( DN ) - The U.S. Army and Special Operations Command are stepping up efforts to procure a lighter, modernized 50-caliber machine gun more easily transported than the standard 85-pound M2.
The goal is not to replace the M2, a combat fixture for 70 years, but to augment the inventory with a 50-caliber weapon that brings the same firepower at less than half the weight, Army officials said here at the Feb. 27-29 winter convention of the Association of the U.S. Army. Early models of the Light Weight 50-caliber (LW50) are expected to be delivered this year.
"It will be significantly lighter and have less recoil," said U.S. Army Col. Carl Lipsit, program manager for soldier weapons at the service's Picatinny Arsenal, N.J. "We've done a market survey of the arms manufacturers to look and see what is available. It will still be a crew-served weapon with a tripod. It will be man-portable."
General Dynamics Armament and Technical Products (GD ATP) is one of the gun makers contending for the LW50 contract. Its gun weighs 35 pounds, compared with the 85-pound M2. Including the tripod, the M2 weighs 140 pounds, while GD's combined gun and tripod weigh 55 pounds.
"The M2 is a reliable, heavy-firepower weapon, but unfortunately it takes a lot of people and a lot of energy to move around," said Bob Caboretto, GD ATP's senior program manager for LW50. "This is a weapon which will allow an individual to pick up and move to the top of a building, to get up in the mountains easier - and it provides an awesome capability."
The LW50, which fires 250 rounds a minute out to ranges of 2,000 meters, reduces recoil in part through the movement of the barrel during firing, he said.
"As the round fires, the barrel moves. As the barrel starts returning, the mass inertia of the barrel absorbs the energy and lessens the recoil," Caboretto said.