The U.S. Army and Special Operations Command are stepping up efforts to procure a lighter, modernized .50-caliber machine gun more easily transported than the standard 85-pound M2.
The goal is not to replace the M2, a combat fixture for 70 years, but to augment the inventory with a .50-caliber weapon that brings the same firepower at less than half the weight, Army officials said here at the Feb. 27-29 winter convention of the Association of the U.S. Army. Early models of the Light Weight .50-caliber (LW50) are expected to be delivered this year.
General Dynamics Armament and Technical Products (GD ATP) has a new .50 cal MG, the M2A1, with a fixed head space, eliminating the need to make adjustments during use and when changing barrels. They also have an add-on kit for existing M2s that adds the fixed head space design to current weapons.
M2 machine guns, in service since 1921, are being used as much as ever these days as trucks, Humvees, and MRAPs are all being up-gunned in response to the tactical environments in Iraq and Afghanistan.
I haven’t heard a word on the XM312 lightweight machine gun for quite a while. It was to be a .50 caliber option to the XM307 25mm grenade launcher. I think it made an appearance on Future Weapons a while back, but I’ve heard no new news in two years.
UPDATE: Via the comments section: Too Good and Too Simple To Replace
Three years ago, field testing of the XM-312, the replacement for the eighty year old, .50 caliber (12.7mm) M-2 machine-gun, began, in the United States and overseas. Then, nothing. That’s because the test results were not encouraging, the biggest shortcoming being the low rate of fire (about 260 rounds per minute). This is about half the rate of the M2, and was believed adequate for the 25mm smart shells the XM312 was originally designed for (as the XM307). But for 12.7mm bullets, it didn’t impress the troops. There were some reliability problems, which could be fixed. The rate-of-fire issue, however, has proved to be more difficult. Meanwhile, a new upgrade for the M2 has been fielded, and Ma Deuce still rules the battlefield. The new M2E2 has a quick change barrel, flash hider and lot of small improvements. It is much in demand.
Thanks for the tip!