Textron Inc. Awarded $2 million Contract To Work on LSAT Machine Gun Ammunition

Compact LSAT Light Machine Gun

Compact LSAT Light Machine Gun

I was pleased to read that the the Department of Defense is continuing to invest R&D funds into the development of the light-weight LSAT Machine Gun program. Textron Systems will continue to refine the 5.56mm LSAT Light Machine Gun and its Cased Telescoped ammunition and Caseless ammunition.

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LSAT Light Machine Gun

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Cased-Telescoped Lightweight Ammunition Belt

The full press release ….

HUNT VALLEY, Md. — AUGUST 6, 2013 — AAI’s Lightweight Small Arms Technologies (LSAT) team, part of Textron Systems, a Textron Inc. (NYSE: TXT) company, announced today it has been awarded a $2.05 million contract through the Department of Defense Ordnance Technology Consortium to further innovate both its caseless and cased-telescoped lightweight ammunition and weapon technologies.

This ordnance technology initiative includes three major thrusts. It continues to refine the LSAT 5.56mm Cased Telescoped ammunition and Light Machine Gun in support of an Army live fire experiment; advances development, testing and characterization of prototype 5.56mm Caseless ammunition; and extends Cased-Telescoped ammunition technologies to a 7.62mm cartridge.

The Department of the Navy’s Office of Naval Research, in Arlington, Va., and the Joint Service Small Arms Program Office (JSSAP), located at the U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center (ARDEC) at Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey are jointly participating in this initiative.

The updated LSAT 5.56mm system will be assessed during the Army’s Dismounted Non-Networked Experiment (DNNE), taking place this month at the Maneuver Battle Lab at Fort Benning, Ga. The caseless ammunition effort will focus on improving propellant and ignition formulations in a 5.56mm configuration. The 7.62mm cased-telescoped cartridge will incorporate mature lightweight ammunition technologies successfully demonstrated in the 5.56mm LSAT cartridge.

Contract work will be conducted over a one-year period by the AAI-led team, which also consists of Alliant Techsystems (ATK), Veritay Technology and St. Marks Powder, a General Dynamics company.

“We’re pleased to be continuing our developmental work on lightweight ammunition and weapon technologies,” said AAI Program Manager Paul Shipley. “The LSAT program team has made significant advances, and this is the next step toward delivering a scalable, affordable family of lightweight weapons and ammunition.”

The LSAT team previously developed and demonstrated a prototype weapon and ammunition that provides up to a 50 percent reduction (20 lbs.) in weight compared to the current M249 machine gun and M855 brass cased ammunition carried by infantrymen.  Its Cased Telescoped Light Machine Gun (LMG) prototype has been demonstrated at Technology Readiness Level 7. The weapon design maintains the lethality and reliability of the existing weapon while offering improved ergonomics. A compact LSAT LMG variant, developed for close quarters applications and tested in 2012 by the U.S. Army Special Operations Command, features a quick-change 12-inch barrel and a folding buttstock.

 

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Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


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  • Andrew Tuohy

    Eeeeeeeexcellent.

  • bbmg

    One wonders if caseless ammunition is worth pursuing: http://www.dtic.mil/ndia/2012armaments/Wednesday13614JimSchatz.pdf

    • Luke Manuel

      Same here. But if they can make it work, I’m interested.

    • Marc

      They co-developed a polymer cased telescoped cartridge that still saves a lot of weight and bulk in case the caseless variant shows insurmountable problems.

      • bbmg

        That was my point, if the caseless rounds seem unlikely to come to fruition, why waste more resources on them and focus on the polymer cased rounds.

        • Rick Randall

          Um, because they ARE likely to work. They are just a little less mature than the cased telescoped rounds, but offer SIGNIFICANT advantages. Right now, NEITHER track is absorbing a lot of resources.
          Remember, AFTER Shatz stopped working with the G1, the Germans worked out enough bugs to go into production with them — but ceased, because they couldn’t afford to change over so dramatically when they had to reintegrate the East Germans into their government, armed forces, and society.

    • Rick Randall

      Schatz is throwing out early 1980′s complaints that were fixed in the G11 AFTER he left the program. His objections about caseless technology TODAY are about as relevant as asking one of the guys from the FORTRAN development team about his opinion on teh feasibility of smartphone and minitablets.

  • Adam Kadir

    Can someone please explain to me what ‘cased telescoped ammunition’ means?

    • Gunhead

      Propellant envelopes the projectile like in caseless rounds, so it’s more compact and lightweight than traditional ammo and more reliable than caseless. That’s the theory, anyway.

