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Subject: What will be the next revolution in infantry weapons?
BasinBictory    12/24/2005 7:03:31 PM
Since this is in the sci-fi topic, what kind of weapon do you see becoming the standard infantry weapon for the average soldier? To me, laser, or particle beam weapons seem like just a fantasy mind extending to the standard-issue rifles we arm our troops with today. Try to imagine what a Middle Ages dreamer would think of if he applied his imaginings to the typical armament of a warrior in the pre-gunpowder era. He'd probably imagine some type of bow and arrow that could shoot multiple bolts at once, or a sword that could magically change length and even width, such that the functions of sword, spear and shield would be encompassed in one weapon, thus lightening the load to a warrior. It seems unlikely that such a dreamer would envision the gunpowder weapons that revolutionized warfare. What will the next revolution be?
 
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eon    RE:What will be the next revolution in infantry weapons?   12/27/2005 10:00:28 AM
Near-term (next decade); Advanced composite weapons, including composite (i.e., non-metallic)components replacing metal in barrels, bolts, etc. Rifle calibers, that went from .30in (7.5-7.62mm) to .22in (5.56-5.7mm) in the 1960s and 70s will once more change, to a median of roughly 7mm, allowing greater effective range (out to 1000m) with no unacceptable increase in recoil forces and weight. Pistols (9mm, etc.) will be replaced by Personal Defence Weapons (PDWs) with selective-fire capability, firing high-velocity assault-rifle type rounds of 4.5 to 6mm bore (the H & K PDW is the first of this new breed, but the concept dates back to the Colt Small CAliber Machine Pistol [SCAMP] proposal of 1974). Grenade launchers (i.e., the M203 blooper) will be replaced by a dedicated auto-grenade launcher system similar to the XM-26, but probably without the assault-rifle attachment (the guy with the auto-blooper gets a PDW for close combat instead). I expect bayonets to make a reappearance, as they are useful for MOBUA (Military Operations in Built-Up Areas), mainly because they dissuade people from trying to grab the muzzle of your weapon when you come through a doorway in a house-clearing situation (personal experience). Squad Auto Weapons (SAWs) will follow the trend toward 7mm bore; most will follow the example of the Ultimax 100 5.56mm SAW in having both dual feed systems (belt and/or drum magazines) plus selective-fire for reducing collateral damage in CTW (if the only guy who has a clear shot at a terr using a hostage as a human shield is your SAW gunner, you want him to be able to fire a single, precise shot, not a burst). Mid-term (10-30 years); Expect metallic-cartridge weapons to be superseded by ones firing Combustible Plastic-Cased Telescoped Ammunition (CPCTA), looking and working rather like a plastic shotgun shell without the brass "cup". Electric ignition will probably replace percussion cap (primer) using electric contacts in the head of the casing. Result will be auto-weapons with higher rates of fire; expect to see this technolgy deployed first in autocannon (20mm and up), and in heavy machine guns (12-15mm), which will (finally!) replace my old friend the "Ma Deuce" Browning .50 M2HB. By 2035 expect CPCTA weapons to be military standard in all classes from PDWs on up in most First World militaries. Far-term (30-50 years); expect electromagnetic weapons (railguns) to replace "conventional" arms in most categories, starting with tank cannon but eventually getting down to support MGs, SAWs, and possibly rifles. (I suspect it will be difficult to build a "gauss pistol", due to the legth of the accelerator unit). Lasers will become common as vehicle-mounted AAA and anti-missile (possibly even anti-artillery!) weapons. I don't expect to see laser smallarms much before 2075- but if somebody develops a small, high-amperage, durable room-temperature superconductor (RTSC) to handle high throughput, all bets are off. My crystal ball is cloudy, but this is what I see. Cheers. eon
 
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BasinBictory    RE:What will be the next revolution in infantry weapons?   12/29/2005 7:35:02 AM
Pretty interesting analysis, eon. If the development of weaponry so far is any guide, we might be in for a time of very rapid development. Consider how gunpowder weapons, when first developed, were extremely crude and dangerous to the user. There was then a gradual, but rather slow progression through the matchlock, the wheelock, the flintlock, and the percussion cap lock. The invention which touched off the huge revolution seen from between about 1850 and 1900 was the invention of smokeless powder. Overnight, virtually all black powder arms became obsolete. Newer and newer weapons were developed each succeeding year, spurred on by two world wars. After the second world war, small arms development more or less plateaued. Calibers changed, and sighting systems improved, but in all reality, the basic operating principle of a hot-rodded, modularized M4 Carbine as carried by a SPECOPS soldier in 2005 isn't a whole lot different from the basic operating mechanism of a Browning Automatic Rifle, circa 1918. Your theory about railguns is interesting. I can see where being able to accelerate a large munition like an artillery round faster than what is now possible would be an advantage, but in a rifle-sized package, would it really translate into a quantum leap of superiority? I guess if I thought about it in terms of black powder vs. smokeless powder, and the enormous increase in velocities, it starts to make sense. Calibers got much smaller in the era of smokeless powder, and with railgun technology, I can see BB-sized pellets becoming standard issue rounds, since accelerating them at say, 5000+ FPS would have the same kinetic energy as a much larger projectile going only 2800 FPS.
 
