Marines firing from machine gun М2А1 in the framework of the basic combat training program at the military base Camp-Pendleton
Since the US Armed Forces are paying more and more attention to improving the mass-capability ratio of their weapons systems, consider the current state of a large-caliber machine gun tested in battles.
The heavy machine gun remains one of the favorite weapons systems of the armies of many countries of the world, providing combat units with such a damaging effect that is necessary to destroy manpower and material objects at increased distances inherent in the modern battlefield.
However, since the need to reduce the combat load associated with conducting dismounted melee and special forces operations continues to grow - part of the growing global trend to improve infantry mobility throughout the battlefield - the army and industry of the leading countries of the world are developing new concepts that will equip modern fighters easier options beloved by them weapons.
Perhaps the most famous of these systems is the M2A1 Quick Change Barrel (QCB) machine gun manufactured by General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems (GDOTS), which is an upgrade to the existing M2 Browning machinegun. Deliveries of the new version to all units of the army are expected to be completed before 2019.
This option, chambered for the NATO standard 12.7x99 mm, weighs 38,2 kg, including the 10,88 kg trunk mass - a vivid illustration of the workloads that its calculations have to undergo when performing combat missions.
According to Picatinny Arsenal, the M2 machine gun is an “air-tested” air-cooled weapon system, the operation of which is based on the use of recoil force. A machine gun with a tape feed is installed either on the machine-tripod MZ, or on combat vehicles.
In addition, the versatility of the M2 allows it to be used to combat manpower, defeat vehicles and fire weapons and air defense. It allows you to fight with high efficiency with light armored vehicles, slow and low-flying aircraft and small boats.
“Machine gun М2 provides fighters with automatic fire to suppress during offensive and defensive actions. It can fire in two modes: single (ground gun M2) and automatic fire. According to the soldiers, in their arsenal of small arms, the M2 machine gun deservedly takes pride of place, being one of the most effective weapon systems, ”said a company representative.
In Arsenal Picatinny emphasize the importance of the new model, its qualitatively new characteristics. Quick-release barrel, fixed bolt installation are the most important improvements machine gun M2. "Improved features and design improvements make it easier and safer to use."
“Machine gun М2А1 accelerates the process of hitting targets and increases survivability and safety by reducing the time required to change the barrel and eliminate the need to manually adjust the shutter. The M2А1 also has a flame arrestor that reduces the muzzle flash by 95%, which makes it difficult to detect it in the dark. "
According to the company, the machine gun began to come into service with the American army in 2011, and the modernization of its entire arsenal of 45000 machine guns M2 to the A1 specification for plans should be completed by 2019 year.
Despite its very attractive ability to accurately hit targets at the maximum valid range of 1,8 km (and maximum range of 6,8 km when firing on calculated data), the M2А1 QCB machine gun remains an extremely burdensome piece of wearable equipment, which is especially noticeable in dismounted melee combat.
The machine gun is not only a heavy burden for its calculation, its installation and “aiming” at the target takes several minutes. In a dynamically changing combat situation, such time intervals do not contribute to an increase in the combat effectiveness of machine-gunners.
Therefore, many armament forces are considering lighter systems, as well as alternative calibers, which could potentially provide the same lethal effect and increased range, like the М2А1 machine gun.
In the market
Currently, there are many models of large-caliber machine guns available on the world market. Among them, it is worth noting the M3M weapons system from FN America, which is already in service with the US Navy and Marine Corps under the designation GAU-21.
With a mass of 36,4 kg, the M3M machine gun (also under the 12.7x99 mm cartridge) has a barrel of 36 inches in length, which allows achieving the same range of damage as the М2А1 model. However, the company continues to promote the M3M machine gun for installation on helicopters in order to provide "barrage fire at distances up to 2000 meters," although the US Department of Defense approved its use for all types of armed forces.
The life of the barrel with a short stroke is 10000 shots. This machine gun has an improved flame arrester to reduce the signature in the conduct of hostilities in low light conditions, as well as a perforated barrel casing, which made it possible to optimize its cooling during protracted skirmishes.
Machine gun М2НВ manufactured by Manroy Engineering (a division of FN Herstal), also under the standard NATO cartridge 12.7x99 mm, remains in service with the British army under the designation L111A1. The weapon is easy to customize for shooting with the right and left hands and has an open sight, which is adjustable in range from 100 meters to 2,6 km.
Among other offers on the market we note the machine gun STK 50MG from the Singapore company ST Kinetics. The machine gun has a quick-detachable barrel, differs by a fixed gap between the shutter mirror and the sleeve bottom and two loading windows on the sides. A gas-guided, open-bolted machine gun can fire in semi-automatic or automatic modes.
