Optics enhancements are in the works, starting with dumping complicated Mil-Dot reticles in favor of with a modern stadia type offering rapid estimation by fitting targets within graduated ranging overlays.
New sniper scopes are on the way, incorporating sophisticated laser rangefinders with electronic DOPE (Data On Previous Engagement) databases.
Two whiz-bang fire control systems are being conjured up by techno-spooks at DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), pushing cutting-edge technologies to increase operational range and hit probability for sniper-spotter teams:
“One Shot” program seeks a technically advanced spotting scope capable of calculating cumulative wind effects to target and providing a near-instantaneous, accurate, adjusted ballistic aimpoint to the shooter.
The EXACTO program takes One Shot to the “smart munitions” level; maybe like a laser guided bomb for snipers. It’s said to be a spotting scope-based target acquisition and guidance system that steers maneuverable .50 caliber projectiles directly to a target.
While SADJ doesn’t shy away from wondering if EXACTO will be a ballistic breakthrough or an expensive, dead-end boondoggle, PEO Soldier documentation predicts maturity of these technologies and transition to the field over the next four years.
Long range precision shooters should take particular note of an exciting development unveiled by PMSW just before this article was completed.
It’s a significant upgrade to the tried and true M24 Sniper Weapon System, that classic Remington 700 bolt action rifle, optimized for .308 cal. Winchester M118 Special Ball ammo.
The new “M24 Reconfigured Sniper Weapon System” carries the designation XM2010, now chambered for hot .300 Winchester Magnum rounds and wrapped in a modernistic skeletonized chassis.
5-round box magazine to make the system easier to load and reload with the additional option to change out ammunition quickly.
Rail endowed chassis and free floating barrel that allow for easier mounting of weapon accessories and greater accuracy
Folding and adjustable stock that includes comb and length-of-pull adjustments
Leupold Mark 4 6.5-20×50mm Extended Range/Tactical riflescope with advanced scalable ranging and targeting reticle; fielded with the AN/PVS-29 Clip-on Sniper Night Sight
Quick attach/detach Advanced Armament Corp. suppressor to reduce audible and visible signature with an available thermal sleeve that reduces mirage effect on heated suppressors.
The upgrade is said to have received high marks from skilled shooters involved in testing and evaluation.
“The XM2010 had pinpoint precision,” said SFC Robert Roof, NCOIC/Chief Instructor, United States Army Sniper School. “We were able to achieve shots well within the weapon’s capabilities both during limited visibility and during the day. The optics were clear and easy to use and the ergonomics of the weapon made it very comfortable to shoot.”
Remington won the contract following competitive trials and is well positioned to supply as many as 3,600 of these upgraded M24s with the first to be fielded in 2011.
Better M4 and a Brand-New Carbine?
While bravely defending against decades of criticism over reliability and durability of the 1.1 million M16/M4 weapon systems currently fielded, PMSW acknowledges the desirability of even more “product improvements.”
PEO Soldier is currently pursuing a “dual path” strategy; continuously improving the half million M4 Carbines in the field while simultaneously conducting a search for a replacement.
M4 Gets More
The first path is the three phase improvement plan for the M4, adding to more than 60 refinements since its introduction:
1. The Army will purchase 25,000 improved M4A1 Carbines with a heavier barrel for greater sustained rate of fire and fully automatic function in an ambidextrous fire control assembly (FCA). A solicitation will be issued for kits to convert up to 65,000 in-service M4s to A1 configuration.
2. Incorporate improvements in forward rail assemblies to increase accessory integration and more durable bolts and bolt carrier assemblies.
3. Evaluate commercially available operating systems against the performance of the M4’s current gas impingement system. It might even be an off-the-shelf piston kit.
At the same time that M4A1 upgrades are underway, Secretary of the Army has ordered a “full and open competition” for a possible replacement.
There’s a new requirements document and money is in hand to search for a new carbine that can outperform the current M16 and M4 series weapon systems.
It’s supposed to have improved features such as fully ambidextrous controls, semi- and full-automatic fire, and accurate and reliable firepower. In addition, integrated rails will accept accessories that currently attach to Mil-Std 1913 rails.
The new carbine will be capable of firing the family of U.S. Standard Type Classified rounds or nonstandard ammunition “with the same capabilities as the current 5.56mm family of ammunition.” We hope that’s actually supposed to read “better” capabilities.
