“Soldiers may soon have a solution . . . that cuts the weight of small-arms ammunition nearly in half and provides a potential replacement for the SAW that weighs a whopping 8.3 pounds less than the current M249,” military.com reports. “The weight reduction comes in the form of a new light machine gun and ammunition developed by engineers from the Lightweight Small Arms Technologies [LSAT] program.” According to Kori Phillips, systems management engineer with Joisey-based ARDEC [Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center], “We are using cased telescoped ammunition which uses a strong plastic case instead of a traditional brass case.” And that means . . .
With a basic load of 1,000 rounds, the LSAT light machine gun and its cased telescoped ammunition is 20.4 pounds lighter than a traditional SAW with the same amount of standard, brass-cased ammunition.
Despite the significantly reduced weight of the LSAT LMG and its ammo, there is no degradation in accuracy or lethality.
“The cased telescoped ammo still provides the same muzzle velocity, range and accuracy as the brass-cased ammo,” Phillips said. “We’re not sacrificing lethality for weight. The plastic case does the same job.”
In addition to significant weight savings, the LSAT is designed to provide other advantages over the current SAW. With a rotating chamber design, the cased telescoped light machine gun improves reliability.
“We’ve avoided the common problem of failure to feed and failure to eject,” Phillips said. “In the current SAW system, that’s one of the places where you primarily have failures and malfunctions.”
The chamber is unique in that the cartridge goes straight through from feed to eject.
“With a regular SAW, or M249, the chamber and barrel is one piece,” Phillips explained.
“But in this new light machine gun, the chamber rotates back and forth. The system works in a cyclical pattern, so there’s no interference.”
Additionally, the rotating-chamber design provides better heat management. Combined with the insulating properties of the plastic ammo cases the LSAT LMG has potential to decrease the possibility of a cook-off or eliminate them altogether.
Another significant feature is the long-stroke, soft-recoil design, which provides a noticeable reduction in felt recoil over the current SAW. This significantly increases control, thus providing the shooter the ability to put more rounds on target and making the weapon much easier to fire from the standing position as a result of decreased muzzle rise.
Moreover, the LSAT LMG has one other unique feature that the current SAW lacks: the ability to switch to a semi-automatic mode. This feature increases the flexibility of the weapon, allows for the precise engagement of point targets, and helps to conserve ammunition in situations where full-automatic fire may not be necessary or desired.
So what’s not to love? Price? Availability? Inability to surmount bureaucracy? Something. In other words, even if this system is the best thing since sliced Taliban, don’t expect to see it on the battlefield for another decade. Or so.