U.S. Ordnance Gets Massive Order for M2A2N .50 Cal Heavy Machine Gun Norwegian Armed Forces to Benefit from U.S. Ordnance Deal
The 12.7mm (.50 caliber) M2 Heavy Machine Guns (HMGs) are important weapons for the Norwegian Armed Forces and have been for a long time. The M2 weapon has been through two renaissances in recent times: First through the use of multipurpose ammunition from Nammo in the 1980s and then through the M2s mounted on the KONGSBERG PROTECTOR Remote Controlled Weapon Stations (RWS) in the 2000s. 20,000 RWS systems are produced and in use by 19 countries. Now, worn-out weapons will be widely replaced with new ones.
7-Year Framework Agreement
Before Christmas 2018, a 7-year framework agreement was awarded to U.S. Ordnance according to an announcement in January 2019. The Norwegian Armed Forces will receive 1,000 new M2A2 HMGs from U.S. Ordnance. A framework agreement was signed at a ceremony at the Defense Museum at Akershus Fortress, February 7, 2019. The museum was quite an apt place to carry out the contract signing, as the new HMGs, designated “M2A2N,” replace the current 12.7mm units that were provided by the U.S. after the World War II. An upgrade (cal. 50 M2HB-QCB—designated “Mitraljøse 12.7mm NM218”) that was completed in 1999 to 2001 does not prevent the fact that the weapons have very different ages and wear. According to Chief of Defense Materiel Land Capacities Brigadier General Morten Eggen, a thorough assessment of three weapon manufacturers, including technical and operational testing, was carried out before they chose U.S. Ordnance. In addition to performance, operational reliability and price, the ability to deliver within a few months after the order was an important factor for in the choosing of U.S. Ordnance. Now, the new M2A2Ns are going to be delivered within a year at a much faster rate than what was originally thought possible. The frame agreement gives a high degree of flexibility. In total, around 1,300 M2A2Ns may be needed. Furthermore, the security of supply on spare parts, tools and other materiel for an additional period of 15 years is also included in the 7-year framework agreement.
As mentioned above, many of the weapons that the Norwegian Armed Forces have today were produced for the Americans during World War II. The weapons were produced at a time when the U.S. engaged as many mechanical workshops as possible to produce many weapons at a rapid pace. The M2A2Ns that are acquired now come from automated production lines with completely different tolerances and materiel quality. The weapons which are being phased out now, come from a two-digit mix of suppliers over the years. In 1999 to 2001, Belgian FN Herstal, the company that delivered the 12.7mm NM218’s QCB (Quick Change Barrel) upgrade, has been the group the Norwegian Armed Forces have dealt with as long as they delivered the equipment. Now the Norwegian Defense Materiel Agency (NDMA) has only one supplier to relate to: U.S. Ordnance, with configuration control and system responsibilities. That is important for the Norwegian Armed Forces when weapons might be in the organization for 30 to 40 years. A contract for support systems remains to be concluded, so that the actual fielding to the units will start in 2020. There is also a sub-project under way which may result in new thermal sights for the M2A2Ns. NDMA had also considered other solutions of the same caliber for a period, but ended up with the M2 Browning design for economic reasons. To integrate a brand new weapon system into vehicles and remote weapon stations would be far more costly than buying new variants of the M2 design.
From Open to Closed Bolt
Associated equipment must be purchased in addition to the actual weapons: integration adaptations on vehicles and weapon stations and on so-called NM152 soft mount, for example. The new M2A2Ns have a closed-bolt mechanism instead of an open-bolt mechanism and thus cannot be inserted directly onto existing NM152 soft mounts. Today’s Norwegian 12.7mm NM218s have been upgraded with an open-bolt mechanism that was designed by Vinghøg in the 1990s. This means that the bolt group is automatically hooked up to the rear position when the trigger is released. The reason for this is to avoid a round lying in a hot chamber, which occurs when a lot of automatic rounds have been fired. In the worst case, the explosive in the projectile can ignite, or the powder in the projectile cartridge ignites, then one gets what is often called “cook-off.” There are hardly any other nations that have open bolt in the M2 design; only closed bolt. If one were to continue with an open bolt, it would require a rebuild, and NDMA didn’t want to change the standard configuration, according to Major Eirik Horst, project manager for the M2A2N acquisition in NDMA—Land Capacities. Closed bolt is not a big problem. It can be solved by simple handling drills.
