Jane's Infantry Weapons 1998-99

Throughout history, the role of the infantry has been to occupy terrain. Whether an army is attacking or defending, the infantryman is the key figure. All other combat arms and service support elements exist basically to assist him in accomplishing his mission. His demise has been predicted many times by so-called `experts' whose knowledge of military affairs has been somewhat lacking. Modern warfare has shown that even in an age of electronic technology, the infantryman remains the central figure on the battlefield. He cannot be supplanted by armour, artillery or battlefield electronics. Indeed, when carried to the final analysis, all modern military technology exists so that the infantryman can take and/or hold ground.

The role of the infantryman has been and promises to remain unchanged, his weapons generally have not. Many of the other `tools of the trade' have been transformed by technology. Technology has added many new tools that not only increase the infantryman's effectiveness but, at the same time make his life more complicated - by requiring him to learn novel skills. Others, however, have made his life less complicated.

The next steps in technology will transform the infantry. Programmes such as the US Army's Land Warrior and its international equivalents will afford the infantryman the ability to perform at levels far beyond those achieved even as recently as Operation Desert Storm, while adding little to his already onerous burden.

Despite advances in technology, however, many aspects of the infantryman's life remain unchanged. One of these is his rifle - his fundamental tool. The rifle is such an integral part of the infantry that in many nations, it is the insignia of the infantry badge of service.

Apart from changes in many other areas, the basic infantry rifle has yet to be redefined. The recent Heckler and Koch G36 represents an evolutionary move forward in rifle technology. While the G36 is an excellent design, the earlier G11 and its caseless ammunition were more technically advanced. Probably the most technically advanced new rifle to be adopted by a major military power is currently the Russian AN-94. However, this very advanced rifle has yet to enter full production because of money problems. It will be many years before it even partially replaces the venerable Kalashnikov designs in Russian service.

The US Objective Individual Combat Weapon (OICW) represents another evolutionary concept. From a technological standpoint, the OICW integrates several existing electronic/computer capabilities into what is essentially a rifle/grenade launcher. Electronics have provided the grenade launcher with accuracy and fuzing capabilities that would have been impossible 10 years ago.

Although ambitious and admirable, the OICW has yet to be proven, and could still go the way of its SPIW and ACR predecessors in the US military. Current cost estimates for the OICW are approximately US$12,000 per weapon compared to just under US$400 per rifle for an M16A2, whilst current OICW prototypes weigh approximately 8.1 kg. The target weight is 6.3 kg, but that may still be too great when combined with the cost. It is admittedly lighter than an M16A2/M203 grenade launcher combination but, given the austerity of modern military budgets and the fact that the M16A2 continues to perform satisfactorily, the OICW may never fully replace the M16A2 as currently envisioned.

We shall see. Even if it does not replace the M16A2, the technology involved in the OICW programme will affect infantry rifle design for many years to come.

PAPOP

The Americans have not been alone in investigating the OICW concept. French industry has also been busy studying recent technologies to discover how the soldier of the future will be armed. One of their investigative solutions to date has been PAPOP, a demonstrator weapon with a name derived from Polyarme, Polyprojectiles.

For PAPOP Giat Industries has joined with FN HERSTAL of Belgium, sfim ODS and Lacroix to see if the specified requirements of the proposed NATO Individual Combat Weapon can be met. Their result is interesting. In contrast to the US OICW solution, PAPOP has emerged as a combination of a 5.56 mm kinetic energy rifle with a 35 mm grenade launcher. Computer studies guided the French towards the acceptance that the minimum bursting munition calibre capable of producing the required number and distribution of fragments had to be 35 mm, resulting in a delivery system that makes the OICW look small.

The PAPOP bursting munition launcher contains three 35 mm grenades in a tubular magazine. The recoil forces produced on firing are such that considerable ingenuity has been exercised to reduce those forces to an acceptable level. In addition to buffers and shock-absorbers, the mass of the kinetic energy delivery system is also harnessed to attenuate a proportion of the forces produced at the instant of launch. Ergonomics also play their part in the selection of various grenade firing positions to assist firer comfort, together with the provision of no less than three possible trigger positions to avoid the firer's body having to absorb excessive stress.

It is in the grenade that innovation is most noticeable. To suit the target being engaged, the 35 mm grenades can be programmed to provide optimum forward or lateral fragmentation by the provision of two possible ignition positions. The actual selection is electronically programmed into the grenade as it passes through the muzzle on firing, the igniter selection introduced (central or rear) affecting the eventual forward and lateral fragment velocities. The grenade takes its propelling case with it on firing, each round weighing 200 g, 43 g being the highly active explosive payload.

Electronics are also employed for the PAPOP fire-control system. They go one further than the OICW in that, being located at the forward end of PAPOP, the video and other sensors can be aimed round corners or cover with the firer observing the results on an adjustable-angled screen. The resultant displays could even be transmitted to a remote command centre, stressing the fact that PAPOP is envisaged as only part of a soldier-based system encompassing many other aspects of the foot soldier's trade.

PAPOP is currently a demonstrator so its weight and bulk should not transmit excessive alarm to serving soldiers just yet. Its form will no doubt have already changed by now. It seems that unit and other costs will, as with the OICW, be considerably higher than for more conventional arms.

