Lightweight .50-Caliber: Lethality at half the weight
October 2, 2008
By Debi Dawson
FORT BELVOIR, Va. (Army News Service, Oct. 2, 2008) -- As Soldiers training for combat look to lighten their load, they can look forward to the Lightweight .50-Caliber Machine Gun.
The LW50, an addition to the Army's arsenal of machine guns at one-half the weight of the M2 .50-Caliber Machine Gun and with 60 percent less recoil, does not require the setting of headspace and timing. The LW50 provides Soldiers with the punch of a .50-caliber machine gun in the footprint of a 7.62mm weapon system, allowing them to bring .50 caliber lethality to the fight in situations where using a light to medium machine gun is the only available option.
The LW50 is still in the early stages of system design and development and officials at the Program Executive Office Soldier at Fort Belvoir said they expect the weapon to be fielded in 2011. They said a limited two-part Early User Assessment for the weapon was conducted with Special Operations Command personnel in March and May.
The LW50, a technological spinout from the 25mm XM307 Advanced Crew Served Weapon program, is capable of firing all current .50-caliber ammunition in the inventory, including the standard M33 ball; the M8 armor-piercing incendiary; the M903 saboted light armor penetrator; and the MK211 multipurpose round that combines armor-piercing, explosive, and incendiary effects.
"A major benefit of the LW50 is the weight and recoil savings and no requirement to adjust the headspace and timing," said Shailesh Parmar, a product director for Product Manager Crew Served Weapons in the office of Project Manager Soldier Weapons. "The LW50 is expected to weigh less than 65 pounds, including tripod and traversing and elevation mechanism, compared with the M2 system's weight of 128 pounds, a savings of 63 pounds or more," said Parmar. He also noted that the LW50 can be set up faster than an M2 because it does not need ballast to weigh down the tripod due to less recoil.
The LW50's greatly reduced recoil enables Soldiers to use weapon-magnified optics and maintain sight picture of the target, which was unthinkable and potentially painful with the M2. "Lower recoil also means less dispersion of rounds and better accuracy," Parmar said. "That, in turn, makes it easier to qualify with the LW50, allows Soldiers to use rounds more economically, and reduces the logistical burden."
Staff Sgt. James Tyus of the 1st Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery was quick to notice the improvements while training on the weapon at Fort Hood, Texas. "It absorbs more recoil now. Given that, it makes the weapon more accurate. I like it for its accuracy," Tyus said.
The LW50's weight savings, reduced recoil, and increased accuracy allow for its use in places that were not feasible for an M2, such as in light infantry operations.
Once the LW50 is deployed, all vehicles that mount the M2 will be able to mount the new system. Tests have been successfully conducted mounting the system to the Stryker Combat Vehicle and the Common Remotely Operated Weapon Station.
Other benefits of the LW50 include safety and training applications. The LW50 eliminates the need for the operator to adjust the headspace and timing and for any special maintenance tools, reducing the amount of training required. The current LW50 has 131 parts, compared with 244 for the M2.
"It's a very unique weapon. You don't have to worry about timing," said Pvt. Michael Zinns with 1-82 Field Artillery, who, like Tyus, was introduced to the LW50 at Fort Hood. The teardown, too, "is actually a lot easier, and the barrels are much more easily interchangeable," Zinns said.
The Army recently issued a requirement for a lightweight .50 caliber machine gun. Furthermore, Special Operations Command (SOCOM) is developing lightweight vehicles that will need armament. SOCOM recognizes that a lightweight, low-recoil weapon suitable for these vehicles could see expanded use within dismounted units. The LW50 has the potential to satisfy those three needs in one package.
According to the current program cycle, the LW50 could be fielded at the end of FY11. Light units, such as the 82nd Airborne Division, the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), 10th Mountain Division, 25th Infantry Division, and SOCOM forces, are expected to benefit most from the new weapon.
"I think that's what a lot of us look for, a lighter weapon," said Tyus. "I'm really excited about it."
Seeing what PEO-Soldier is bringing to bear in the Global War on Terrorism "inspires and sustains our young Soldiers" as they prepare to deploy to Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, said Command Sgt. Maj. Neil Ciotola of III Corps, Fort Hood, Texas. "Many of our first-term troopers and even our veterans who have one tour can look at that and go: 'That's what's waiting for me.' "
(Debi Dawson serves as the PEO-Soldier Strategic Communications Officer.)