they are in use on foot, house to house or dismounting from APCs. The combat results from both Afganistan and Iraq would be the ideal test for selecting the right weapon.



 
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Jeff_F_F    Sorry to quibble but what?   5/30/2007 12:45:46 PM

As World War II progressed, American Army and Marine Corps squads focused on gaining further firepower that improved their survivability and allowed for further dispersion and movement. Army experiences in the bocage country of Normandy and the woods of the Huertgen forest led to two and even three Browning ARs (BARs) at the squad level. The American “light” machinegun?a water-cooled, .30 caliber model?could not be used in the assault due to its weight.6

Correct me if I'm wrong but that's referring to the M1919 - Yes its overly heavy for use as a LMG, but hardly water cooled:
 
Aside from that it is good info and perspective on why the USMC is moving away from the M249, and also demonstrates the reason why H&K is not high on the list of preferred weapons.
 
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