The infantry—with its weaponry—rules. That seemed to
be the message coming from the speakers at the annual NDIA Small
Arms Symposium, held in Indianapolis, in August. The Army, with
its focus on the new Interim Brigade Combat Team, is bringing renewed
attention to the foot soldier and his equipment. A major theme at
the conference was the challenge facing industry and military leaders
tasked with finding the equipment for the future objective force
Based on lessons learned from more than a decade of peacekeeping
missions—often less than peaceful—the infantry force
envisioned for the future is intended to be a single lethal force.
According to infantry combat developers from Fort Benning, Ga.,
future commanders will send one infantry force to the battlefield,
rather than choose between light or heavy forces.
Planners expect high-tempo, limited-duration combat. Enemy forces
likely will choose asymmetric combat methods. The goal is to develop
an objective infantry force that can meet a wide range of conflict,
from humanitarian missions to full-scale war. That force—the
Brigade Combat Team (BCT)—is expected to be fully operational
The BCT combines light infantry with the tactical mobility of the
mechanized force. The BCT, in various iterations, ultimately will
be the infantry force structure of the Army’s objective force.
Experiences in Kosovo appear to be driving the early stages of
development in designing the BCT.
Firepower will include more mortars, more Javelins and more weapons
of interest to the small arms world.
Army planners envision a sniper squad in every battalion, and a
designated marksman in every squad. In addition to the increased
number of precision rifles, the infantryman of the future will replace
the M16 assault rifle with the Objective Individual Combat Weapon
Under development since the mid-1990s, the OICW is intended strictly
for infantry soldiers. Facing what appears to the OICW designers
from Alliant Techsystems as a general misunderstanding fed by a
constant onslaught of misinformation, company representatives were
quick to point out that the system remains in the early stages of
Compared to the M16 legacy weapons, the OICW is heavy and bulky.
Alliant Techsystems engineers point out that the current comparisons
to the legacy M16 assault rifle neglect to account for the various
attachments needed to enhance the older weapon’s performance.
Even with the performance-enhancing accessories, the latest version
of the M16 cannot match the lethality expected from the OICW, according
to its designers.
When asked about the OICW’s weight and bulk, company representatives
expressed confidence in their ability to reduce the weapon from
its current 18 pounds to a more manageable 14. The current weight
of the OICW—with its 15 to 19 pounds including peripheral
equipment with similar features—compares favorably with the
modular version of the M16, said company representatives.
The Army expects the OICW, which includes a laser tracking system
and improved accuracy per round, to increase lethality. That factor
is expected to reduce the logistical footprint without diminishing
the soldier’s effectiveness.
Army representatives said the current small arms inventory meets
the requirements of the BCT although they are working with the program
manager for the BCT as the program evolves.
Other weapons under development at Picatinny include an under-barrel
12 gauge shotgun. The new Lightweight Shotgun System (LSS) weapon
was developed in cooperation with Colt’s Manufacturing Company
Inc., of Hartford, Conn.
Two variants were designed to attach under the barrel of either
the M16 assault rifle or the M4 carbine, a 21.5 inch barrel for
the former and a shorter 16.25 inch barrel for the latter. Both
versions give the shooter the option of a range of standard commercially
available 12 gauge or less-than-lethal ammunition. It operates from
a straight pull bolt action and uses the sights of the host assault
The LSS team designed three magazines in two, three and five rounds.
While tests at Fort Benning, Ga., in October 1999, proved successful,
program managers at Picatinny also are looking at a new stand alone
version of the LSS as a future project. The perceived market for
the new weapon includes the special operations community, diplomatic
security and law enforcement.
Also at the conference, two new bullpup assault rifles were on
display and demonstrated. The 5.56 x 45 mm Tavor from Israel Military
Industries is the Israelis’ answer to a perceived need for
a compact weapon with the same effective range as a full-length
barrel assault rifle.
The same could be said for Singapore Technologies’ SAR 21
bullpup, which made its U.S. debut at the symposium. Although neither
weapon represents a break from past kinetic energy small arms, both
weapons attracted attention reflecting a growing trend toward compact
but effective small arms.
Both offer innovative adaptations of the latest in materials technology
and ergonomics to small arms. They also represent both companies’
design and manufacturing capabilities relative to their competitors
in the international defense market.