It is argued that the Mk47 STRIKER is “the first major achievement in the field of weapon systems serviced by calculations, beginning at the end of the Second World War,” but it is being acquired in relatively small quantities due to its high cost. The most recent order for 25 million dollars was placed in October 2010 year
The great importance of infantry platoon and detachment (the latter usually corresponds to the average capacity of standard armored personnel carriers and infantry fighting vehicles) as the main components of combat units has greatly influenced the development of tactical doctrines over the past decades. At present, this applies to a large extent to the prevailing scenarios of low and medium intensity conflicts. Accordingly, special opinions have been put forward and are being advanced with regard to improving the combat effectiveness of an infantry platoon and division regarding mobility, autonomy and fire power.
The need to increase firepower has long become evident for regular fire support, it would allow the dismounted platoon and detachment to immediately respond to the threat, not depending solely on the fire support provided by the corresponding combat armored vehicles (BBM) or worse, the upper echelons. Indeed, the availability of full-time fire support at the platoon and branch level is now regarded as an absolute requirement, taking into account the high rates of modern combat operations, as well as the proliferation of increasingly sophisticated and effective observation, identification and communication systems. All this is intended to provide instant suppressive fire immediately after identifying the target.
Which one weapon and at what level?
The above considerations have led to the general consensus that at the squad level, additional individual armament can consist of one or two light support means, it is usually represented by a light machine gun, for example, the ubiquitous FN Herstal MINI-MI / M239 SAW and / or a single-shot grenade launcher (it can be either a separate weapon, for example the H&K GP, or an underbarrel, for example, the well-known M203 or its more modern versions). At the platoon level, standard means may include weapons for direct fire (universal machine guns (UP) - heavy machine guns (TP) - and automatic grenade launchers (AG)), systems for indirect fire (light or landing (for commandos) plus AG ).
In many possible combat scenarios, the enemy will be outside the range of direct-fire weapons and can thus be destroyed only by indirect-tip systems firing along a parabolic trajectory. That is, it is indisputable that the automatic small-caliber weapons created for the destruction of point targets, and the weapon for firing at squares, firing with fragmentation ammunition (light mortars and AH), must be one whole and complement each other. Thus, the question is whether mortars or AH are the best solution in this case.
AG from Heckler & Koch GMG is in service with the British marines
Calculate 60-mm mortar in action
Light assault mortars, due to the characteristics of their 60-mm ammunition, are much more effective than the AH in terms of "delivering" fire to suppression. On the other hand, however, they have a much lower rate of fire compared to even the worst AG models, they cannot fire from a vehicle in motion, except for a few models for special forces, they can only be used for firing indirect fire. In addition, while someone wants to reflect on the possible future introduction of 60-mm ammunition with control on the final part of the trajectory, AGs have an important and unique advantage regarding their other characteristic - the destruction of armored personnel carriers and infantry fighting vehicles, since their ability to quickly fire in bursts in turns compensates for low accuracy and difficulty defeat fast-moving targets. Quite a big lack of hypertension from which, unfortunately, it seems, there is no ready-made medicine, their cost. A large number of low-budget armies are considered or have no other choice than to consider AH (at least Western production) as too expensive weapons compared to more traditional fire support weapons, such as light / airborne mortars and multipurpose and heavy machine guns.
Thus, a more or less common practice is to equip with universal machine guns and light machine guns platoons of fire support for the main infantry companies (very significant in the case of companies of the American Marine Corps equipped with the M240G 7,62 mm UP and a light mortar M224 60 mm), while TP and AGs are assigned to fire support companies (for example, a marine infantry company has a support platoon with six mm M2HB 12,7 TP and six MK19 40 mm AG).
These traditional schemes, adopted by the US Marine Corps and many foreign armies, are increasingly criticized by experts and users, who argue that AG should be extended to the level of an infantry unit. However, these proposals are resisted on the grounds that the UE and light mortars, currently available, provide an adequate amount of fire and indeed cover large areas at long ranges compared to AH. This observation is true but it begins to lose its firmness in assessing that mortars cannot shoot direct fire and, moreover, they are almost useless in defeating multiple targets in built-up areas and especially in high-rise buildings.