Although combat use of handguns by conventional forces is said to be “statistically insignificant,” the intensely personal preferences of those who pack standard issue pistols is not kind to those designs handicapped by 9mm FMJ ammo, decidedly lacking in lethality.
And in the U.S. Army since 1989, that’s the Beretta M9, an eminently serviceable semiautomatic that’s been unfairly maligned as unreliable due to stingy bureaucrats buying crappy magazines.
Credit Air Force Security for getting the latest handgun battle moving with the necessary validation from the Joint Requirements Oversight Council.
But it’s the Army taking the lead with what’s called the Modular Handgun System (MHS); a “non-caliber specific weapon” finished in a non-reflective neutral color with modular features to allow for adapting different fire control options, aiming aids on Mil-Std 1913 rails, alternate magazine choices, take a sound and flash suppressor and will fit various hand sizes.
Plenty of commercial firms have been working on all this for many, many years so there should be no lack of contenders. The timeline calls for trials and selection in FY11–12, completion of testing in FY13 and Type Classification expected in FY14.
Crew Served Weapons Future Initiatives
The American GI is a clever fellow and his natural admiration for the capabilities of vehicle mounted CROWS has led to urgent requests for a way to put these remote control rigs on top of guard towers.
The idea is to increase effectiveness by enabling them to conduct surveillance and engage threats from inside. That’s right – from up in the CROWS nest.
Armament, Research Development & Engineering Center (ARDEC) engineers are on it, working to retrofit an earlier CROWS variant into The Protector Lite Static Platform System.
Video and thermal surveillance cameras allow threat detection in all light and weather conditions and assist in accurate aiming of on-board M240B or M249 machine guns from elevated positions out to a range of 500-1,000 meters.
Ma Deuce on a Diet
The 90 year old “Ma Deuce” M2HB machine gun is getting a bit of modernization in the form of a Quick Change Barrel kit that speeds the process of swapping overheated barrels and eliminates the need for setting headspace and timing. And she’s getting a serious new rival.
The XM806 Lightweight .50 Caliber Machine Gun is intended to deliver heavy machine gun punch at about half the weight of the M2HB, making it particularly attractive to special operations, as well as airborne, airmobile, mountain, and light infantry forces.
Other important advantages claimed for the gun include 60 percent reduced recoil, improved reliability, manual safety, and a quick-change barrel with no adjustment needed for headspace and timing.
Development has reached the point where initial fielding is projected for sometime in 2011.
PM SW’s Current Small Arms Lineup: Weapons
9mm M9 Pistol
5.56mm M16A2 and A4 Rifles
5.56mm M4 Carbine
5.56mm M349 Squad Automatic Weapon
7.62mm M24 Sniper Weapon System
7.62mm M14 Enhanced Battle Rifle
7.62mm M110 Semi-Automatic Sniper System
7.62mm M240B, H, L Medium Machine Guns
7.62mm Mk48 Mod0 Machine Gun
.300 Win Mag caliber XM24E1 (now XM2010) Enhanced Sniper Rifle
12 gauge M500 Shotgun
12 gauge M26 Modular Accessory Shotgun System
.50 caliber M2 and M2E2 Heavy Machine Guns
.50 caliber M107 Long Range Sniper Rifle
.50 caliber XM806 Light .50 caliber Machine Gun
25mm XM25 Counter Defilade Target Engagement System
40mm M203 and M203A2 Grenade Launchers
40mm M320 Grenade Launcher
40mm Mk19 Grenade Machine Gun
XM153 Common Remotely Operated Weapon System
Improved M16 Magazine
M68 Close Combat Optic
M150 Rifle Combat Optic
M145 Machine Gun Optic
M24 Mini Binoculars
M25 Stabilized Binoculars
Close Quarters Battle Kit
M2E2 Quick Change barrel Kit
M192 Light Weight Ground Mount for Machine Guns
XM205 Light Weight Tripod for Heavy Machine Guns
Close Combat Mission Capability Kit
XM1037 5.56mm Short-Range Training Round
XM1022 .50 Caliber Sniper Cartridge
XM116 12-Gauge Extended Range Less-Than-Lethal Cartridge
XM1140 40mm Extended Range Less-Than-Lethal Cartridge
XM1110 40mm Day/Night TP Cartridge
XM1112 40mm Airburst Less-Than-Lethal Cartridge
40mm Close-In Anti-Personnel Cartridge
Micro Electro-Mechanical Safe and Arming Mechanisms