    • Paul Epstein

      Sure. First off, it has a case, although it’s polymer rather than plastic, which is different than the caseless ammunition. The telescoped is the more interesting part. If you’re familiar with how a telescope is composed of a series of tubes which fit inside each other and extend outwards by sliding past each other, imagine that concept applied to a bullet and a case. The bullet fits entirely inside the case, but when the primer is struck and as the propellant begins burning the bullet extends out of the case to engage the rifling and then once it’s outside the case is propelled as you would expect a bullet to be.

      The advantage is that it’s much more compact than a standard round, which not only reduces the size of the container to hold ammunition but also enables a shorter overall action that is more reliable and has lower recoil.

      • BC

        “although it’s polymer rather than plastic”

        Not to be rude but this is a pet peeve of mine in regards to firearms…

        You in effect said “although it’s water rather than liquid”

        It’s similar to the whole “It’s not aluminum, it’s alloy” marketing nonsense.

        Pretty much every gun I can think of is made from polymers and alloys, there is nothing special about these words that elevates them above the words they are replacing, in fact they’re rather broad catagories.

        A quick google search would revea that polymer covers a lot of materials: look up DNA, sugars, cellulose, etc.

        I blame plastic gun manufactures, rather than distinguishing how different plastics have widely different physical properties they just started this whole “it’s not plastic, its polymer” concept. A supersoaker or Nerf gun is also made of polymer.

        Eh.

        • Paul Epstein

          Sorry, I meant to say polymer rather than brass, I just screwed it up.

          • BC

            Just figured I do a public service, not an attack on you. Its such a common mistake, you did a good writeup, no hard feelings!

        • FourString

          “”although it’s water rather than liquid””

          Well, not sure if this is the appropriate analogy, since mercury is also a liquid.

          Also, aluminum could be different from magnesium alloy (like on nicer camera bodies). Those are minor caveats, but I totally get what you’re driving at. :)

          “rather than distinguishing how different plastics have widely different physical properties”

          This is totally spot on. I wish firearm manufacturers would be more candid with saying “fiberglass reinforced polymer” or something more detailed about the composition of the mixture used.

      • gunslinger

        so how does “caseless” ammo work?

        and the telescoping part, the ammo case will extend when the bullet is fired, then retract to the “compact” sizing to allow for extraction?

        • RocketScientist

          In caseless ammo, the entire cartridge is consumed on firing. Instead of using a loose powder propellant, the propellant is formed into a solid block, which forms the main structural components of the cartridge. On firing, it burns completely, meaning there is nothing to ‘eject’ like there is in a traditional firearm. The weight savings in ammo (no carrying around heavy metal cases that get left on the ground) and firearm (actions can often be much simpler, not needing an ejection cycle) can be significant, though there are obvious materials-science issues (making the block of solid propellant both strong enough to act as the structure of the cartridge, and making it checmically/thermally stable have proven to be big issues).

          With cased telescoping ammunition, the case itself does not ‘telescope’ or expand on firing. The projectile is buried inside the case, surrounded on its side by propellant, and usually with a primer (and sometimes a small propellant charge) behind it. In the very early stages of ignition (primer strike), before the bulk of propellant has begun to burn, the primer (and supplemental propellant) positioned behind the projectile burns, causing a pressure spike which pushes the projectile forwards, and out of the case. By the time the bulk of the propellant has begun to burn, the projectile has been ejected from the case, and has engaged the throat of the chamber. The case itself does not significantly change shape, and does not ‘telescope’ requiring retraction before being ejected.

          Most of the ‘caseless’ cartridge designs are also ‘telescoped’ cartridge designs as well, resulting in not just weight but also dimensional savings. With the difficulties expereinced in developing practical caseless ammunition, designers have seized on polymer-cased telescoping cartridges as a way to get most of the weight savings of the caseless ammunition while still using more traditional propellants.

          • gunslinger

            So in caselses the primer is also a “fully consumed” component, so as to not require it be ejected after firing. That makes sense now.

            As for the telescoped case, i was curious about any powder on the sides/front of the bullet inside, but it sounds like it’s not a problem because the bullet will be pushed forward faster than the powder can burn up to and “around” the bullet.

            Thanks so much!

          • RocketScientist

            Well, in the latest caseless design (by the Germans for their discontinued G11 project), there are actually 2 small pieces that are not consumed in firing: a plastic cap that seals the front of the case, and a small metal (copper/brass?) primer cup. These need to be ejected after firing. I do not know if they were ejected out the barrel (like a sabot or wad) or come out the breech somehow, but they are much smaller/ligther and ejecting them, even out the breech, would be a trivial matter compared to ejected a large rigid brass case.