In any case, it would definitely be wrong to expect that an infantry unit, already equipped with light machine-guns, can maintain appropriate mobility on foot over rough terrain, loaded with another special fire support weapon. Almost the same applies to the platoon with its UE and light / airborne mortar, while in the case of a standard infantry company, disputes still continue. Indeed, it often happens that an infantry company does not have a regular weapon for delivering indirect fire to its platoons, while platoons themselves are in exactly the same predicament about their units, as a result of which they can only count on direct firearms single-shot grenade launchers that cannot destroy targets in the folds of the terrain at distances exceeding 300 – 400 meters. The very first indirect-targeting weapon that the unit can count on is thus at company level, that is, these are light mortars of a fire support platoon.
In addition, it should be noted in this connection that just a few years ago, a platoon that gradually lost importance in many armies was reduced to no more than a link between a company and branches, and thus, among other aspects, loses its regular fire support means. In this case, the first weapon of indirect targeting to support the units will be at the company level, it is usually represented by an average 81-mm mortar - a solution that, however, contradicts the increased tactical mobility, which is necessarily provided by modern operational doctrines for small infantry units.
In theory, a virtually endless list of various solutions could be proposed. However, by and large, it is possible to get a gain when deploying fire support weapons, regardless of their type, as close as possible to infantry units and first-line platoons.
These considerations help explain why light / airborne mortars have again gained considerable popularity in recent years, and are now very popular in modern armies. This applies not only to the ground forces of Africa, Asia or Latin America, whose prevailing operational conditions make this weapon virtually indispensable, but also true even for many Western armies, Finland, France, Italy, Portugal, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States and many more. who kept light / landing mortars in their arsenals or hastily are currently buying them from the defense industry.
The omnipresent AG Mk19 40 mm was originally designed as a weapon on a tripod, but is now increasingly seen as an installed weapon system on a support ring in vehicles or a remotely controlled combat module
Russian AGS-30 is a modernized version of the original 30-mm automatic AGNS-17 grenade launcher Flame. The latter was the first in the world of hypertension, produced in large quantities.
The Soltam 60-mm mortar range includes the C-03 Commando Mortar mortar (pictured) with 7 kg, its range is 1 km, served by one person; C-576 Lightweight Mortar has a range of 1600 m, also serviced by one person; and C06A1 serviced by calculation
British marines firing from their 51-mm light mortar
Light mortars needed still?
The past two decades have witnessed the emergence of an ever-growing distinction between "classic" light mortars on the one hand, and simplified landing models on the other. This difference does not affect the caliber; all “classic” designs are 60-mm mortars and the same applies to most amphibious models that also fire the same ammunition (the only significant exceptions are the Israeli IMI COMMANDO 52 mm, FLY-K from Rheinmetall (ex-Titanite, ex -PRB) - also in 52 mm caliber, but it shoots completely different mines, and finally 51-mm L9A1 from BAE Systems). Rather, the difference between the two categories of light mortars lies in their respective characteristics and parameters relating to mass, size and range.
"Classic" models have a barrel length from 650 mm to 1000 m, are equipped with a bipod, have a weight of about 12 - 22 kg and a range of at least 2000 meters (up to some models), while their landing analogs have 3500 mm – 4000 mm trunk with a simple base plate, their weight is about 500 – 650 kg, the range does not exceed approximately 4,5 meters (therefore, the South African M10 range reaches 1000 meters is a notable exception).
The current generation of “classic” light 60-mm mortars is definitely able to offer improved operational flexibility for small infantry units destined for combat operations in a wide variety of theaters, providing adequate fire support and suppressive fire capability across the squares. On the other hand, it is indisputable that today's weapons are not much different from their predecessors half a century ago. Some improvements have been introduced (for example, recoil dampers, internal bipods, light alloy barrels for reduced weight, or expansion guide rings to exclude mine movements in the barrel), but they can hardly be called revolutionary. Maybe there is still some space for further development regarding sights (these are telescopic sights, optical-electronic devices, illuminated reticle for night firing, etc.), but, in general, it is possible to assume with caution that the “classic” light mortars almost completely exhausted their development potential.
The overall combat effectiveness and advantage of light mortars cannot be assessed separately and should rather be considered in the general context of all infantry weapons. While the advantages of light mortars have been described above, there are two main negative factors: perhaps increasing competition of hypertension (at least for some specific applications) and the fact that they usually require a three-person calculation for themselves. This is completely contrary to current trends in the field of serviced weapons at the level of separation and platoon.
