Total Game Changer – USSOCOM & USMC Take First Steps Toward Adopting a .338NM Lightweight Medium Machine Gun
In a move that will turn the term “Overmatch” on its ear, the United States Special Operations Command, in conjunction with the United States Marine Corps has issued a sources sought notice for 5,000 Lightweight Medium Machine Guns in .338 Norma Magnum. The Russian PKM is a primary concern for dismounted infantry and the LWMMG doubles the 1000m effective range of the PKM.
Specifically, they are seeking producers who can provide:
-complete machinegun system to include weapon, suppressed barrel, and tripod
-any tools needed to conduct basic maintenance
In short, the capability will provide a machine gun which is lighter than the current 7.62mm M240, yet offers nearly the reach of the .50 M2. However, unlike the M2, this new capability will offer pinpoint accuracy at those ranges. What’s more, with the introduction of polymer cased ammo, the weight of ammunition comes much closer to 7.62 than .50.
LWMMG specifics: The LWMMG should fire the belted .338NM round of ammunition with a polymer case. The LWMMG should weigh less than 24 pounds unloaded with a barrel length of 24in. The LWMMG should have a rate of fire of between 500-600 rounds per minute. Weapon shall be compatible with current rail mounted aiming systems with the ability to incorporate more advanced fire control technology. The system should include both a suppressed barrel and an unsuppressed barrel that can be rapidly changed. The LWMMG should include a tripod that is lightweight and provides the stability and accuracy required to engage targets at extreme ranges. The LWMMG should be able to mount in current machinegun mounts designed for the M240B/C. The weapon should have sufficient accuracy to engage area targets and vehicles at 2,000m.
At the recent NDIA Armaments Symposium, USASOC DCS G8, COL Samuel Ashley briefed this capability. The capability has been sufficiently demonstrated to move to procurement. However, COL Ashley related that this new capability will require new ootics amd target acquisition solutions.
To be sure, adopting a new cartridge is an expensive endeavor, but in this case, the new capability more than outweighs the cost. Additionally, SOCOM plans to introduce the caliber to its upcoming multi-caliber Advanced Sniper Rifle, along with a legacy 7.62 NATO and .300NM round.
One interesting point in the RFI is the mention of two types of barrels. One is a standard barrel and the other is suppressed. Notice they didn’t ask for a suppressor, but rather a suppressed barrel. As GD has demonstrated the weapon in use with a dettachable suppressor in the past, this indicates they must have developed an integrally suppressed barrel. The amount of Interal Reasearch and Development Dollars GD has put into this weapon is impressive.
This 2016 chart from a Jim Schatz briefing to industry depicts the weights of the M240, LWMMG and M2. In addition to weapon upgrades, Polycase technology is going to further lighten that load, or better yet, increase the amount of ammunition a machine gunner can carry.
We recently mentioned General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems’, Commercial Off The Shelf solution which this requirement is based on and is available right now, but I would not be surprised to see other vendors offer up solutions as well. I’ll keep my eyes peeled during this week’s SOFIC to see what turns up.
Some readers will get wrapped around the axel over the 5,000 number of systems in the RFI; but don’t. It’s a nice round number the government is using to measure industry’s capacity to produce the weapon. By no means is it a basis of issue plan based number.
In my opinion, adoption of this capability is the single greatest small arms capability enhancement to the US military in the last century. It offers the ability to deliver accurate sustained fire at ranges out to 2000m in a package which can be employed by one operator. MARSOC has been following the weapon’s development, but good on the Marine Corps writ large in seeing the value of this proposition. Hopefully, the US Army, a service very concerned about threat overmatch, will move this capability from a Future to Near-Term priority. However, based on recent directed requirement from the 4-Star level, I would not be surprised to see this happen as SOCOM’s program reaches maturity. This will not only enhance the Army’s capabilities but also help control ammunition costs.
For those interested in full details, visit www.fbo.gov.
This story originally ran at www.soldiersystems.net