New Rifles

Despite remarks made in last year's edition regarding the proliferation of cheap Kalashnikov-based rifles flooding the small arms scene, this year's Jane's Infantry Weapons includes a bumper crop of new rifle entries. Most of them carry on the evolutionary aspects of small arms design mentioned above because most of them are only repackaged examples of existing designs, being Kalashnikov or AR-15/M16 based. The origins of the Croatian APS95 and the South African CR 21 may both be traced back to the venerable Kalashnikov, as can another novelty, the mystery Chinese Bullpup.

At the time of writing the designation of this new Bullpup had still not been revealed. It has been confirmed that it has a calibre of 5.8 mm, firing a bullet weighing 4.15 g at 970 m/s and at a cyclic rate of fire of 650 rds/min. It would appear that, in following the general trend toward reduced rifle ammunition calibres, the Chinese authorities have decided to enhance the overall ballistic performance of the Eastern Bloc 5.45 x 39 mm cartridge by necking up the case to accommodate the larger bullet and packing in a little more propellant. This should provide a better long-range ballistic performance with less interference from in-flight influences. Even so, it comes as something of a surprise to learn of the introduction of a new infantry calibre at this particular stage of small arms development. As mentioned in the text, there is also a light support weapon variant of the Bullpup assault rifle along with a short carbine model. All models have provision for optical and night sights. It cannot be long before this new rifle and 5.8 mm ammunition combination are offered for export sales so we will have to see how much influence logistic and other considerations will have on the new Bullpup's long-term existence.

The AR-15/M16-based rifles included here for the first time are competing in a crowded market place but they do provide yet another indication of how difficult it is to make any significant inroads into the small arms sector. All of the new entries no doubt have many attributes and advantages but, at a time of ever-decreasing defence budgets, the market-enforced profit margins that will have to be contemplated by many hopeful small production concerns are likely to be so minute as to make the whole game not worth the candle.

Shotguns

Another infantry weapon which has attracted greater interest in recent years is the combat shotgun. The military use of this weapon dates back to the introduction of firearms, but the Americans have long been the prime advocates of battlefield shotguns. Official US use of the shotgun dates to the turn of the century when the military procured Winchester M1897 slide action guns for use in the Philippines. The shotgun was recognised then as a superb jungle weapon; it remains so today. During World War I, Americans introduced the hapless Germans to the M1897, resulting in official German protests that the weapon was `inhumane'. The Germans lost their appeal and the shotgun has remained in the US military inventory until the present.

The US armed forces currently have a requirement for a new combat shotgun to replace the mix of Mossberg, Remington and Winchester weapons in their armouries. Unlike its predecessors, the new gun will be a semi-automatic. By early 1997, acquisition of the new gun had proceeded to the test phase and it appeared that the successor was about to be chosen when the tests were terminated. The guns involved were declared unsatisfactory yet the solicitation for a new US combat shotgun could be announced by the time this edition of Jane's Infantry Weapons goes to press.

Pistols

Pistols and revolvers continue to proliferate. As with rifles, pistol technology is mature and there are no revolutionary technological breakthroughs in the offing. The current state of the art with respect to pistols is probably best represented by Heckler and Koch with their versatile USP series, obtainable chambered for 0.45 ACP, 0.40 S&W, or 9 x 19 mm Parabellum. These three cartridges probably represent 90 per cent of pistols in use by military and police forces worldwide, apart from Russia and former Soviet satellites. Even there they are initiating a partial transformation.

The 9 x 19 mm Parabellum cartridge continues to be the world standard for military and police use. The 0.40 S&W cartridge is used by many US police forces and is proliferating there and elsewhere in the western hemisphere. It offers a handy compromise between the 0.45 ACP and the 9 x 19 mm Parabellum. Many police forces now consider the 0.45 ACP to be almost `overkill', and the 9 x 19 mm Parabellum to be somewhat lacking in terminal ballistics. Arguments continue regarding the effectiveness of both cartridges, but the 0.40 S&W has come from almost nowhere in the last 10 years to be popular with US police.

At the same time, 0.45 ACP continues with many special operations units. It is the choice of the US special operations community, although not all elements are adopting the associated Heckler & Koch Mk 23 pistol. Some US special operations units have informally stated that the Mk 23 does not meet their operational requirements. While they have a need for a new 0.45 ACP pistol to replace existing stocks, that replacement will not be the Mk 23. What it will be remains uncertain. Special operations forces have traditionally been allowed great latitude in purchasing non-standard weapons and equipment, but whether this will continue, particularly given that the Mk 23 was originally developed for all US special forces, remains to be seen.

 

Terry J Gander
Charles Q Cutshaw

The Editor would welcome any extra information, corrections, updates or comments regarding the contents of this Yearbook for both he and his Associate Editor are well aware of how difficult the defence scene can be without such inputs. Please direct all correspondence to the Editor at Jane's Infantry Weapons, Jane's Information Group, Sentinel House, 163 Brighton Road, Coulsdon, Surrey CR5 2NH, UK. We look forward to hearing from you.

Jane's Infantry Weapons 1998-99 is available now. For more information or to order please send e-mail to info@janes.co.uk or info@janes.com



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