We see a completely different situation in the area of increasingly popular simple landing models that are carried and maintained by one soldier (although the second person is still needed to carry ammunition). Thus, they can be deployed to provide the infantry unit with their own full-time fire support without adversely affecting mobility on foot. In addition, some of the current landing models are not limited to indirect fire, and can also fire their mines on a flat or semi-fixed trajectory. This possibility is provided by the descent system, which replaced the traditional fixed motionless striker head, it also allows for the re-launch of mines in the event of a misfire.
As already noted, amphibious models usually have half the range compared with their "full-size" counterparts. This, of course, can be a serious limitation under certain combat conditions, but according to experts, this disadvantage is fully compensated by the advantage of the minimum range. The smaller the minimum effective range, the more effective this weaponry during combat in built-up areas. The average figure for amphibious models is 100 meters, but 50 meters are also attributed to some models.
A variety of concepts relating to light mortar sights have been adopted. Some manufacturers and users prefer extremely simple solutions, for example, a white sighting line drawn along the trunk and a range mark on the carrying strap; At the same time, configurations are gradually becoming more complex and range from optical sights embedded in carrying handles, range marks and vertical angles on the base plate around the barrel to a bubble gauge and up to the sophisticated British night sight L9A1. Mortar FLY-K from Rheinmetall has what is described as a unique system with a built-in inclinometer that allows you to bring the weapon to the desired position for firing by simply lifting the barrel until it is aligned with the appropriate brand of vertical angle stamped on the barrel.
Like their "classic" counterparts, the technological development of light assault mortars was limited in the recent past and it is difficult to imagine that significant breakthroughs could occur in the future. A possible direction for further improvements may be to reduce the signs of conspicuity (signatures), which are quite understandably a central element in ensuring the survival of the mortar design. The only currently available model for which an acceptable level of signature reduction is achieved is FLY-K, whose main characteristic is the use of a unique reactive unit combined with a stabilizer mine. This device captures projectile gases when fired, thus completely eliminating flash and smoke signatures, also reduces the noise signature caused by the impact of the base plate on the ground to about 40 dB on 100 meters. In addition, there is no heat exchange between the mine and the barrel, so that the mortar remains not detected by infrared homing heads and thermal warning systems.
The South African 40-mm AG Vektor works on the principle of long recoil shooting from an open bolt. The weapon weighs 29 kg plus 12 kg weighs the mounting foot. The ammunition box can be installed either on the left side of the receiver or on the right, so the feed direction can be changed without special tools. The maximum rate of fire is 425 shots / min, it can be reduced to 360 shots / min by changing the position of the muzzle brake
A US soldier assesses the capabilities of the Modular Accessory Shotgun System modular rifle. MASS combines the firepower and characteristics of an M4 5,56 mm rifle with the installation of various devices under and above the barrel. MASS allows a soldier to destroy long-range targets with a rifle, while having the advantage of the universality of smooth-bore ammunition cartridges for nearby targets
Automatic grenade launchers
Automatic grenade launchers (AH) are becoming more widespread in many armed forces around the world. At the same time, however, they are still the subject of a rather heated controversy, which concerns their characteristics and the corresponding operational aspects.
The issues of the dispute are quite clearly delineated. Some analysts and types of troops do not consider hypertension as a hybrid weapon system, whose deployment in small infantry units does not seem quite obvious due to the wide spread of fire support weapons for direct and indirect branch-level targeting, such as light / airborne mortars and UE or TP. However, others welcome the AH as truly universal weapons systems capable of effectively destroying a wide range of stationary and moving targets with direct and indirect fire suppression fire.
The recent combat experience, apparently, again led to the predictable conclusion that the AH and TP simply complement each other and to the question which of them is the best weapon can only be answered within a specific combat mission. A very interesting example is the development of the decisions of the French army. Recently, in order to increase gunner protection, the army launched an accelerated program to replace the open turret mount for an 12,7-mm machine gun on some VAB wheeled armored personnel carriers deployed in Afghanistan with the remotely controlled M151 PROTECTOR combat module from Kongsberg. But as soon as the upgraded vehicles entered the troops, a new emergency program was launched to replace at least some 12,7-mm TPs with the M151 module with 40-mm AGs. VAB machines with open installations, however, will retain their TP, possibly due to the excellent situational awareness of the shooter in this case.
Next, we will consider AG in two configurations: dismounted and installation on machines, the latter can even in many cases be considered as regular means of separation or platoon.
