USMC to replace SAW with LSW

#1
Just thought this story's rather ironic concerning what's recently happened in the British Army:
From the Marine Corps Times

So long, SAW?
By Matthew Cox - Staff writer
Posted : Monday Sep 15, 2008 19:36:56 EDT
Marine infantry units soon may replace their light machine guns with new automatic rifles designed to help gunners move faster on assaults.

Weapons officials at Marine Corps Systems Command in Quantico, Va., are testing magazine-fed weapons from at least six gun makers in a search for a lighter alternative to the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon, which weighs close to 17 pounds unloaded.

At the squad level, “the biggest hindrance to being able to effectively fire and maneuver is the weight of the SAW,” said Patrick Cantwell, capability integration officer for the Infantry Automatic Rifle program at SysCom.

The winning IAR design — which the Corps wants to weigh no more than 12.5 pounds — could begin replacing the SAW in infantry squads as early as next year.

“We see this being the automatic rifleman’s primary weapon,” Cantwell said. “We obviously want it as soon as possible, but we are looking at sometime in 2009.”

The M249 has been in service with the Corps since the mid-1980s. The standard model weighs about 22 pounds when loaded with a 200-round belt of 5.56mm ammunition.

Despite its weight, the weapon spits out up to 750 rounds per minute, providing small units with a tremendous rate of sustained automatic fire.

WHY THE ARMY SAYS NO THANKS
That’s why the Army, which also uses the M249, has ruled out a soldier version of the Marine IAR.

“We are not considering adopting an auto rifle for the infantry squad,” said Col. Robert Radcliffe, director of the Infantry Center’s Directorate of Combat Developments at Fort Benning, Ga.

Currently, Marine and Army infantry squads equip their fire teams with one M249 each. The difference, Radcliffe said, is that Marine squads have three fire teams, and Army squads have two fire teams.

“It’s really all about firepower. The Marine Corps has a 13-man squad; we have a nine-man squad — that’s a four-man difference.”

Army infantry officials, however, do want to find a replacement for the M249.

Since 2003, Army Materiel Command has stood up a robust refurbishing program that rebuilds worn-out SAWs to nearly new condition. But heavy operational use continues to take its toll on the M249’s performance, Radcliffe said.

“We recognize that we need to find another solution for the light machine gun in the squad,” Radcliffe said.

One option for replacing the SAW could be the MK46 — a newer version of the M249, redesigned for reduced weight and adopted by U.S. Special Operations Command in 2000. FNH USA makes the M249 and the MK46.

The MK46 has a fixed stock and 16.3-inch barrel. FNH removed features such as the magazine-feeding well, the tripod mount and the gas regulator, reducing the weight to 15.4 pounds unloaded.

The current M249 comes in two versions. The standard model features a fixed stock and a 20.5-inch barrel, and weighs in at 16.8 pounds unloaded. The paratrooper model has a collapsible stock and a 14.5-inch barrel, and weighs in at 15.95 pounds unloaded.

Like the M249, the MK46 has the same cyclic rate of fire of 750 rounds per minute.

“We are interested in the MK46,” said Army Maj. Thomas Henthorn, chief of the small-arms division at Benning, describing his brief impressions after shooting the MK46 there Aug. 6. “It does feel lighter than the SAW.”

Benning officials were quick to point out, though, that no decisions have been made on the MK46, and they offered no timeline for future testing.

NOT GOING AWAY COMPLETELY
Marine officials are adamant the SAW is not going away. The M249 will remain in use by the rest of the Corps and will be available to Marine infantry commanders if they feel they need more firepower, Cantwell said.

The plan is to buy 4,100 IARs and reduce the number of SAWs in the Corps from 10,000 to 8,000, Cantwell said.

“We are still going to maintain SAWs in the company,” he said. “Only 2,000 SAWs will be replaced. The reminder will be kept as an organizational weapon for when commanders need them.”

The Marine Corps has been talking about the need for a lightweight IAR since 2001. But the program picked up momentum in early summer when Marine weapons officials began testing prototypes from several gun makers.

Corps officials would not say which companies are participating in the program.

But so far, officials from FNH USA, the current maker of the M249; General Dynamics Armament and Technical Products; Heckler & Koch; LWRC International LLC; and Patriot Ordnance Factory Inc. have confirmed they are competing for the contract.

Weapons sources also confirmed that Colt Defense LLC is participating in the IAR competition, but Colt officials would neither confirm nor deny the company’s participation.

