Perhaps the most interesting recent event in the world of small arms weapons may become american NGSW program to create a new generation automatic rifle and light machine gun. In comments and comments on articles in the media on the topic of this program and similar previous programs for the creation of promising small arms, one can often see a negative attitude to the spending of financial resources in this direction. The main message is that small arms are not so important as to focus on it, and it is much more important to invest in high-tech models of military equipment: Tanks, rockets, planes.
Samples of small arms developed under the NGSW program
At the same time, as can be seen from the data given in the article “Battle suit. Statistics of wounds, bullets and splinters ", small arms account for between 30 and 60 percent or more of the enemy’s manpower destroyed. Moreover, apparently, since the Second World War, this figure has only increased. While fighting vehicles are busy killing their own kind, infantry still wins the war.
It can be assumed that an increase in the share of high-tech weapons should contribute to the fact that more and more enemy soldiers will be destroyed by high-tech combat vehicles, but practice puts this assumption into question. In fact, if opponents of comparable strength are fighting, combat vehicles are primarily engaged in the destruction of similar combat vehicles available to the enemy. If one enemy is obviously stronger than the other, then the hostilities go into the irregular phase - partisan war, in which the role of heavy equipment is obviously lower than in classic full-scale wars, which is confirmed by statistics of local conflicts in Afghanistan and Chechnya.
No, definitely aviation and the fleet is quite capable of driving a medium-sized country into the Stone Age even without the use of nuclear weapons, but only infantry, the main weapon of which is small arms, can completely capture and secure the territory of the enemy.
Carpet bombing could not defeat either Nazi Germany or communist Vietnam, it would hardly have been possible with precision weapons
Another message is that small arms have almost reached the pinnacle of their development, no breakthroughs in this regard are foreseen in the foreseeable future until the appearance of “blasters” and “disintegrators”. In the best case, it is said about the need to improve sights, which, of course, is extremely important in itself.
At the same time, the technologies discussed in the article “Armor of God: technologies for promising means of individual armor protection”, which will be used to create promising means of individual armor protection (NIB), can make most of the existing models of small arms ineffective.
It turns out that in fact there is a need to develop a new generation of small arms, and the importance of small arms on the battlefield is quite high? Let us try to consider how expensive the programs for creating and purchasing small arms are compared to other types of weapons.
Since information about the cost of developing domestic weapons is most often classified, we will focus on American programs and purchases; most likely, they will somehow correlate with similar Russian ones.
The M14 rifle, the predecessor of the famous M16 rifle, was developed to replace the M1 Garand rifle. Preliminary work to create a new rifle was started back in 1944, and in 1957 the prototype M14 rifle was adopted by the US armed forces.
Four American companies were engaged in the production of the M14 rifle. Springfield Armory Inc produced 1959 M1963 rifles from July 167 to October 173. From 14 to 1959, 1963 537 M512 rifles were manufactured by Harrington & Richardson Arms Co. The third company to receive a contract for the production of M14 rifles was Winchester, which produced 14 units between 356 and 510. The last manufacturer of the M1959 rifle was Thompson-Ramo-Wooldridge Inc, which produced 1963 rifles between 14 and 319.
Thus, the total number of issued M14 rifles amounted to 1 pieces (according to other sources, 380 M358 rifles were produced). The cost of one rifle was originally $ 1, but then increased to $ 376.
Accordingly, the purchase price of all M14 rifles amounted to about $ 131 million at prices in the early 60s of the XX century, or about 1 billion 133 million at current prices. The cost of one M14 rifle at current prices (under an army contract) should be approximately $ 822.
The SPIV (Special Purpose Individual Weapon) program was supposed to be implemented by the US armed forces from 1959 to 1965 (in fact, the program lasted until the mid-70s). Initially, the SPIV program grew out of the SALVO research program, which was conducted approximately from 1951-1952. According to the results of the SALVO program, an opinion was formed that small arms with a high rate of fire would be significantly more deadly than a less rapid-fire weapon, albeit with significantly more powerful ammunition.
