USA — Soldiers prefer lighter machine gun during assessment

QUANTICO, Va. — A mil­i­tary util­i­ty assess­ment held at Fort Ben­ning, Ga., in Sep­tem­ber 2011 has con­clud­ed that all par­tic­i­pat­ing Sol­diers imme­di­ate­ly noticed the reduced weight of a pro­to­type light machine gun and most would pre­fer it to the cur­rent squad auto­mat­ic weapon used in bat­tle.

Spc. Timo Swan­er engages a close range tar­get with the light machine dur­ing a mil­i­tary unit assess­ment at Fort Ben­ning, Ga., Octo­ber 2011.
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The light machine gun, known as the LMG, is part of the Light­weight Small Arms Tech­nolo­gies, or LSAT, pro­gram at the Arma­ment Research, Devel­op­ment and Engi­neer­ing Cen­ter at Picatin­ny Arse­nal.

In Sep­tem­ber 2011, near­ly 20 Sol­diers par­tic­i­pat­ed in a two-week assess­ment of the LMG. The pur­pose of that event was to help engi­neers and devel­op­ers under­stand and val­i­date any adjust­ments or improve­ments the weapon and its unique ammu­ni­tion may need from the per­spec­tive of the warfight­er. Anoth­er pur­pose was to demon­strate its poten­tial impact on mis­sion effec­tive­ness.

The results of the study con­duct­ed by the Maneu­ver Bat­tle Lab at Fort Ben­ning were pre­sent­ed March 13 to a group of mil­i­tary and civil­ian per­son­nel inter­est­ed in the pro­gram dur­ing an LSAT Lead­er­ship Famil­iar­iza­tion Shoot at Marine Corps Base Quan­ti­co, Va.

Last year’s mil­i­tary util­i­ty assess­ment, or MUA, demon­strat­ed the advan­tages that the LMG pro­vides for the warfight­er, and helped in devel­op­ing a Capa­bil­i­ty Devel­op­ment Doc­u­ment , or CDD. A CDD is required before the sys­tem can tran­si­tion to a pro­gram of record and enter the engi­neer­ing and man­u­fac­tur­ing devel­op­ment phase of the acqui­si­tion life cycle.

More than 25,000 rounds were fired from eight pro­to­type LMG’s dur­ing the assess­ment. Par­tic­i­pat­ing Sol­diers over­whelm­ing­ly pre­ferred the LMG to the M249 SAW, which is the machine gun cur­rent­ly used in Afghanistan.

Fif­teen of the 19 Sol­diers who par­tic­i­pat­ed stat­ed that, if giv­en a choice, they would rather take the LMG to war over the M249.

The study also revealed a sig­nif­i­cant reduc­tion in the time it took the Sol­diers to zero the LMG com­pared to the M249 SAW. Zero­ing the weapon means cus­tomiz­ing it for a more accu­rate shot since each weapon is unique and no two are exact­ly the same.

The Sol­diers had to qual­i­fy on a known dis­tance range with both the SAW and the LMG. One Sol­dier repeat­ed­ly failed to meet qual­i­fi­ca­tion stan­dards while fir­ing the SAW, but passed on the first try with the LMG.

Com­pared to the M249 SAW, the light machine gun is 21.5 pounds (41 per­cent) lighter for the gun­ner, and there is a 12 per­cent reduc­tion in ammu­ni­tion vol­ume. This decrease in weight was evi­dent when all the Sol­diers maneu­vered the wood­land obsta­cle course faster while car­ry­ing the LMG ver­sus the SAW.


On aver­age, the course was com­plet­ed faster by one minute and eleven sec­onds with the LMG, an increased agili­ty that could be crit­i­cal on the bat­tle­field.

Sol­diers attrib­uted the increased mobil­i­ty when mov­ing and nego­ti­at­ing obsta­cles to the short­ened weapon length, the adjustable butt stock and lighter ammu­ni­tion.

After the brief­ing at Quan­ti­co, key Army lead­ers gained expe­ri­ence with the weapon while shoot­ing rounds down range.

Lt. Col. Jack Emer­son, the mil­i­tary deputy to the Army chief sci­en­tist, fired both weapons and imme­di­ate­ly iden­ti­fied the recoil reduc­tion in the LSAT LMG.

“The recoil is non-exis­tent,” Emer­son said. “I can feel the dif­fer­ence and I’m no weapons expert.”

Tom Carade­schi , chief engi­neer in Project Man­ag­er Maneu­ver Ammu­ni­tion Sys­tem, or PM-MAS, said “the dif­fer­ence is like night and day (and) just the weight of hold­ing the weapon with­out even think­ing of fir­ing.” PM MAS is part of the Pro­gram Exec­u­tive Office for Ammu­ni­tion.

Because of the find­ings dur­ing the assess­ment, Maj. Gen. Robert Brown, com­mand­ing gen­er­al for the U.S. Army’s Maneu­ver Cen­ter of Excel­lence at Fort Ben­ning, signed a let­ter com­mit­ting fund­ing for more eval­u­a­tions of the LMG in a For­ward Oper­a­tional Assess­ment in Afghanistan.

The LSAT pro­gram is man­aged by the Joint Ser­vice Small Arms Pro­gram, which is also part of ARDEC.

Tex­tron Sys­tems’ AAI Cor­po­ra­tion is the prime con­trac­tor and sys­tems inte­gra­tor for a team of six addi­tion­al com­pa­nies that con­tribute to the LSAT pro­gram.

U.S. Army