The Association of the United States Army held its annual meeting on October 5-7, 2009 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, Washington DC. As one of the premier showcases demonstrating developments in the defense industry, more than 500 exhibitors from more than a dozen countries displayed their products and services. Displays included cruise missiles, unmanned aerial vehicles, small and medium caliber small arms, and armored vehicles. Small Arms Defense Journal was present to report on new products and advances within the defense community.
Camelbak introduced the Flow Meter, an intelligent personal hydration accessory that can be customized based on individual needs and activity level. It eliminates the risk of running out of water and the hassle of taking the pack off to see how much is left. The meter provides four functions – it allows the user to know how much water has been consumed, ensures personal hydration goals are met, tells the user how much water remains in the reservoir and the approximate time until empty. The meter can be integrated with any Camelbak reservoir.
AAI continues its research and development of telescoping ammunition. Two variations of telescoping ammunition (cased and caseless) are now available. The caseless ammunition is 50% lighter than conventional ammunition of comparable caliber, requires 40% less volume than conventional ammunition, is fully consumed within the firing sequence, and features a high-temperature ignition propellant. The cased ammunition is comparable to the caseless version, with the exception of slightly less weight savings (40% for cased, versus 50% for caseless) due to the cartridge case. Key objectives to the program include reducing the weight of the battle rifle to the war fighter, lower ammunition weight by 40% or more, and increased ergonomics.
Although very little information was available for public disclosure, the Barrett 25mm anti-material rifle was on display. Featuring a 10-round magazine, the rifle is reportedly comparable in size and weight to the Barrett M107 rifle chambered in .50 BMG.
Saab displayed their new Light Anti-tank Weapon as a potential replacement to the legacy AT-4 anti-tank weapon system. In June, 2009, a successful live firing demonstration of NLAW was conducted in the Gulf region. A number of missiles were fired, by local gunners, against various targets including moving, hull down and soft targets. The focus was to demonstrate that the system works under severe desert condition that comprises sand, dust, and very high temperatures as well as with gunners following a training program that allowed not more than roughly 10 hours of basic skills training.
The NLAW is the first weapon to give a single soldier the ability to destroy a modern Main Battle Tank (MBT) with a single shot from any angle. Due to its Overfly Top Attack mode, it can even engage MBTs in front attitude, as well as hidden targets or targets that are partly obscured. Its guidance system makes it very easy to use and provides a very high hit-and-kill probability. It is an exceptionally light missile system, making it ideal for light infantry forces in any environment including built-up areas. It has been developed and tested for use in any environment from arctic, desert, and sub-tropical, as well as both day and night.
Vectronix and Wilcox Industries
Vectronix and Wilcox Industries jointly developed a new weapon sight for stand alone and under-barrel 40mm grenade launchers. Utilizing a laser range finder, ballistic computer, and an articulating mount, the RAAM increases the probability of first round hit with 40mm rounds.
Outfitted with three separate lasers, the RAAM features a visible laser, IR laser and range finding laser within a single compact package. Use of the RAAM is surprisingly simple. The grenadier ‘aims’ the RAAM at the desired target. The laser range finder within the RAAM determines the distance to the target to include any angle of declination or inclination. The range finder will calculate and provide distances in 1 meter increments. The laser range finder has a range capability of 50 meters to a maximum distance of 2,000 meters. Clearly, a 40mm grenade can only be fired to a maximum of 400 meters; however, the laser range finder can be used for target acquisition and identification for support weapons and close air support.
If the grenadier determines that the target is within range, the range data is sent to the ballistic computer to calculate a firing solution. Once a firing solution has been calculated, the point of aim is automatically adjusted so that the grenadier need only place the red dot on the target. The aiming module is an easy to use and familiar red dot sight. The ballistic computer will calculate a firing solution to a distance of 400 meters.
The RAAM may be the grenadier’s new best friend. Weighing less than a pound, the ballistic computer will compensate for slope to the target position. No longer need a grenadier worry about firing short when firing upwards. Programmable for different types of ammunition, the RAAM utilizes two CR123 batteries, is night vision compatible, and mounts to either an M203 or M320 via standard Mil-Std 1913 Picatinny rails.
Fabrique Nationale Herstal
Fabrique Nationale displayed the Special Operations Forces (SOF) Combat Assault Rifle (SCAR) weapon system (MK 16 and MK 17) and the Enhanced Grenade Launcher Module (MK 13). Initial fielding with U.S. Special Operations units began in early April 2009.
The newly designated MK 13 MOD 0 40mm Enhanced Grenade Launcher Module (EGLM) quickly mounts to the underside of either SCAR platform or can be used in a stand-alone platform similar to the M79, providing an additional punch to the individual warfighter’s firepower. Look for a review of the MK 13 MOD 0 40mm EGLM in a future article.
General Dynamics displayed a new programmable Orion FCS 40mm weapon system capable of firing smart muntions. The unit is comprised of two parts: the weapon sight and the weapon. Upon capturing the target within the weapon sight, a laser is used to measure distance to the target and programs the 40mm cartridge. Unlike traditional 40mm cartridges, the smart munitions appear to be fired electrically and not via a traditional firing pin. Upon firing, the munition calculates the distance from the muzzle, arms itself, and detonates at the pre-programmed distance.
While seemingly experimental in nature, the system shows promise to revive interest in parameters created in the OICW weapon project. The system is reportedly adaptable to existing 40mm M203 systems. Outward appearances of the launcher appear very similar, if not identical to the legacy M2093 40mm system.
The AUSA annual meeting was an unqualified success, and allowed many in the small arms industry to display recent developments and innovations. Although not all of the products displayed were in production, the AUSA show is a great opportunity to witness developments in the small arms industry, talk to the engineers involved in the research and development process, and discuss innovations with others within the small arms community. The 2010 meeting will be held in Washington, DC, from October 25–27, 2010.