The STK 50MG machine gun is a lightweight alternative to the aforementioned models of machine guns, because it has a total weight of 30 kg and a weight of the barrel assembly of the entire 9 kg. The machine gun shoots the standard NATO cartridge 12.7x99 mm, but can also fire a light armor-piercing sabot cartridge.
“The double-sided feed of the tape allows you to quickly change the type of ammunition, while the fixed clearance between the breech mirror and the breech breech allows you to change the barrel in a few minutes without having to adjust this gap,” explained the representative of ST Kinetics.
In addition, many countries are armed with Soviet-made machine guns chambered for 12.7x108 mm, including the DShK machine gun.
Although a large-caliber machine gun is capable of providing impressive firepower for dismounted infantry units leading melee combat, it is also very readily installed on aircraft and ships, tactical ground vehicles and stationary objects.
The representative of General Dynamics Land Systems believes that the bright future of this weapon is guaranteed due to its wide distribution on platforms of various types, which, among other things, is connected "perhaps with the widest range of easily installed supports, machines and brackets."
More traditional options include the installation of such machine guns in remotely controlled combat modules. For example, Picatinny Arsenal installs a large-caliber machine gun in the M153 CROWS (Common Remotely Operated Weapon Station) II module manufactured by the Norwegian company Kongsberg.
“The CROWS module allows the operator to capture and hit targets while under the protection of the machine’s armor. CROWS is a stabilized installation into which the sensor set and fire control software is integrated, which allows you to capture targets in motion and hit targets from the first stage, ”the army representative explained.
“The CROWS sensor unit, capable of capturing targets day and night, includes a daytime video camera, a thermal imaging camera and a laser range finder. CROWS is designed to be installed on any combat vehicle, you can install the 40-mm grenade launcher Mk19, 12,7-mm machine gun М2, 7,62-mm machine gun М240В and 5,56-mm machine gun for the department М249 ”.
At the SOFINS show, held in the French city of Bordeaux, French special operations forces presented an EFC battle boat with an 12.7xXNNXX mm machine gun, which can be replaced by an automatic grenade launcher or a pair of paired 99 XMUM machine guns.
A further increase in the capabilities of large-caliber machine guns in the future combat space is associated with remotely controlled machines, which today already have light 7,62-mm machine guns installed to protect their forces and fire support.
The Marine Corps, for example, is currently considering promising options for the MUTT (Multi Utility Tactical Transport) 6x6 and 8x8 robotic complex developed by General Dynamics Land Systems, which could deliver a machine gun to almost any place on the battlefield.
“MUTT machine can be transported aviationfor example, in the cabin of the MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor, which will allow the hull to conduct operations “flew into battle” and, thereby, expand its range and increase firepower on the battlefield, ”said a representative of General Dynamics Land Systems.
The remotely controlled MUTT machine allows you to deliver heavy machine gun almost anywhere in the battlefield
However, the armed forces are looking for solutions that can alleviate the wearable combat load in a direct clash, especially in a dismounted melee and during special operations.
The representative of General Dynamics Land Systems explained that the US Army is considering the development of a lightweight version of the M2 based on an updated receiver, it is quite possible from titanium. The request for information was released in the middle of 2017, but the army is still unable to comment on this concept and on the time frame when it can be implemented. “The idea is to follow the path of creating an easy titanium receiver for the M240 machine gun when the M240L model appeared as a result.”
The US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) is interested in light options and in November 2017 held a joint conference with the industry to examine all the available proposals.
According to the official application USSOCOM. published on the website of federal commercial opportunities, the command wants to get a “long-range machine gun” with a firing range over 2 km, but “a mass comparable to the mass of the current average machine gun,” which is of the order of 10,8 kg.
In support of this program, USSOCOM is looking for lightweight alternative ammunition that could reduce the weight of ammunition in service by at least 30% across the entire range of calibers from 5.56xXNNUMX mm to 45x12.7 mm.
Such needs “provoked” an interest in the technology of the LWMMG (Lightweight Medium Machine Gun) medium machine gun, with the result that in May 2017 of the year USSOCOM published its request to the applicants. “The command of special forces together with the KMP is looking for industrial enterprises that are capable of supplying five thousand machine guns with tape feed under the cartridge .338 Norma Magnum (NM).” including the weapon itself, a flame arrester, a tripod and tools for basic maintenance, ”the statement reads.
“The LWMMG should fire .338 NM cartridges with a plastic sleeve of loose cartridge tape. The LWMMG should weigh less than 10,9 kg with an 24 inch barrel. LWMMG should have an 500-600 firing rate per minute. The weapon will be compatible with current sighting systems mounted on standard guides, with the ability to incorporate advanced fire control technology. ”
“The system should include a barrel with a flame arrester and a barrel without a flame arrester, they should be quick-detachable. The LWMMG should include a light tripod and provide the stability and accuracy necessary to hit targets at extreme distances. LWMMG should be installed in existing machine guns designed for М240В / С machine guns. The weapon must have sufficient accuracy to hit targets and vehicles at a distance of 2000 meters, ”the statement reads.
