ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. -- The U.S. Army is testing significant improvements to a shoulder-fired weapon used by Soldiers and Special Operations forces as part of a foreign technology program.Upgrades to the M3 recoilless rifle, also known as the multi-role anti-armor anti-personnel weapon system, will make it more ergonomic, six pounds lighter and shorter.The weapons system is incorporating modern materials to achieve input provided by U.S. Special Operations Command and other services' users, said Renee Bober, Product Manager for the M3E1 at U.S. Army Project Manager Soldier Weapons.When testing and qualifications are completed in spring 2017, upon type classification scheduled for fall 2017, the system will be available for procurement to all Department of Defense services. The M3E1 fires a high-explosive round to engage light-armored vehicles, bunkers and soft structures. The upgraded weapon is able to fire the existing suite of MAAWS ammunition.To assist in the project with funding and expertise, the M3E1 team turned to the Army Foreign Comparative Testing Program, said William "Randy" Everett, FCT project manager. The program's mission is to find and evaluate solutions to meet the operational needs of American Service members -- regardless of the origin of the technology."We wouldn't have been able to do the project without the support and funding provided by OSD FCT office," Everett said.The Army Research, Development and Engineering Command's International Cooperation and Exchange Office manages the FCT program for the Army.Army engineers and weapons experts from Picatinny Arsenal, New Jersey; Watervliet Arsenal, New York; and Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland began working with the Swedish manufacturer, Saab Bofors Dynamics, for testing and qualifying the next-generation weapon, known as the M3A1."The team combined an improved weapons system with cost savings," Everett said. "They traveled to Sweden so they could observe and validate the vendor's testing instead of duplicating it back in the U.S. It was an innovative solution that saved more than $300,000."Bober said the upgrades will also include a shot counter. For safety reasons, a weapon should not fire more than its specified limit of rounds."This will give Soldiers better use of the system," she said. "Right now the Soldier is manually recording the number of rounds fired in a notebook provided with each weapon. [The shot counter] will make everything easier and provide traceability. The system will last longer when we know how many rounds go through each weapon."Under the current system, if a service member does not track each round fired, the M3 must be half-lifed because an accurate count cannot be guaranteed. For example, if a weapon is qualified for 1,000 rounds, a half-life would cut the remaining use to 500.-----OSD's FCT programs support the U.S. warfighter by leveraging mature equipment and technologies from coalition industry to satisfy U.S. defense requirements. Performance measures include accelerating the acquisition process, reducing development costs and providing opportunities for the introduction of innovative and cost-saving technologies into existing defense acquisition programs.-----The U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command has the mission to ensure decisive overmatch for unified land operations to empower the Army, the joint warfighter and our nation. RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command.