Infantry: September 10, 2000


The US Army has approved the formal acquisition of the new Objective Individual Combat Weapon. This combines a rifle firing 5.56mm ammunition with a grenade launcher firing 20mm grenades. The rifle is computerized and has a laser rangefinder; it can program its grenades to explode at a specific point. (A soldier could engage an enemy rifleman hiding behind an obstacle by checking the range to the obstacle and then, with one button, setting the grenade to detonate 1m beyond the obstacle and adjusting his point of aim to just above or one side of it. The Army currently plans to outfit four members of each nine-man squad with the OICW. Alliant, which designed the new rifle, has now received a $95 million contract for "project definition and risk reduction". The biggest problem is weight. The OICW currently weighs in at 8.17kg (18 pounds), but is expected to be reduced to 6.36kg (14 pounds) before entering production. The weapons are to reach front-line combat troops by 2009. The OICW will cost about $10,000 per unit (far more than the M16 at $586) but will be more effective. Greater effectiveness would, in theory, allow a smaller army to take fewer casualties while defeating a larger enemy force.--Stephen V Cole 


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