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Weapons: Ma Deuce Goes Back To The Drawing Board
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May 19, 2008:  The U.S. Department of Defense has given General Dynamics $9 million to try and develop a lightweight .50 caliber (12.7mm) machine-gun (to be known as LW50MG for the moment) that works. An earlier attempt (the XM312) by General Dynamics did not work out so well.

 

Three years ago, field testing of the XM-312, the proposed replacement for the eighty year old, .50 caliber (12.7mm) M-2 machine-gun, began, in the United States and overseas. Then, nothing. That's because the test results were not encouraging, the biggest shortcoming being the low rate of fire (about 260 rounds per minute). This is about half the rate of the M2, and was believed adequate for the 25mm smart shells the XM312 was originally designed for (as the XM307). But for 12.7mm bullets, it didn't impress the troops. There were some reliability problems, which could be fixed. The rate-of-fire issue, however, has proved to be more difficult. Meanwhile, a new upgrade for the M2 has been fielded, and Ma Deuce still rules the battlefield. The new M2E2 has a quick change barrel, flash hider and lot of small improvements. It is much in demand.

 

Originally, the M2 replacement was going to be the M-307, which was designed so it could fire either the computer controlled 25mm "smart shell" of the XM-25, or (by changing the barrel and receiver), .50 caliber ammo. But it was felt that a straight replacement for the M-2 was needed quickly. The original plan was for the troops to begin getting the XM312 in 2008, or sooner. But the dismal test results produced a trip back to the drawing board.

 

 The M-2, nicknamed "Ma Deuce" by the troops, has been around so long because it was very good at what it does. Accurate, reliable, rugged and easy to use, many of the M-2s currently in use are decades old, and finally wearing out. The army doesn't want to build new ones, and wasn't sure it could do without the venerable, and very useful, M2. So it ended up going ahead with the plan to build a new .50 caliber machine-gun (the XM312). Actually, this Ma Deuce replacement is basically the XM307, but without the ability to fire 25mm rounds. The XM312 weighs 36 pounds (compared to 50 for the M-2), even with the addition of the electronic fire control stuff from the XM307.  The LW50MG will ignore the 25mm business, and probably borrow a lot of ideas from superior 12.7mm designs developed in other nations. That's because the LW50MG won't be the first lightweight rival for the Ma Deuce replacement market. Buying a superior foreign replacement is difficult politically (although it is done), and there is also the feeling that the superior foreign weapons aren't as superior as they could be.

 

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