Based on the results of the SALVO program, the creation of a weapon with an increased probability of hitting targets was considered under the SPIV program. An increase in the probability of defeat was to be ensured by firing with small-caliber cartridges with a high rate of 2000-2500 rounds per minute. As ammunition, both classic small-caliber ammunition of 5,6 mm and cartridges with sub-caliber feathered ammunition were considered. Requirements for weapons also included stores of increased capacity by 60 rounds and a three-shot grenade launcher, with a weapon weight of less than five kilograms.
In October 1962, 42 companies were introduced to the SPIW project. By December, ten companies had submitted official offers. After a two-month study, four companies were selected: AAI, Springfield Armory, Winchester Arms and Harrington & Richardson.
Prototypes of weapons developed under the SPIW program, and cartridges for it in comparison with a 5,56x45 mm cartridge
It was estimated that the cost of the SPIV program would be $ 21 million at 60s prices or $ 180 million at current prices. In fact, the costs were exceeded several times, that is, they could well have amounted to about 300-350 million dollars at current prices.
It should be borne in mind that the SPIV program was very advanced for its time, and its successful implementation could give the US army a significant advantage over the enemy. Unfortunately (and fortunately for us), the technological level of that time did not allow the successful completion of the SPIV program.
Due to delays and technical difficulties in implementing the SPIW program in 1957, the U.S. Army decided to develop a temporary solution - an automatic rifle chambered for 5,56 mm caliber. Already in 1962, the first Armalite rifles, designated AR-15, were handed over for testing to the US armed forces, and in 1963 Colt received a contract for the production of 104 M000 rifles. It was believed that the purchase of rifles would be one-time and is a temporary measure before adopting a rifle developed under the SPIW program.
Rifle (AR-15) M16
But already in 1966, Colt received a government contract for the supply of 840 rifles for a total of almost 000 million US dollars, which at current prices is about 92 million dollars. With previously purchased 746 M104 rifles, this will be approximately $ 000 million at current prices.
To replace the “temporary” M16 rifle with the US Army, the ACR (Advanced Combat Rifle) program was launched in 1986. According to the results of the ACR program, a weapon was supposed to be developed, providing a double probability of hitting targets in comparison with the M16 rifle.
Development contracts were entered into in 1986 with six companies: AAI Corporation, Ares Incorporated, Colt Manufacturing Company, Heckler & Koch, McDonnell Douglas Helicopter Systems and Steyr Mannlicher. Already in 1989, AAI, Colt, H&K and Steyr presented their prototypes.
Advanced Combat Rifle Weapon Prototypes
All the projects presented were workable, but not one showed the ACR program’s required double superiority over the M16 rifle, which led to the closure of the program in April 1990.
The cost of the Advanced Combat Rifle program was $ 300 million, or about $ 613 million at current prices.
In 1986/1987, the US Army Infantry School published a SAS-2000 report (Small Arms System-2000, Small Arms System 2000), which claimed that the rifle as a weapon had already reached its peak, and the only way create a more effective infantry weapon - use explosive ammunition. This was the starting point for the emergence of a new program - OICW (Objective Individual Combat Weapon, "Objective Individual Combat Weapon").
Within the framework of the OICW program, it was planned to create a weapon in which a compact multiple-charge grenade launcher with remote detonation of grenades in the air will become the main striking means. As an auxiliary melee weapon, it was supposed to use a compact automatic machine of a standard caliber 5,56x45 mm integrated with a grenade launcher.
Initially, three industry groups were involved in the OICW competition: AAI Corporation, Alliant Techsystems and Heckler & Koch, Olin Ordnance and FN Herstal. AAI Corporation and Alliant Techsystems reached the final of the competition. Ultimately, in 2000, it was decided that further development under the OICW program would continue with Alliant Techsystems Inc in cooperation with Heckler & Koch and Brashear.
