Many armed forces pay great attention to light infantry. In the United States, in particular, the emphasis is on increased efficiency and flexibility of weapons, ground mobility of opponents, access denied tactics, as well as a high operational pace, which are characteristic features of the modern battlefield. Other countries, especially Western countries, also follow in the wake of the United States. For example, in the UK, scientists from the Laboratory for Defense Science and Technology are working with various industrial enterprises on the FSV project (Future Soldier Vision - the vision of the future soldier), in which it is planned to create a personal equipment system that the British army should receive by the mid-2020s. The emergence of new requirements has raised concerns about the ability of traditional light infantry to effectively carry out the tasks for which it was actually created and intended. In order to solve this problem, many armies launched a number of initiatives aimed at increasing the capabilities and effectiveness of light infantry in modern combat space. As a rule, in them special attention is paid to an individual soldier and a small unit, whether it is a calculation, a fire group or a detachment. This article discusses areas such as mortality or fire effectiveness, survival or combat stability, and situational awareness or command of the environment.
British Future Soldier Vision program is part of the Department of Defense plan to provide British soldiers with high-quality equipment based on the latest technology
Although from a practical point of view they look like separate functions, especially in relation to the battlefield, aspects of each of them can have a great influence on the qualities or capabilities of the others. In this regard, developers often recognize the difficulties encountered in designing solutions that ultimately fall into the hands of a soldier.
The definition of what each of these functions includes is changing and expanding at the same time. Improving fire efficiency, for example, always at the top of the list of priorities, basically meant improving the individual weaponsworn by every foot soldier. However, today an integrated approach in this area covers not only weapons, but also ammunition and sighting systems. The next generation infantry weapon, according to modern doctrines, should be modular, high-precision, with improved ammunition and a large number of digital functions. The increase in combat stability is associated with the solution of a rather complex task - to prevent the soldier from overloading or impairing his ability to fight. Finally, improving situational awareness aims to expand the soldier's knowledge of the environment.
The 7x7,62 mm TAVOR 51 automatic rifle, launched on the market in 2018, is the newest member of the IWI Bullpup family of rifles.
Today, increasing mortality or fire effectiveness of infantry at the level of the detachment and individual shooter, in particular, goes far beyond the scope of the weapon itself. Currently, this process includes the development of advanced ammunition, sighting systems and an even more flexible approach to the tasks assigned to the soldiers of the squad.
Various weapons can now be assembled on one chassis. In this case, the department’s serviceman can adapt his weapon for himself by attaching different barrels, stocks, forends, power systems and accessories and, in principle, get a carbine, rifle, automatic rifle or even a light machine gun or sniper rifle. This concept was demonstrated in the 60s by Eugene Stoner with his 63A weapon. Today, a number of companies offer similar opportunities. The logistic advantages here are quite obvious, while the tactical advantages are equally significant. When each soldier of the squad has similar capabilities, it is possible to adapt the role of each soldier to any combat situation. For example, a group that has received the task of firing can use not just one, but several soldiers at once to conduct automatic fire. Similarly, the soldiers in the group, cleaning the building, could simply change roles, based on what is needed and where they are at a given time. For these purposes, several weapon systems are proposed.
MSBS System: The Polish MSBS system (Modulowy System Broni Strzeleckiej) uses a common camera / receiver, which can be configured using a traditional bullpup or bullpup scheme. You can attach different modules to one base, as a result of which you can get eleven different tactical options, including a submachine gun, a basic carbine, a carbine with a grenade launcher, a sniper rifle and a light machine gun. Such structural flexibility allows you to get weapons in configurations that are suitable for the most diverse tasks of the infantry squad.
H&K NK416 / M27: The Heckler & Koch NK416 automatic weapon has recently been adopted by many military structures, including the Norwegian and French armies, special operations forces of 27 countries and the United States Marine Corps (designation M27). The weapon has proven itself from the most positive side. Its main attractive feature is that this weapon, with minimal adaptation, can fulfill all roles in the squad, be an assault rifle, a sniper rifle and an automatic rifle. Available in a short version with a 280 mm barrel weighing 3,7 kg and a standard version with a 368 mm barrel weighing 4 kg; the system is currently deployed in two calibers: 5,56 mm (NK416) and 7,62 mm (NK417), weapons and other calibers can be produced. The compact C model is also available with a 228 mm barrel.