AH can be used for firing on interdiction from defensive positions or for providing offensive fire of their own troops, they fire directly and indirectly. Thanks to the use of fragmentation ammunition, AGs are much more effective against manpower compared to other fire support weapons firing direct fire, such as a UE and a TP, while also having a slightly longer practical range. Also, as already noted, AGs have additional capabilities for destroying a BBM. Special cumulative anti-tank shells are available mainly for Russian and Chinese AH, while West-oriented manufacturers and consumers increasingly prefer universal ammunition, such as the American model M430 HEDP, whose warhead is capable of penetrating 50-mm armor. (In this regard, M430 is considered in comparison with the standard M383 shot as the best solution for the destruction of personnel outside the shelter, despite its small lethal radius).
However, the low accuracy inherent in AG or more precisely their ammunition (mean deviation ± 10 m at a distance 1500 m) is a significant drawback especially when shooting at moving targets. In addition, the relatively small explosive charge of the 30 – 40 mm caliber embedded in the warhead, which is also initiated by the impact fuze (therefore, detonating on the ground, in contrast to the complex solution embedded in the VOG-25П Russian grenade), leads to less optimal lethal radius. In this regard, significant development efforts should have been focused on improving these characteristics.
Some manufacturers have taken the path of developing more efficient fuses. For example, the already mentioned M430 grenade has a fuse in the front, which, however, interferes with the cumulative jet (therefore, a relatively low penetration power compared to what one would expect from a warhead with such a diameter). SACO Defense, the original manufacturer of the ubiquitous Mk19, took a different path and offered a system equipped with a telescopic sight and laser rangefinder several years ago, which was a useful but modest improvement. Other manufacturers have gone further down the same path, presenting subsequent generations of AGs that are more or less based on the same architecture as the Mk19, but have more and more advanced sights. An example of such a trend would be the Heckler & Koch GMG model, which has a reflective telescopic sight. In addition to these partial improvements, real solutions to eliminate the shortcomings of traditional AG designs were found in the parallel development and implementation of two new technologies:
- Complicated sights with built-in laser range finders and ballistic calculators, which could be described as really miniature (and not too expensive) fire control systems (FCS) capable of doing ballistic calculations based on the distance to the target and the characteristics of the ammunition used; and,
- Air blast ammunition with a programmable remote fuse.
The individual XM25 air blast weapon is based on approximately the same principles that are adopted for the new generation of the AG (a full-fledged solution for capturing a target for escort, MSA and programmable ammunition), but its 25-mm air blast projectile rotates in contrast to the remote fuse (that is , the fuse counts the revolutions of the projectile). The types of shots 25x40 mm include high-explosive air blasting, armor-piercing, anti-personnel, concrete-piercing and non-lethal projectiles with a range of 500 m for point targets and up to 700 m in areas. The system is being developed by Heckler & Koch and Alliant Techsystems, while the target acquisition and fire control system is being developed by L-3 IOS Brashear. Current plans call for the purchase of 12500 XM25 grenade launchers at a planned cost of $ 25000 for the system.
The US Army began shipping a new M320 40 mm grenade launcher. The first subunit will be the 82 Airborne Division. M320. The grenade launcher will replace the current model M203, it greatly improves the accuracy of shooting day and night, thanks to a laser rangefinder and IR laser pointer. It is also more versatile, it can be mounted under the assault rifle barrel and shoot as a separate weapon, it is safer due to its double action descent.
The Milkor M32 semi-automatic grenade launcher in service with mostly American Marine Corps. It is a new principle of conducting suppressive fire over the squares with the same low-speed 40x46 mm grenades, like standard grenade launchers for assault rifles
The “eternal” large-caliber machine gun M2 12,7 mm, apparently, was on the way of decommissioning of modern armies as not meeting modern combat requirements. The fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, however, led to a sharp revision of its applicability, many of these weapons were removed from storage.
These two technologies complement each other when transforming automatic grenade launchers into much more effective weapon systems than was previously possible. Air blasting provides much better lethality, but of course this cannot be done without not "telling" the projectile the exact moment when it should detonate. On the other hand, the poor accuracy inherent in AG and their ammunition will probably make modern sights and MSAs useless if programmable fuses are not more accessible.