Description of the M2A2 (Source: U.S. Ordnance)
According to U.S. Ordnance:
The M2A2 machine gun is an air-cooled, belt-fed machine gun that fires from a closed bolt and operates on the short recoil principle with fixed headspace and timing. It’s capable of both sustained automatic and accurate single-shot fire. It can be mounted on a vehicle, boat, helicopter or other aircraft. Ammunition may be fed from either the left or right side of the gun, making it suitable for use by both infantry and in armored vehicles. The M2A2 weapon system has been tested to well over 50,000 rounds. Its single-breech lock system allows for field rebuild, eliminating the need for depot-level maintenance during its lifetime and thereby greatly reducing logistical support. U.S. Ordnance developed its M2A2 12.7mm weapon after years of experience manufacturing machine guns for the U.S. Department of Defense and U.S. Foreign Allies. Its M2A2 offers the proven performance of the existing M2HB machine gun but also features fixed headspace and timing. This upgrade improves the performance of the battle-proven M2HB weapon system, largely increases the safety level for operating personnel and affords barrel changing on crew-served or coaxial-mounted weapons in 10 or fewer seconds. Only one person needs to change the M2A2 barrel, thereby reducing exposure to enemy fire and quickly readying the weapon for continued operation. The U.S. Ordnance M2A2 system utilizes the standard barrel thread, which means standard M2HB barrels can be used in the A2 gun as needed, in emergencies or training. (Using the standard M2HB barrel in a QCB weapon requires removing the Barrel Support Locating Pin, then headspacing the barrel using the standard headspace and timing gage.) Using only the A2 conversion kit, an armorer at the customer location can convert an M2HB machine gun into a U.S. Ordnance M2A2 weapon system in fewer than 30 minutes, without complex tools or machines.
|M2A2 Quick-Change Barrel 12.7x99mm NATO .50 Cal. Browning Machine Gun|
Max Effective Range
Rate of Fire (cyclic)
|12.7x99mm NATO (.50 cal.)
929.64 m/s (3,050 fps)
|Weight of Gun
Weight of Barrel
Length of Gun
Length of Barrel
|Number of Lands and Grooves
One turn in 38.10cm (15in)
Single-Shot, Fully Automatic
Disintegrating Link Belt (M2 or M9 Link)
Air -54C (-62.5F) / +63C (145.5F)
|Fires all types of NATO ammunition: Ball, Tracer, AP, API, APIT, AP Hardcore and Multipurpose. Fixed headspace and timing eliminate safety concerns associated with barrel changing and improper timing. (Source: U.S. Ordnance)|
Inside the receiver there are some good technical solutions that make the weapon less maintenance-intensive at the workshop level, while for the users, it will be more reliable, have smoother recoil and have a longer life time than its predecessors. An important improvement on the M2A2N is the new muzzle flash damper. Today’s M2 machine guns also have an option for mounting this damper. The flash damper is primarily designed to protect the shooter because it has the advantage of emitting considerably less muzzle flash. Reduced signature means reduced risk of exposure of a heavy machine gun position—a target the enemy will prioritize taking out. The user teams that have been involved in the operative testing of the M2A2N, have expressed that it’s perhaps the best muzzle flash damper they have used. Instead of large flashes, the new damper’s muzzle flash appears more like something that can be mistaken for lighter small arms. The characteristic .50-caliber firing sound will still be there. Although the M2A2Ns that Norway has now ordered are confusingly similar to the ones John Moses Browning constructed as far back as World War I, they are in no way obsolete. It is an incredibly flexible and effective weapon against a wide range of targets, except the heaviest armored ones. It’s easy to handle. It has a high firing rate and effect on targets according to Major Eirik Horst.