The company that developed both weapons and cartridges to reduce soldier load by about 40 percent now has machine guns in both 5.56 mm and 7.62 mm and a new carbine that fires a round never used across the U.S. military.
Textron Systems met with media members, including Army Times, at the Association of the U.S. Army Annual Meeting & Exposition to showcase their new cartridge and weapon system.
The company began development on a polymer, cased telescope cartridge in 5.56 mm in 2004. Through design work and research, they built the cartridge, which is shorter, lighter and more versatile than current brass cartridge casings.
Research in polymer casings has been going on in the commercial sector for decades. A chief problem has been heat. Past casings melted or had cook-off concerns under the extreme heat of rapid firings. To resolve that problem, Textron Systems researchers built the bullet and weapon in concert, creating a system that moves the chamber to the barrel, reducing heat exposure.
That design also helped jamming problems in previous attempts at polymer casings by using the next round to push out the spent cartridge rather than use an extractor method that is common to most current firearms systems.
The company expects to demonstrate its 7.62 mm machine gun and round at the Army Expeditionary Warrior Experiment in November.
Another development is near demonstration phase to meet a few of the outcomes of the recently completed Small Arms Ammunition Configuration Study. That study aims to reinvent small arms with new bullet technology and advanced capabilities to first create the Next Generation Squad Weapon.
Textron’s effort is a 6.5 mm carbine, an “intermediate caliber” that has the range and lethality of the 7.62 mm but in a smaller, lighter configuration than many current 5.56 mm rifles.
The entire approach that started work on the cartridge was focused on reducing weight.
By comparison, a current M249 Squad Automatic Weapon with 1,000 rounds of brass-case 5.56 mm ammunition weighs 48.9 pounds. Textron’s 5.56 mm machine gun with the same number of rounds weighs 28.5 pounds.
The M240L machine gun with 1,000 rounds of brass-case, 7.62 mm weighs 72.4 pounds. The Textron 7.62 mm configuration weighs in at 45.3 pounds.
Textron Unmanned Systems Program Manager Paul Shipley said that in recent tests the 5.56 mm machine gun had no round cook offs when put under the same strain that resulted in M249 cook offs.
Testing is still underway on the intermediate caliber carbine, but that weapon has yet to experience round cook offs either, Shipley said.
Todd South has written about crime, courts, government and the military for multiple publications since 2004 and was named a 2014 Pulitzer finalist for a co-written project on witness intimidation. Todd is a Marine veteran of the Iraq War.