IWI TAVOR: The Israel Weapons Industry TAVOR automatic weapon is a bullpup with a long gas piston stroke, which increases reliability, durability, simplifies design and maintenance. It can be configured as an assault rifle, carbine, sniper rifle (for a skilled shooter) or a submachine gun. It is the standard infantry weapon of the Israeli army, the system is selected by another 30 countries and is manufactured under license in Brazil, India and Ukraine.
The MSBS rifle, which is in service with the Polish army, is available either as a 5,56 mm caliber rifle or as a 7,62 mm caliber assault rifle
Some armies have expressed concerns that progress in body protection has limited the effectiveness of some current calibers, especially the widespread 5,56 mm. In response, the U.S. Army decided to switch to an intermediate cartridge of 6,8 mm caliber. It is heavier and therefore needs a higher initial speed. A bullet of this caliber was defined as the base for the new Next Generation Squad Weapons separation system, which includes a rifle / carbine and an automatic rifle. However, the industry still cannot start the production of a cartridge, since the army has not yet decided on the design of the cartridge case.
This is partly due to the fact that the main operators of small arms are also not averse to periodically consider some innovative ammunition in design. Textron Defense introduces the Cased Telescoped (CT) telescopic cartridge, in which a bullet is placed inside a polymer sleeve. The benefits of CT are that this cartridge is shorter and lighter. General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems (GD-OTS) has partnered with True Velocity to offer a fully composite cartridge. “This is a completely non-metallic sleeve, it is on average 30 percent lighter than a traditional brass sleeve,” the company representative explained. The composite sleeve showed great accuracy in the tests, since it plays the role of a heat insulator, reducing the amount of heat generated during the firing process. “This in turn reduces weapon wear,” he added. SIG is also introducing a new three-element hybrid munition. It features a brass sleeve, a steel base and an internal retainer for their connection. PCP Tactical also offers its own new cartridge with a metal-based polymer sleeve. Most of them are interchangeable with existing ammunition. Thus, the adoption of these substitutes for brass sleeves in the American program can give impetus to the widespread introduction of such an approach.
An American infantryman confirms his 27-meter zero from the MXNUMX Infantry Automatic Rifle rifle during combat training
Advancing weapons with increased range and improved impact on the target will provide few advantages if shots from it are inaccurate. To achieve this, a new approach to the shooting or chain of destruction of the target. A spokesman for Vortex Optics suggested that “the optics of the shooter has shifted from the“ red dot ”to clean daytime, multiple rugged sights, similar to the Vortex Razor Gen 2 1-6x24. They provide the highest level of clarity, resolution, color reproduction and sharpness from edge to edge, as well as advanced proportional-integral-differential regulation, giving the possibility of defeat from the first shot at medium distances. " An increase in the structural strength and reliability of optical devices allowed the introduction of a variable magnification, previously used only in sniper sights. A large increase allows the shooter to more confidently detect and identify the target, especially at long distances. As Steiner’s spokesman explained, these capabilities were further enhanced by “small, compact, weapon-mounted units that include a laser rangefinder, illuminator, and pointer.” Pure fire control systems may soon become available to infantry weapons, similar to those installed on combat vehicles. An example is the SIG Sauer optics, which combines a laser rangefinder with Ballistic Data Xchange software, which allows you to get an adjustable reticle.
The next step is to incorporate these advanced features into a single system and integrate it electronically with other soldier surveillance systems. In fact, this is exactly what the US Army is requesting for its weapons from the Next Generation Squad Weapon (NGSW), which is being developed as part of a promising Rapid Target Acquisition (RTA) initiative. In order to increase operational efficiency, the RTA shooter will combine weapons, sight / sighting device and helmet-mounted display together.
