Infantry: October 19, 1999


The Army expects its new rifle (the Objective Individual Combat Weapon) to be in service by 2007. The OICW includes both a 5.56mm carbine and a 20mm grenade launcher, but it is vastly more than this. It weights 19 pounds. The weapon incorporates computer controls and a laser rangefinder, and is specifically designed to (for the first time in military history) defeat targets hiding behind cover. Using the system, the soldier aims his weapon at the target, then uses the laser rangefinder to determine an accurate range. Buttons on the rifle then adjust the burst point of the 20mm shell a meter or two beyond the laser's range. The soldier can evaluate for himself if his laser is targeting the enemy soldier or the tree or log he is hiding behind and adjust accordingly. The on-board computer then calculates and projects into the rifle scope an aim point designed to place the 20mm grenade 1 meter above or to one side of the target. The round is then fired, explodes at a point where the enemy soldier is not protected by cover, disabling him. The round will project fragments out to 5 meters. These can penetrate Kevlar body armor, but not plate metal armor. The Army feels that it need not penetrate plate armor because this cannot cover the entire target and at least one fragment will strike an unprotected area. In tests with 136 rounds, 98% have functioned correctly. One major problem is that the 20mm rounds cost $35 each and the Army wants to equip (and therefore train) every infantryman with the complete OICW weapon system (both 5.56mm and 20mm). The two sub-systems are designed so that (with minor attachments) they could be fielded as separate weapons.

The 5.56mm carbine can be set for single-shot or a two-round burst. The Army has found that the third-round of a three-round burst is usually wasted because the weapon has "walked" off the aim point. The weapon can use duplex ammunition (two bullets per cartridge) to put more projectiles down range and increase the chance of a hit.--Stephen V Cole

October 19; Smith & Wesson has released a new line of lightweight revolvers known as AirLite Ti. To save weight, the frame is aluminum while the cylinder is titanium. The barrel, hammer, trigger, and springs are steel. The .38 special version weighs only 11.4 ounces; the .44 special model weighs only 18.8 ounces. Each holds only five rounds rather than the usual six.--Stephen V Cole


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