The Army wants to field a new .50-caliber machine gun that’s about 64 percent lighter than the venerable Ma Deuce.
Weapons officials classified the General Dynamics-made lightweight .50-caliber machine gun as the XM806 in March 2009, clearing the way for further testing of the radical new design.
While it would not replace the M2 .50-caliber machine gun, also known as Ma Deuce, the Army hopes to field the 30-pound XM806 in 2012 as a lightweight alternative to the 84-pound M2, said Lt. Col. Mike Ascura, product manager for crew-served weapons.
“Now that it is an experimental weapon, we will look at the design … and determine if the gun meets the needs of the Army to move forward as a program of record,” he said. “There is some real potential here.”
The XM806 is an offshoot of the XM307, a crew-served weapon that fired 25mm air-burst ammunition and featured a high-tech fire control system.
The Army began developing the XM307 in the 1990s for its Future Combat System, but the program was shelved as the result of budget cuts in 2007.
But the Army’s Infantry Center released a new requirement for a lightweight .50-cal machine gun later that year, giving the futuristic design a second chance.
The XM806 no longer features the computerized fire control system but can now fire the same M9 linked ammunition that the M2 uses.
The rate of fire on the XM806 is much slower than that of the M2 — 250 rounds per minute compared to the M2’s 500 rounds-per-minute rate. This helps to make the weapon easier to control and more accurate, Ascura said.
The lighter recoil also means the XM806 can use a lightweight aluminum frame instead of a more rigid steel frame like that of the M2, which greatly reduces the XM806’s weight.
Currently, the M2 is mounted on everything from Humvees to heavy armored vehicles.
Army officials maintain that the XM806’s lightweight design would allow combat units to use it in a limited dismounted role such as over-watch and support positions, Ascura said.
If all goes well, the Army plans to buy 12 XM806s for developmental and operational tests between now and 2011, Ascura said. The Army has not decided how many XM806s it intends to field, Ascura said, adding that he could not give cost estimates for the program.
“We hope to field this as early as 2012,” he said. “Right now, the plan for it is to augment the M2; the maneuver forces still need that high rate of fire found in the M2.”
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