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eon    RE:Railguns   1/3/2006 9:51:48 AM
Happy New Year, BasinBictory, and everyone else. The primary advantage of railguns, or gauss weapons, or mass-drivers, or whatever you prefer to call them, >is< their potential for high velocity. Higher muzzle velocity=higher downrange velocity=flatter trajectory+shorter in-flight time-to-target= increased hit probability. Simply put, a faster round is easier to hit with, and only hits count. Plus, shorter flight time means you don't have to lead a crossing/moving target so much, again increasing hit probability. BTW, this is why lasers will make their first battlefield appearance as AAA; hitting a fast-mover going 1,000 km-per-hour is much easier with a weapon with a "muzzle velocity" of 300,000 km-per->second<. Unlike some SF writers, I don't believe that railguns will "give the infantryman a rifle that can knock out a tank". A 20th Century tank, absolutely; a T-72 or M60 with steel armor will get a hole blown clear through it by a rifle firing, say, a 5mm osmium/iridium alloy "dart" at 8-10 km-per-second. But by the time we have that, I suspect tanks will be armored with something much tougher than steel, like boron-nitride or other composites. Still, an infantryman with a "gauss SAW", for instance will have a weapon with over 2,000 m effective range, enough power to take down a modern light armored vehicle (a LAV or Stryker would >not< be a safe place to be with one of these pointed at you), and (assuming he can keep it fed) an appallingly high rate of fire (not as useful in CTW, but in open-country warfare, a serious threat, especially to army co-operation aircraft like helicopters). The result will be, as you stated, as great a quantum leap in military tactics as that caused by breechloading fireams and smokeless powder. I suspect that for those of us interested in small-arms technology, this is going to be an interesting half-century coming up. Cheers. eon
 
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Shooter2K    Next Infantry weapon;   2/9/2007 6:29:55 PM
Lasers and particle beams will never be real weapons for infantry. Ever! We already have LASER/MASER/BEAM WEAPONS that have "Energy Densities" high enough to ionise air! Once that happens the beam stops at that point! LASERs only work on planes because the exit apperature is larger in area than the ED mentioned above. More power needs larger optics!
The other poster who posited medium caliber replacement rifles is off of the track if he thinks you can launch a heavier slug with the same recoil and weight of weapon. It is impossable. Since the major Services from every interested Army have all found that the small caliber guns have reached the effectivness platoe (SP?) there is no way that a medium caliber weapon will be adopted for the average soldier. SpecOps guys are an other thing entirely, but they already have more powerfull weapons.
No, the future lies with Telescoped Plastic Cased  ammo loaded with frangable armor piercing flechettes. It will work in what ever weapon you choose,but will reduce recoil at any given level of energy and weapon weight! This will permit flatter trajectories, improved Ph and increased leathality. Caseless ammo will never reach the big leagues due to it's fragility and affinity for forign substances like water and dirt.
Finaly some one mentioned GAUSS RIFLES knocking out tanks. It will never happen! The recoil will be so fierce it will have to be mounted on a 25 tonne vehicle to survive fireing.
 
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Jeff_F_F       2/11/2007 11:09:10 AM
Gauss weapons hav many inherent advantages:
 
1) Felt recoil is more closely tied to momentum than energy. This is the idea behind low recoil handgun ammo that uses a lighter bullet but a hotter powder charge. You can take a smaller round and accelerate it to a higher MV. It will feel like the same recoil as your standard rifle but will have more energy and more penetration because its smaller cross section concentrates the force on a smaller area. You wouldn't generally take out tanks with an infantry weapon, but light armor will have a tough time.
 
2) You can vary the velocity easily. High MV for sniping work, lower MV for controlled bursts. Subsonic rounds are silent.
 
3) Your ROF is determined exclusively by how fast the action can operate (HK G11 could fire 2000 rpm from a rotating bolt) and how fast you can recharge the capacitors that fire the gun. Again, lower velocity for burst fire helps because you need less power and thus can recharge faster.
 
4) No need for propellant means you can carry a LOT more rounds. Imagine how many 5.56mm bullets (no case) you could carry, a Gauss weapon might well be smaller than that.
 
The major disadvantage of gauss weapons is their enormous power requirements. This will make it extremely challenging to make a self-contained weapon system. The large amounts of power required are due to two factors. The first is that all of the muzzle energy of the round must be supplied in the form of electricity, and the second is that much less than half of the electrical energy supplied is able to be converted into muzzle energy.
 
Another way to use electricity to accelerate a projectile is by using the electrical power to vaporize a propellant. Current efforts in this direction use the electricity to produce plasma, which then initiates the firing of the propellant charge. This system appears to be most useful in the context of large caliber guns for tanks and artillery.
 