The principle of operation is inherited from technologies that were originally developed in the 70s and 80s for medium caliber and automatic aviation guns. Since each projectile passes through the muzzle of the gun, the selected detonation time is programmed in the fuse by a magnetic induction device (coil) associated with the FCS. Detonation time is calculated by the MSA based on the expected projectile flight time. A timer in the fuse counts down the time back to zero, and the projectile detonates at a given point, releasing a mass of highly lethal fragments towards the target.
The emergence of fire control systems in conjunction with air explosive ammunition changes everything. AGs can now be used much more efficiently when destroying area and linear targets (for example, personnel outside shelters, a column of unarmored or lightly armored vehicles along the road), and perhaps even air targets (for example, transport helicopters or assault helicopters from an ambush) due to their A new opportunity to fill with splinters volume in addition to the area. This principle of operation implies that the warhead can be created so as to release debris in the front cone, which translates into much greater efficiency (although the circular lethal radius of course decreases). Most models also include an additional shock fuse that can be deactivated by the shooter under special conditions (for example, when shooting in a wooded area or through dense thickets) and a permanent self-destructing device that prevents potential damage from an unexploded shell. It will also be possible to use AH to bombard certain open surfaces (for example, windows and doors in built-up areas) even under special conditions (for example, the absence of walls or other obstacles right outside the window or door), while it may be pointless to shoot through the breaches with standard ammunition shock fuse. It is quite clear that AGs also become very effective against hidden targets behind cover, although the lack of data from a rangefinder can lead to an approximate value in the remote fuse. Ammunition with a programmable remote fuse remains physically compatible with traditional conventional AH sights, but of course it cannot then be programmed for an air blast.
However, it is not necessary to say that such characteristics have their price. This concerns not only the weapon itself, but also the most likely ammunition; A programmable 40-mm projectile costs about 10 times as much as a standard projectile, even in the case of mass production. It definitely helps to understand why AG and ammunition of the new generation do not take the market by storm.
The General Dynamics American Mk47 STRIKER, which is equipped with a Raytheon AN / PGW-1 lightweight video sight and firing NAM MO PPHE high-performance air-assisted air attack munitions, is said to be the first air defense-assisted weapon system deployed around the world; but it is purchased in relatively small quantities mainly for special forces. This may be due to the emergence of new operational doctrines where at least some of the roles currently prescribed for AH can be performed by the XM25 Individual Airburst Weapon future air strikes, which include a more miniature version of most of the same technological advances as the Mk47.
Singapore Technologies Kinetics (STK) chose a different (and in a commercial sense much more intriguing) way and rather developed not a weapon system as such, but a “retrofit kit” consisting of an SLA, an explosive delay unit and an airborne programmable ammunition. This “kit” can be installed not only on STK models (this includes the original CIS-40 model, the lightweight version of the SLW with a mass reduced to 16 kg while maintaining the same rate of fire of the 350 shots / min and the super-light version of the SLWAGL), but also many other AG standard caliber 40 mm. There are no reports of any sales yet.
The new lightweight large-caliber 12,7-mm machine gun M806 entered service with the American army in 2011 year. The first units that received the new machine gun, became highly mobile forces, such as landing, mountain and special parts
Back to basics?
Cool attitude of the American army to the formulation adopted Mk47 as hypertension new generation originally written off to perform parallel XM307 ACSW program (Advanced Crew Served Weapons - advanced weapons, served by calculation) - grenade intended for firing with new high-speed grenades 25x59 mm proximity fuse ( not to be confused with the new low-speed grenade XM25 25x40 mm) and having a much larger actual range (up to 2000 meters) and a flat trajectory. The XM307 program was closed in 2007, however, shortly thereafter the XM312 program (the usual heavy machine gun, firing standard 12,7-mm cartridges and having a lot in common with XM307, which allows you to quickly change one configuration to another) was also closed due with poor field test results.
A pair of XM307 and XM312, as expected, will initially gradually replace most of the 12,7-mm machine guns, as well as the AG Mk19. After the closure of both programs, General Dynamics was given a contract to develop a new TP, which should replace M2. The new project originally received the designation LW50MG, and then was classified as (X) M806, now it is more likely considered as an add-on for M2, rather than replacing it.
The (X) M806 design is based on the recoil reduction principle developed for XM307. The new TP on the 50% is lighter (18 kg without attachment), it has a smaller 60% recoil force compared to M2, but at the same time it “paid” for it with a lower rate of fire (250 shots / min), although it is larger than the XM312. M806 began to enter the troops at the end of 2011 of the year. The first to receive it were landing, mountain and special units.