According to the representative of USSOCOM, this last requirement speaks of the desire of the Command to replace the existing machine guns of caliber 12.7x99 mm with lighter medium machine guns. However, industry experts have also expressed the opinion that, although the LWMMG machine gun variants can reach the same ranges, they will not be able to match the capabilities of the 12.7xXNNUMX mm cartridge in terms of the destruction of the material part.
On the photo machine gun М2А1 on the tripod М205, which will be delivered to 19024 units of the American army to 2022 year
The company GDOTS want to participate in the program with its mid-caliber version chambered for .338NM. The company said that the live firing of this machine gun was carried out in Fort Benning's 2011.
“The next generation light medium machine gun gives the fighters a clear advantage in combat at long distances and in close combat,” a GDOTS company press release said. “Filling the gap between 7,62 mm and 12.7 mm guns, LWMMG uses the highly efficient .338 Norma Magnum cartridge to offer incomparable accuracy and lethality while expanding the combat space to impressive 1700 meters.”
The LWMMG machine gun from GDOTS is distinguished by a recoil reduction mechanism, which is comparable to the recoil force of an 7,62-mm machine gun, while it provides a striking effect and stopping power inherent in a larger .338NM caliber.
According to the company's press release, “With 1000 meters, the LWMMG machine gun can penetrate body armor with protection level III and disable unarmored vehicles, delivering more than 2500 joules of energy to them — more than 4 times the NATO standard’s terminal effect ".
The machine gun weighs 10,8 kg, has a total length of 1.2 meter with a barrel length of 24 inch. It has a maximum valid range of 1.7 km and a maximum range of 5,6 km according to calculated data. LWMMG, structurally similar to any machine gun chambered for 12.7x99 mm, can also be installed on existing machines, mounts and brackets and on various platforms, air, land and sea.
The system with quick-release barrel is equipped with rail guides for mounting scopes and other tactical accessories, including laser designators.
“Patented technology to reduce the impact of Short Recoil Impulse Averaging significantly reduces the recoil and improves retention on the target with automatic fire. Light weight and low recoil make it easier for operators of all sizes to carry this machine gun and makes it easier to work with it, ”said a company spokesman.
“The medium machine gun LWMMG is a light weapons system that significantly expands the operational capabilities of a soldier. The machine gun is ideal for dismounted and motorized operations, but for dismounted operations, increasing the effective range and fire impact of a light weapon system is of particular importance. When installed on vehicles, it will provide their crews with high-precision fire at long distances, which is currently associated with the heavier machine gun M2. ”
The development of GDOTS in this area began after the cancellation of the 2012-mm XM12,7 machine gun in 806, which was originally designed with the intention of replacing the existing M2 machine gun. Machine gun ХМ806 with belt feed of cartridges 12.7x99 mm had a mass 18 kg.
Despite unsuccessful attempts to reduce the size and weight of machine guns of caliber 12.7x99 mm, work is underway to reduce the size and weight of some systems and accessories for weapons of this type.
In July, the 2017 of the Year, the Office of the Weapons Management Program for the Soldier, published a pre-request document for additional supplies of the M205 tripods for the M2 and M2А1 machine guns, as well as the McKNNX heavy machine gun. Shipments to 19 machines with a total value of 19024 thousand dollars will go from 630 to 2018 a year. The M2022 is designed to replace the M205 machines in service.
The application says: “The improved M205 machine will replace the heavy and large M3 tripod machine for the ground installation of the M2 / M2А1 machine guns and the McNUMX grenade launcher.”
“The built-in mechanism for vertical and horizontal installation is built into the M205 machine, allowing you to control the weapon in azimuth and elevation. The main objective of the M205 machine is to provide a stable and easy-to-use platform for installing the M2 / M2A1 machine guns and the McNNXX grenade launcher and providing high-precision fire at increased distances to support both offensive and defensive operations. ”
It doesn’t matter if the American Army’s M2X1 mass reduction activity will be successful, the prospects for large-caliber machine guns seem to be very encouraging in modern and future combat spaces in which protection and booking are of particular importance.
The capabilities of weapons of this type regarding the defeat of the material part make it an attractive solution for protecting their forces and in offensive operations, while the industry’s efforts to reduce the weight of barrel boxes, ammunition and tripod machines will contribute to its greater spread in dismounted melee combat.
Add to this the functional flexibility that allows you to install on different types of platforms, and it seems that large-caliber machine guns do not exactly give up their positions, at least in the foreseeable future.