One of the biggest changes Marine gunners will notice about the IAR is that it’s magazine-fed only, compared with the M249’s belted ammunition. The M249 also can fire standard-issue magazines.

Early on in the program, the requirement called for the IAR to use detachable, 100-round magazines. Now, Marine weapons officials are requiring only that it be able to run on the same 30-round magazines infantrymen use in their M16A4 rifles and M4 carbines.

Large-capacity magazines are not being ruled out for the future, but “we wanted everybody to have the same ammo and the same magazine,” Cantwell said, explaining that is easier to redistribute ammo when all the magazines are the same.

Army infantry officials maintain that switching from a 200-round belt to a 30-round magazine would cause Army squads to lose the high rate of fire they have with the M249.

“Volume of fire is important,” Radcliffe said. “The Marine Corps thinks it can get that out of a magazine-fed weapon. We don’t think the Army can.”

The M249’s sustained rate of fire is 85 rounds per minute. The requirement for the IAR calls for the weapon to fire 36 rounds per minute for 16 minutes, 40 seconds. The IAR also will be able to fire at a higher rate of 75 rounds per minute for eight minutes, Cantwell said.

Unlike the M249 — which relies on a quick-change, spare barrel to keep the heat down — the IAR will have no spare barrel, Cantwell said. It will rely on the slower rate of fire and other features to manage the heat, such as the requirement that it fire from both the open- and close-bolt position.

An open-bolt operation allows more air into the receiver and reduces the chance of a round cooking off in an overheated chamber, Cantwell said. The close-bolt mode offers more accurate fire and lowers the risk of a negligent discharge from the bolt slipping forward as a gunner maneuvers, he said.

Cantwell conceded that “there is a sacrifice of the volume of fire,” but the ability to move fast and fire accurately outweighs it. With the IAR, “you have a more maneuverable weapon that, we hope, allows the Marine [gunner] to be more effective.”
I'm glad they're only getting rid of 1/5 of their SAWs, because I foresee a fairly quick failure on the operational Marine side followed by drawn-out stalling by higher-ups to prevent bringing the SAW back.

Thoughts?
 
#3
Perhaps a 1 for 1 swap?? I've fired the SAW....loved it. Albeit a bit on the weighty side.
 

old_fat_and_hairy

LE
Book Reviewer
Reviews Editor
#4
Perhaps this may be the answer to their problems. Well trialled, easy to use and should be familiar.
 

Attachments

#5
Firstly erm Schoen gutten morgen..
Hey werent they already using the MK48saw to combat the weight issue?
Besides since when as weight been an issue? big girls blouses, ive seen my regt go from the Bren being used along side the Gimpy (m240) and the introduction of the 249 late in my service, and to be honest despite the weight if i was stuck and needed firepower even if mobile I would always chose the Gimpy but thats just me.
You know what the yanks are like though they dont like an invention unless they can claim it was at least part their idea. I guess not being a boneheaded marine makes me unquallified to comment on individual deployments / roles, but it will be interesting to see what comes out of it all.
The U.S using our LSW? nah they love our gear dearly but they would rather peel their testicles with a cheese grater than do that, plus Germany would prolly be their next point of call for any imported gear, like they did for the mp7 smg class or HK 416 rifle class.
Not sure if HK has something in their range derived from the 416 and its robust quallities to serve as a squad automatic weapon, I guess its a case of watch this space . :?
 
#6
Mr_Deputy said:
LSW - u r having a giraffe!
They would opt for "XM8 type" weapon or one of the M16 style new boys from HK etc. They are light, fast, accurate, 'easy-clean' etc fit ammo in many forms such as nice drum mags, belts etc and can be up-graded to fit all sorts of ranging equipment and scopes.
have you been playing Bad Company on the Xbox a little too much?? ;)
 
#7
Mr_Deputy said:
smudge67 said:
Mr_Deputy said:
LSW - u r having a giraffe!
They would opt for "XM8 type" weapon or one of the M16 style new boys from HK etc. They are light, fast, accurate, 'easy-clean' etc fit ammo in many forms such as nice drum mags, belts etc and can be up-graded to fit all sorts of ranging equipment and scopes.
have you been playing Bad Company on the Xbox a little too much?? ;)
I regret that sir! I don't have an X Box! What I am saying is true...I like guns!!
I know, I was just being an ARRSE....as those weapons are available on Bad Company. Not sure that the XM8 would be of much use in that role though?
 
#10
I thought they started using the SAW due to the weight of the M60. Now theyre looking for something else due to the weight of the SAW. I bet theres alot of US Army guys taking the piss out of them right now.
 