Weapons of the next generation NGSW (Next Generation Squad Weapon)
The U.S. Army is currently testing offers from five companies, up to three of which can be selected to continue the race for the NGSW contract. The main objectives of this program are to break through advanced body armor and take advantage of technologies that can increase accuracy and increase the range of destruction.
In October 2018, the U.S. Army Contract Office in its draft notice to applicants determined the composition of the Next Generation Squad Weapon family: a rifle and an automatic rifle. As part of the NGSW activity, each selected contractor “develops two weapons options and a common cartridge for them using government-provided 6,8 mm bullets.” Weapons include the Next Generation Squad Weapon-Rifle (NGSW-R) rifle and the Next Generation Squad Weapon-Automatic Rifle (NGSW-AR) automatic rifle. It is planned that in combat brigade groups NGSW-R will replace the M4 / M4A1 carbine, and NGSW-AR will replace the M249 SAW (Squad Automatic Weapon) rifle. One option must be provided with a rechargeable battery in the contours of the rifle. Sources suggest that in order to meet the requirements, the munition must develop an initial speed of 915 m / s. Five companies provided their options for the NGSW-R and NGSW-AR rifles: AAI, Textron Systems, FN America, General Dynamics-OTS, PCP Tactical and Sig Sauer. In most cases, detailed specifications were not published in full, and the exact configurations submitted to the competition were not named.
Candidates are currently being evaluated in the US Army, after which up to three companies will be selected to participate in the subsequent evaluation. According to the head of the United Group of Soldier Mortality Systems Developers, the deployment of the weapon of victory in the competition in the American army will begin in 2023.
US Special Operations Forces use night vision technology to search for militants during operations in Afghanistan
The advantages of optics in battle
Enhancing visual capabilities through the use of night vision devices or even micro-UAVs to view the terrain from above can help soldiers maintain their military initiative.
Possession of one’s immediate surroundings has always been the most important concern and goal in battle, from the highest command to the individual soldier. Having reliable information about the terrain, the enemy and general conditions gives a huge advantage. At the small unit level, this knowledge can affect the success or failure of a combat mission.
Finding an opponent first provides an instant advantage by seizing the initiative and further thoughtful action. Likewise, one who was taken by surprise has every chance to take possession of the initiative again through the correct use of fire and maneuver, which again is based on a quick and accurate determination of the situation and response to it.
American special forces, using night vision goggles, fire from a 12,7 mm machine gun M2
Although it’s very important for a soldier on the front line to detect and neutralize an opponent, this is not the only component of good situational awareness. It is also important to simply maintain your orientation with respect to the surrounding area and colleagues in the department. A lost or disoriented soldier is in mortal danger. In addition, the lack of information on the location of colleagues can lead to cases of friendly fire. The already difficult daytime situation is even more complicated at night.
Due to the development of technologies and production methods, night-vision devices are now widely available to the infantryman. In addition, miniaturization, low-cost memory and information processing, as well as wireless networks greatly simplify the presentation, integration and transmission of information and images. All this contributes to a significant increase in the level of ownership of the situation, this is true both for the soldier and for a small unit.
Night sight IT-406СР of the Russian company INFRATEH
Night Vision - Brightness Boost
Image Brightness Enhancing Technology (AIM) is becoming cheaper, more compact and more efficient. Most of these devices, for example, night-vision devices, use electron-optical converters that enhance the luminous flux.
The range of devices with AIM currently includes weapons sights and night vision devices (NVD), and now every modern helmet has a mount for NVD. Currently, there is a clear tendency towards a transition to monocular NVD, when an image with enhanced brightness is displayed in front of one eye, and the second naked eye remains free. The disadvantage of NVD is that it usually interferes with the normal line of sight of a rifle. In order to solve the problem, a laser pointer is installed on the weapon aligned with the weapon. The sighting mark of the pointer can be seen in the NVD, and when it is combined with the target, the trigger is released. This provides an effective and faster target capture, especially at combat distances, although accuracy decreases with increasing range. The UIAI and NVD technology is now widely used in the civilian and military spheres, therefore, “owning the night” is becoming increasingly difficult.