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Jane‘s Infantry Weapons 2000-2001


the patriot

Jane‘s Infantry Weapons 2000-01
Terry J Gander
10 January 2000

With this edition, Jane‘s Infantry Weapons reaches its 26th anniversary. In relation to Jane‘s Fighting Ships this makes it a relative newcomer, but it proved to be a newcomer that soon made a profound impression on the defence scene, an impression that remains to this day and will continue to remain so for the future. In presentation terms the Yearbook has changed little over those 26 years, but the contents certainly have. Many new sections have been added over the years while new categories of weapons have appeared - others are in decline. One new section appears this year for the first time, namely Tactical shotguns, while sections such as Sub-machine guns appear to be slowly reducing in numerical content. Thus Jane‘s Infantry Weapons continues to reflect operational and tactical trends as well as hardware.

The hardware content continues to alter year by year, not just in technical aspects but in numbers of types available. When the current editor assumed the mantle it seemed that the world was awash with new designs and well-established products that seemed to offer few attractions to new hopefuls. Yet just over the past few years the numbers of new rifle designs, to mention just one category, has proliferated and more are in the offing. Exactly how well many of these new offerings will fare over the next 25 years remains to be seen.

If the 1975 edition is anything to go by, only a handful of them will. A perusal of the contents of that first 1975 edition shows that many Second World War veterans were still necessarily included, as were many relics of the First. Most of those weapons are now gone. Also to be found in the 1975 pages were numerous novel designs of firearm that never made it past the limited production stage, no matter how appealing their characteristics may have appeared at the time. Yet weapons such as the Kalashnikovs and the AR-15/M16 series of assault rifles were well to the fore in 1975 and remain so to this day. Those two families seem likely to remain around not only for the next 25 years but even further into the future, such are their numbers and levels of combat efficiency. Unfortunately, it seems likely that many of the entries in this edition will not be able to achieve the same level of acceptance, but their inclusion in any edition of Jane‘s Infantry Weapons is very necessary. It has always been the objective of all Jane‘s Yearbook editors to offer as comprehensive a survey of the current defence scene as can be realistically achieved. Jane‘s Infantry Weapons has always tried to maintain that objective with reference to infantry weapons, and will continue to do so.

25 years on
To carry on the 25-year theme, a glance not just at the current scene but at 25 years in the future might be apposite. What is happening now and in the immediate future will be found within these pages but, as ever, some in the infantry weapons market place are already looking much further ahead, especially in the US. Even though such advanced weapon concepts as the Objective Infantry Combat Weapon (OICS) and Objective Crew Served Weapon (OCSW) have yet to move out of the prototype phase and with in-service dates yet to be cast in stone, there are forward planners who are working on the next stage. The programme has already been honoured with the title of Light Fighter Lethality After Next.

While many aspects of this project have yet to be fixed, it can be safely assumed that the soldier/system approach inherent in the current Land Warrior programme will be maintained or extended. The weapon for the future Light Fighter has already been outlined. Although this is still in the concept stage many details have already been formulated, and very futuristic they appear. The weapon will be more of a launcher than a firearm although it will have a recoilless kinetic energy component firing bullets with a calibre of from 4.6 to 5.56 mm. This kinetic energy capability will be included in a pod carried and aimed either from a pistol grip or secured to the user‘s forearm. Also in the pod will be a sophisticated fire-control system that will also cater for the second feature of the overall launcher, namely smart, target-seeking, air-bursting munitions with a range of up to 1,000 m. The calibre of these munitions will be from 15 to 20 mm, yet they will contain not just inertial guidance electronics but target sensors. The weight of this pod is likely to be from 2.27 to 4.5 kg.

It all seems highly unlikely, but the same was said of the OICW and OCSW when they were first announced. Both of those systems are now well advanced and have been demonstrated firing their air-bursting munitions successfully. As for the Light Fighter Lethality programme, nothing tangible is likely to happen before FY 2004 while the latest in-service date is forecast as FY 2014 at the very earliest. No doubt Jane‘s Infantry Weapons will be around to report on the facts, although by then Jane‘s Infantry Weapons will probably be read from pocket-sized electronic pages.

The future of another weapon category seems more uncertain. To many the Personal Defence Weapon (PDW) is still the answer to a question that has yet to be asked, while to others the PDW fits into a well-defined slot between pistols and rifles. The resultant uncertainty as to the future of the PDW is understandable when it becomes appreciated that the PDW is not meant to be a front line combat weapon but is exactly what its name implies, namely a personal defence weapon. The PDW has been developed to provide second line and specialist personnel with a method of defending themselves when operating in combat zones, while at the same time inflicting a minimum of inconvenience to the carrier in terms of weight and bulk. Yet the few PDW designs produced to date have been directly compared to items such as assault rifles where their attributes do not really stand comparison.

This definition is given here because the PDW is likely to feature more and more within these pages as the years progress. At present they are not provided with their own section as for some manufacturers the very term PDW is not favoured. Yet the PDW has been around for many years already. Its origins can be traced back to the US M1 Carbine of 1941, while during the post-war years the Czechoslovak Skorpion was another forerunner.