During the development process, the OICW weapons prototypes underwent many changes and in the final turned into a complex that received the name XM29, including a semi-automatic grenade launcher of 20 mm caliber, a 5,56x45 mm short-barreled automatic rifle and a computerized sight with a laser range finder, which provides distance measurement and programming grenades before departure from the barrel, in order to ensure its detonation next to the target. Thus, it was planned not only to increase the probability of hitting the target, but also to ensure the defeat of targets that are beyond the barrier.
OICW Weapon Prototypes and Final Model XM29
It was assumed that the effectiveness of the weapons developed by the OICW program would be five times higher than the standard American M16A2 rifle with the M203 grenade launcher.
In 2004, the program was closed, according to official figures, due to the high cost and mass of weapons developed. According to the author, most likely due to the fact that the XM29 complex required too much time to aim when firing a grenade and did not provide its guaranteed detonation at a given point.
The OICW development contract with Alliant Techsystems Inc totaled $ 95,5 million, or $ 134 million at current prices. The cost of the XM29 serial complex was supposed to be about $ 10, but in fact, the real cost of the complex in 000 prices was estimated at $ 2010, of which the majority was in the sighting complex, which is $ 40 at current prices (in fact, electronics has property significantly cheaper over time, so these forecasts can be called into question).
After the OICW program was closed, two separate programs were launched: the creation of the new 5,56 mm XM8 submachine gun and the 25 mm XM25 semi-automatic semi-automatic hand grenade launcher, both programs were officially closed in 2006 and 2018, respectively.
Currently, the most expensive development and purchase of small arms is the American NGSW program (Next Generation Squad Weapons), in which it is planned to purchase about 250 thousand weapons (NGSW-R rifle and NGSW-AR machine gun), 150 million rounds, which enough to equip them with warring units.
The main contenders for victory in the NGSW program
The exact cost of future weapons is unknown, but the cost of rearmament is estimated at $ 150 million per year. Drawing an analogy with the supply of US Army new M17 / M18 army pistols by SIG Sauer in the amount of approximately 100 thousand sets per year, it can be assumed that the supply of rifles will be at a comparable or slightly lower pace. If we accept that 250 thousand sets of small arms under the NGSW program will be delivered in 3-6 years, then the cost of their acquisition will be about 450-900 million dollars.
The development and production of small arms, at first glance, are not cheap.
On the other hand, rearmament of the U.S. Army from the M1 Garand rifle to the M14 rifle and from the M14 rifle to the M16 rifle cost only two billion dollars at current prices. In total, for all small arms programs (assault / automatic rifles are implied), the costs are unlikely to exceed five billion dollars at current prices, and this is from the middle of the XNUMXth to the beginning of the XNUMXst century.
Ammo? The commercial cost of quality cartridges (not sniper) is 0,5-1 dollars apiece. Under army contracts will be even lower. Well, let's say 1 dollar, respectively, one billion rounds - one billion dollars, it’s easy to scale further.
The estimated purchase price of 250 weapons under the NGSW program is equivalent to about 000-75 Abrams tanks ($ 150 million per unit) or 6,1-10 Apache helicopters ($ 15 million per unit), or the cost of 60-1 ships of the coastal zone of LCS (2 million dollars per unit), or 460-0,15 the cost of one multipurpose submarine of the Virginia type (0,3 billion dollars per unit). In total, about 2,7 million units of small arms are operated in the American army, thus, for the rearmament of all armed forces with a completely new small arms, approximately (1–1,8 billion dollars) are needed (not counting the cartridges for it).
It is enough to compare the volumes of armaments cited for comparison purchased by the US armed forces to understand how small a fraction of the cost is small arms. Abrams tanks were purchased over 6000 units, Apache helicopters about 600 units, ships of the coastal zone LCS planned to purchase about 20-40 units, Virginia submarine plans to purchase 30 units.
At the same time, from a third to half or more of all those killed and wounded in military conflicts are small arms.
The cost of small arms and ammunition according to the criterion of "cost-effectiveness" or unit cost of destruction of enemy manpower is significantly ahead of all other types of weapons. Of course, this does not mean that it is necessary to abandon airplanes, tanks and ships, and with this money to buy only megablasts for infantry, but this shows the value of small arms quite clearly.