US Army soldiers have preferred the light machine gun (LMG) over the existing M249 squad automatic weapon (SAW) for combat use in Afghanistan, a report by the Maneuver Battle Lab has revealed.

The study is based on a two week military utility assessment (MUA) conducted by the army in an effort to help engineers and developers understand and evaluate improvements required by the gun and its ammunitions from a soldier’s perspective, as well as demonstrating its potential impact on mission effectiveness.

During the two week testing conducted in September 2011, a total of 20 soldiers test-fired more than 25,000 rounds from eight prototype LMG’s and demonstrated reduced time needed to zero the LMG towards targets when compared with the M249 SAW.

The LMG’s ability to quickly meet qualification standards on a known distance range was also highlighted during the exercise, prompting 15 soldiers to say, provided a choice, they would rather use the LMG instead of the M249 in a combat zone.

“According to the report, the 21.5lb LMG enables increased mobility and provides 12% reduction in ammunition volume, which could prove critical in the battlefield."

According to the report, the 21.5lb LMG enables increased mobility and provides 12% reduction in ammunition volume, which could prove critical in the battlefield.

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The MUA also helped in the development of a capability development document (CDD), which is required before the system moves to a programme of record and enter the engineering and manufacturing development phase of the acquisition life cycle.

Based on the findings obtained from MUA, US Army’s general Robert Brown, Maneuver Center of Excellence commanding general, has signed a letter committing funding for further validations of the gun in a forward operational assessment in Afghanistan.

Developed as part of the Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center’s (ARDEC) lightweight small arms technologies (LSAT) programme, the LMG aims to significantly reduce the weight of small arms and their ammunition.

AAI Corporation is the prime contractor and systems integrator for a team of six additional companies for the LSAT programme.

Image: A soldier engages a close range target using the LMG during military unit assessment at Fort Benning in US. Photo: courtesy of the US Army.