#12
Lewis said:
What happend to the Ultimax they were supposed to be getting?
HAHAHA you mean the acrobatic cocking wonder that required to be in the fire position due the first round being discharged upon cocking handle release? used by armies who liked a challenge but couldnt afford the PKM

To be fair they did make nice looking weapons great as long as you didnt want to fire it :twisted:

Check the WALT below :lol:
 

Attachments

#14
Smudge, the Brits already use the SAW (we call it hte LMG). But ours is relitively light as it is the Para model (IIRC) either way it has a shorter barrel and collapsable stock in comparison to the SAW.

HK 416 has the capability of a heavy barrel being fitted so could be an option.

The yanks never seem to take to our kit with out a fight (look how long they envied our WMIKS for, but made do with their beach buggies). And they have the General now, so the M60 is relegated to history (it was pap anyway due to lack of changeable barrel until the M60E range (?).

Personally, off tangent, I´d like to see the British Army adopt the MP7 for ALL ranks bar infantry types (including corps like Engr Recce if needed), who should get HK416, sharpshooters get the 7.62mm version. LMGs for massive fire power and GPMPGs for that bit extra, Bugle platoons and vehicles.

Pistols would be the new HK pistol that uses th e same 4.6mm round as the MP7. HK Grenade launchers are a must and the GMG.

Mainly because I´d love the Drill Pigs to come up with drill for the MP7 :D
 

ugly

LE
Moderator
#15
chocolate_frog said:
Smudge, the Brits already use the SAW (we call it hte LMG). But ours is relitively light as it is the Para model (IIRC) either way it has a shorter barrel and collapsable stock in comparison to the SAW.

HK 416 has the capability of a heavy barrel being fitted so could be an option.

The yanks never seem to take to our kit with out a fight (look how long they envied our WMIKS for, but made do with their beach buggies). And they have the General now, so the M60 is relegated to history (it was pap anyway due to lack of changeable barrel until the M60E range (?).

Personally, off tangent, I´d like to see the British Army adopt the MP7 for ALL ranks bar infantry types (including corps like Engr Recce if needed), who should get HK416, sharpshooters get the 7.62mm version. LMGs for massive fire power and GPMPGs for that bit extra, Bugle platoons and vehicles.

Pistols would be the new HK pistol that uses th e same 4.6mm round as the MP7. HK Grenade launchers are a must and the GMG.

Mainly because I´d love the Drill Pigs to come up with drill for the MP7 :D
M60 E4 is I believe still available to USMC but the barrel has always been changeable albeit only in the early versions with an asbestos glove and the bipod legs were permanently attached to the barrel.

The bipod was moved to the receiver/body on the E version
 
#16

Biped

LE
Book Reviewer
#17
So, what's wrong with the Minimi then?
 
#18
M60 barrel is changeable, but an absolute b*tch of a weapon. Too heavy compared to m249 and far to unreliable and a general cnut compared to m240. Dragging an m60 over a septic assault course almost caused a sense of humour failure. M249 on the otherhand was lighter, easy to fire, reasonably accurate and mostly enjoyable. GPMG is just the daddy.

Could understand if they were complementing the minimi with an lsw type weapon; accurate to a greater distance and capable of a higher rate of fire, but replacing seems a bit funny...
 
#19
Both are FN Minimi's

The USMC SAW (Squad Automatic Weapon) is the M249 with a longer barrel and fixed stock


SAW M249 (L108A1)

While we use both the SAW as the L108A1 and the L110A1 [M249E3] Minimi PARA with shorter barrel and folding stock


PARA M249E3 (L110A1)

The weight is not that different:

Specifications
Weight
SAW: 16.5 lb (7.5 kg) empty
PARA: 15.95 lb. (7.25 kg) (empty)

Length
SAW: 41 in (1041 mm)
PARA: 36 in (914 mm) (stock extended), 30.5 in (775 mm)(stock compressed)

Barrel length
SAW: 20.5 in (521 mm) (M249)
PARA: 14.5 in (368 mm) (M249E3)
 
#20
Biped said:
So, what's wrong with the Minimi then?
Erm ... The Minimi IS the M249 in US service. It took the Yanks ages to realise the MAG 58 (our Jimpy) was a better gun than the M60. It's now in service as their M240. They got rid of the old BAR because it was a heavy rifle rather than a light machine-gun. Sounds like back to the future for a lot of soldiers whose fitness levels might be in question these days.

Cheers,
Cliff
 

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