Lightweight Small Arms Technologies

Via a reader: AAI awarded sole-source contract by US Army

No time now, but check this out:

AAI Corporation, an aerospace and defence systems company and a business unit of Textron Inc (NYSE: TXT), announced on 11 December that it has been awarded a three-year, sole-source contract from the US Army’s Joint Service Small Arms Program Office, based at the Armament Research, Development & Engineering Centre, New Jersey, US.

Under the contract AAI will continue to develop Lightweight Small Arms Technologies (LSAT). AAI will continue, under a prior contract, to develop the 5.56-millimeter light machine gun and two lightweight ammunition technologies, including a cased telescoped (plastic-cased) design and a caseless design.

AAI also will begin development of a new cased telescoped carbine rifle variant.



  1. I’m glad to see some R&D continue on caseless technology. That’s the ideal place to cut ammo cost and weight. It makes even more sense for airborne platforms.

    And it ain’t rocket science.

  2. It’s almost rocket science. They did figure it out back in 1993 with the HK G11, but when that program folded (which had nothing to do with caseless ammo, by the way) they actually lost the method by which they made the caseless ammo. The government and the AAI team went to Germany and tracked down a bunch of retired HK engineers and reconstructed some of the process, but the AAI team (and ATK Thiokol who is doing the caseless ammo) basically had to reengineer the process from scratch.

  3. I’m sure there are challenges.

    But still, I can go to Wal-Mart and buy Pyrodex pellets and saboted hollow point slugs for my stainless steel muzzle / breech loader. And they work great.

  4. Yea, and in only a mere 35 or 40 years we may actually transition to one of the new ammo types. LOL!

    Seriously, I applaud the continued research, it (and a move to C/T or caseless ammo is long overdue.

    Hawk: You’ve got to be kidding? All that money for R & D on the G 11 project and they lost the ammo formula (which if I remember correctly was one of the project’s biggest challenges)!!?? Unbelievable………good tidbit of news though.

  5. Wish I were kidding. But caseless was a baby that was thrown out with the bathwater. The G11, and the other weapons that participated in the ACR experiment, were designed to test three different approaches to improving the soldier’s ability to hit the target. The G11 fired its burst before the firer felt the recoil, the Colt weapon fired duplex rounds, and the AAI ans Steyr weapons fired flechettes in a salvo pattern. The G11 was too expensive and complex to produce — not because it was caseless, but because the operating system necessary to have a burst clear the muzzle so quickly was so complex.

    @ jaymaster. Military grade caseless ammo isn’t breech loader ammo — it is orders of magnitude more complex. You have to have a single unit of ammunition that contains both propellant and projectile. It has to be weather sealed under all conditions, resist corrosion, has to be durable enough to stand up to rough handling, has to have the high performance (muzzle velocity, consistency, low flash/smoke, etc) expected of a military grade munition, has to burn up complelety without leaving material behind that will foul the weapon, and has to be producable cheaply at a billion rounds per year. Weapon design is significantly comlpicated because the chamber and operating system have to do the work of the case (sealing the chamber on firing), and be able to do it at firing rates of upwards of 600 rounds per minute. There are a lot of good reasons the majority of small arms ammo uses brass cases … throwing out the case is incredibly tough to work around.

    The AAI project that just got extended has been under way since 2004. The CT design is pretty mature, but it uses plastic-cased ammo so isn’t quite as difficult. The CL design is operating, but is behind the CT design quite a bit.

    Incidentally, the facility in Utah where they are designing the CL ammo and propellant happens to be the same facility that manufactures rocket propellant and loads the shuttle’s SRBs … so I guess it is rocket science.

  6. The US Army purchased a license for the G11’s caseless cartridge technology from HK/Dynamit Nobel. Equipment to manufacture it was transferred to the Army Research, Development and Engineering Center (ARDEC) at Picatinny Arsenal.

    In cooperation with ARDEC, ATK Thiokol was able to knock down Dynamit Nobel’s manufacturing process from 14 steps to only 2. They even went as far as creating new G11 ACR cartridges to compare the revised process with the original.

  7. Hawk, I read that one of the biggest issues with caseless ammo in a military context is that the brass case is useful in terms of heat removal. Without the case, the energy which would normally be absorbed with it, and eliminated as it is ejected, instead goes into heating the weapon itself, and thus the weapon heats up much faster. So it has to either be designed to cool down faster (more surface area) or heat up slower (more mass) or operate at higher temperatures (better materials/heat shielding for the user).

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