Research has also been conducted into using electricity to vaporize a liquid propellant. This system could theoretically be used with any propellant, even water. The advantage of this form is that when the liquid is superheated, it does not immediately change into vapor. Some of it does change into vapor, filling any empty space and creating enormous pressure in the firing chamber. At such enormous pressure, a phase change is impossible. However as the bullet moves down the barrel, that pressure is relieved, allowing more of the liquid to transform into vapor, and maintaining the pressure. In such a weapon, the propellant gasses would have a perfectly equal pressure on the projectile througout the barrel allowing the maximum possible acceleration of the projectile to be achieved. The disadvantage of using an inert liquid such as water is that again, all of the energy must be supplied by the electrical charge, thought the efficiency of the conversion of electricity to muzzle energy would be much higher. Because of this, using a propellant where a chemical reaction will occur that releases additional energy is very desirable. Since the chemical reaction of the propellant produces more energy than was originally put into it electrically, and since part of that energy goes into the bullet and part is converted into recoil, electrical energy could be generated from the recoil force to recharge the weapon's power supply.
 
Liquid propellant would have many advantages for an infantry rifle. The first is that it would eleminate the need for cartridge cases, without incurring the disadvantages inherent in caseless ammunition. The propellant would probably be carried in some sort of bladder allowing the gun's mechanism to squeeze the needed amount of propellant into the firing chamber. In addition, since the bullets are separate from the propellant, different firing chambers or a firing chamber that changed its internal volume through a piston or similar system could be used to allow the weapon to fire different amounts of propellant for different missions. For long-range single shot fire, a large propellant charge could be used. For burst or automatic fire a smaller propellant charge would allow reduced recoil. Even a subsonic charge would be possible so that the weapon could be used with a silencer.
 
This technology would make the rotating bolt of the HK G11 more practical, since concerns about the caseless ammunition's ability to stand up to abuse would be less of an issue. In my view, the extremely rapid burst fire--essentially turning the weapon into a long range shotgun--would be the ideal solution to current concerns about stoppi
 
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Jeff_F_F    Nonlethal to replace lethal?   2/11/2007 11:37:25 AM
I'm actually suspecting that less than lethal weapons may completely supplant conventional weapons on the battlefield in the future. The limitation of lethal weapons are that they are really not that effective at instantaneously incapacitating an opponent. According to the FBI, against a sufficiently motivated opponent only destruction of the central nervous system can reliably stop an opponent instantly, and most of the time when a shot does knock an opponent down, it is basically because the victim believed that you are supposed to fall down when shot, not because of any knockdown ability of the weapon. According to the FBI, even if the heart is completely destroyed, the oxygenated blood in an opponent's brain leaves the victim physiologically able to continue deliberate action for 10-15 seconds.
 
Because of this, the ideal combat weapon would be one which attacks the CNS directly, without requiring the precision of head shots. This is the holy grail for less than lethal weapons designers as well. Because of this, the revolution in infantry weapons may well come from this direction rather than from either projectile or directed energy weapons in the conventional sense.
 
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Jeff_F_F       2/12/2007 1:21:10 PM
This product came up on another discussion. Though they were originally concieved as a less than lethal munition, they can be adapted to conventional munition. Not sure how penetration would be effected though
 
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tuan12111993       9/8/2013 9:56:14 AM
I love other replies on railguns and rayguns. All are interesting. But I have one thing in mind. Railguns and rayguns are interesting, but I are they necessary? I mean, do we really need another revolution in weaponry? Surely a replacement to the gunpowder weaponry would be good, but I think the contemporary gunpowder weapons are already very deadly. Is this really necessary to replace them with railguns and rayguns while they already do their job?
 
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ker    Leyden Balls   9/8/2013 10:09:14 PM
In 20K Leagues Under the Sea, published in 1870, Jules Verne described Leyden Ball amunition which was fired from and air rifles and produced an electrical shock on impact. They were very deadly. Bullet desighn can be a balance between concerving energy in flight and expending energy in the target. Long thin darts fly much better and penetrate body armor better but cause less imparement to the target because they overpenatrate. Solution use kenetic energy to get into the target and then use electric energy to disrupt the targets nervuse system instantly. Waiting for the target to bleed to death is no good.
 
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ker       9/8/2013 10:22:50 PM
I think well trained armys will continue to get smaller and better trained. Training simulations get better and cheaper if you have the skill to do them well. Well trained armys also get more sencetive to leagual and pr ativity and spent lots of time on the side lines. Weapoons for armed civlains become more important. Reducing the training time needed before fighting effectivly will be high on some ones R and D wish list. Remember that midevil archers could mop the battlefeild against Napolionic armys if they were present in equal numbers. The masave cost of training mideval profesional fighters ment their were few of them. Gun powder weapons let relitivly untrained conscripts fight much better. AK 47 did something like the same thing. So one small arms revolution will be weapons that preform well in the hands of random people pulled ot of refuge camps with one hour of training. You get the training from a vid player that is wired into the weapon.
 
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