One of the perceived drawbacks of the PDW to date has been that to combine the required lethality with a range greater than that of a pistol or sub-machine gun has meant that new natures of ammunition have had to be developed and introduced. Needless to say such a move would not be popular within logistic and manufacturing organisations where any proliferation of ammunition to be supplied would be resisted. The Belgian FN 5.7 mm P90 was an early example of this. Despite being an excellent weapon that has been sold in significant numbers it has yet to gain widespread acceptance, although that will no doubt change to FN Herstal‘s advantage as the years pass. Now Heckler and Koch have entered the PDW arena with a weapon firing a 4.6 x 30 mm cartridge. In the UK, Civil Service Supply have developed their 0.224 BOZ (5.56 x 23 mm) cartridge. Other developments are known to be in the offing.

Exactly where all this is heading is difficult to determine. It has been suggested that some form of NATO PDW selection process is to take place at some future undefined date - a European Staff Target was formulated in May 1996. At this stage it would be unwise for Jane‘s Infantry Weapons to make any form of stance on the matter. We must await events, as always with interest.

This year a new section on tactical shotguns has been prepared for Jane‘s Infantry Weapons by Associate Editor Charles Q Cutshaw. The combat use of the shotgun was pioneered by the US military in the 19th Century, but the weapon did not come into its own until the First World War, when the American Expeditionary Force introduced Winchester Model 1917 12-gauge slide action shotguns to trench warfare. These riot guns, as they were called at the time, proved so devastating as trench clearing weapons that the German government lodged a formal protest, claiming them to be `inhumane‘. An international tribunal declared that shotguns were no less humane than any other weapon, and the rest as the saying goes, is history. The shotgun has been used in every war since, especially by US forces, but in recent years European and Asian manufacturers have begun production of these weapons.

The shotgun is especially effective in close terrain, such as that found in cities, dense forests and jungles. Moreover, ammunition developments have made the 12-gauge shotgun arguably the most versatile Close Quarter Battle Weapon (CQBW) available. It is especially useful in peacekeeping operations, where ammunition ranging from non-lethal (teargas, `beanbags‘ and rubber buckshot (stingballs)) to armour piercing slugs is available to deal with the entire threat spectrum. There are even 12-gauge high explosive and HEAT shells under development that meet all NATO safety standards and can be fired from any 12-gauge shotgun. Changing mission requirements and ammunition developments have thus given a new impetus to the tactical shotgun and many manufacturers have begun producing them. In the Tactical shotguns section the reader will discover the variety of tactical shotguns available on the worldwide small arms market.

Of course a section on tactical shotguns begs the question of what differentiates tactical from sporting shotguns. Until recently, virtually all tactical shotguns were simply modified sporting guns. A case in point is the current US military shotgun, the Mossberg M590A1, derived from the company‘s Model 500 sporting gun. Recently military requirements have dictated that the tactical shotgun be purpose-designed and built. Again, the US provides the example with the recently adopted Benelli XM1014 (M4 Super 90) Combat Shotgun. This gun was designed specifically to meet the US Joint Combat Shotgun Program; there is no sporting counterpart. As such the M4 Super 90 is unlike any other gun in the Benelli line, with a completely new gas system designed to meet military specifications.

Whether it was designed from the outset as a tactical shotgun or not, all such guns share characteristics in common. First is magazine capacity. Tactical shotguns have a magazine capacity of five to ten rounds or more, whereas a sporting shotgun has no more than five rounds magazine capacity. The tactical shotgun almost always has polymer furniture, as synthetic furniture is more robust than wood under harsh battlefield conditions. Some tactical shotguns have folding stocks or fixed stocks with pistol grips; most effective is a full stock (fixed or folding) and pistol grip. Tactical shotguns generally have either cylinder bore or improved cylinder bore barrels ranging in length from 356 to 560 mm. Finally, most tactical shotguns today are slide action, although semi-automatic guns are beginning to make inroads into the market. The reason for the predominance of the slide action is that no semi-automatic gun available today will function reliably with the full range of ammunition available for the shotgun, especially non-lethal ammunition.

A final word regarding terminology is appropriate. Tactical shotguns have traditionally been referred to as combat or fighting shotguns. This terminology is somewhat dated, given the many roles for the modern shotgun. We have therefore chosen the term tactical shotgun rather than one of the older designations to indicate the many applications for the shotgun in today‘s military environment.

The infantry weapon world is changing dramatically. All around the world the foot soldier is becoming a component within a combat system. Most of the current crop of soldier system programmes centre around the individual soldier and the personal weapon, whatever it is, has to interface not just with the user but with the rest of the system. Many existing weapons can only achieve this at the expense of drastic modification, but future weapon systems will have to have interface capabilities integrated from the start. Weapon sights will no longer be just aiming devices but vision sensors capable of transmitting visual data to a remote control centre. Ammunition capacities and types will be continually monitored while, with so much electronic activity taking place, no doubt future weapons will fire electrically-primed ammunition and have their fire rates controlled electronically as well. No doubt batteries will be issued on an equal priority with ammunition and rations.

We are back to 25 years on from here again. But the world is changing all we will all have to adapt with it. Going back to that 1975 edition of Jane‘s Infantry Weapons many of the weapons described still exhibited the craftsmanship employed by gunmakers of a bygone era. Today‘s weapons are a very different breed with functionality overriding all other considerations. What will they look like once they have gone through the systems approach? Yet appearance is not everything. The main objective is that they work when called upon to do so.
-the patriot-