    • Ripley

      I don’t see this mentioned, but these are also rimless and that enables them to be extracted forward at the same time a new round is chambered. Just twist the chamber to the side, push in a new round and the old one is pushed out.

  • Bull

    Why 5.56? This feels like a ideal opportunity to switch to 6.5 or something with a little more reach

    • Curious_G

      supply chain and logistics.

      • Marc

        The whole thing is pretty much entirely proprietary and the ammo has to be made on its own assembly line. How is throwing in a commercially available projectile with vastly superior external ballistics a big deal?

        • Anonymoose

          They could be working on a range of 5.56, 6, 6.5, 6.8, 7, 7.62, 8.58, 9, 10, 11.43, 12.7, 14.5mm caseless rounds for different applications, but right now the Federal government is in an especially tight spot economically so it’s doubtful they’re going to be able to even field test the 5.56 CT within 10 years at this rate.

        • Curious_G

          I just told you.

          • Marc

            You failed to substantiate your implausible assertion.

          • Curious_G

            Implausible?

            The “commercially available” 6.5 is a fringe round. Sorry pal. you may like it, I may like it. It doesn’t matter. This company is not producing the projectiles and every ammunition maker (particularly those with Government contracts, which is likely where these projectiles are sourced) is geared up for the vastly popular and plenty effective (for the designed purpose) 5.56/.223. I might also add that all of the ancillary equipment in circulation within the military (think ACOGS, Aimpoints, BDC computers …whatever) are all setup for the NATO approved round(s). Notice the other cal they are working with? Why stick with 7.62? Why not invent a whole new projectile and be super different? All for what? This “superiority” that a commercial round you speak of gives (there are plenty of commercial .223/5.56 that do better than the military spec as well) in a situation not defined?

            Regardless, what they do is governed by the RFP that was put out and the subsequent contract beyond award.

            You are right though. It is totally implausible.

          • Marc

            The rounds fired by the prototypes are still being counted by the thousands. A call at Sierra/Nosler/Hornady/whoever could have those numbers delivered to the doorstep. Regarding superiority and practical advantage of a high-BC projectile larger than 5.56 mm to increase effective range and smaller than 7.62 mm to keep recoil down and BC up: Pull your head out of your ass, will you?

          • http://www.thefirearmblog.com/ Phil W “Senior Writer TFB”

            Hey guys keep it civil. There’s no reason at all to get angry about a caliber issue. You can discuss it without insults.
            Bottom line the military has no interest at this point in a new round. The military budget cuts preclude any development of a new standardized round no matter how good it is. They will never adopt anything that NATO doesn’t use unless it’s for our spec ops guys.
            Give it time and a better economic situation then we’ll see what happens.

          • Madeleine Goddard

            Actually I think that is the other way round. NATO countries are most unlikely to adopt any new calibre that does not have the approval of the US and is in service across the pond. For example, one of the reasons for the UK’s delay in replacing SA-80 is that they need to know what the US is doing next. If LSAT is adopted by the US I strongly suspect (based on conversations with UK defence officials) that it will also be taken up by the British forces. Failing that, it will be a new generation of 5.56 weapons around 2020-25, probably H&K given the UK’s relationship with that company.

          • Ian

            No you didn’t. The only thing common thing *might* be the bullet. Retaining everything else is nonsensical.

            Except for the fact that this style of ammunition is very diameter dependent. Increasing the diameter causes the cases to grow much larger, whereas conventional ammunition usually has a neck that can accommodate different bullet diameters.

            Or maybe our short sighted military said “make it a 5.56 bullet.”

          • regatoni

            get ready for this…

            switching calibers logistically is a nightmare, not only will you have to change EVERY weapon in the service but stockpile the ammunition and back it with the proper training. which is a lot if you consider how much training ONE individual with a direct action role has to go through a year let alone a quarter. Have you even put a 6.5 grendel through its paces? do you know that even though its a superior round ballistically, it also is a very hot round and will burn through barrels a lot quicker, not to mention stress on the bolt and bolt face in which it is known to break bolts. but what about the engagements that happen <50m or anywhere from 50-500 which statistically speaking is the typical engagement distances. is this ballistically better bullet supposed to surpass the 5.56? because if you remember a lot of the ammunition research and development has been to prevent the 5.56 round from passing through enemy combatants and soft targets, thus the creation of the brown tip round. (the 6.5grendel is a wind cutter in competition) now lets shift to a training standpoint. in general we (the short sighted military) train in urban environments and shoot in kill houses. please explain to me how having a laser beam of a round in a kill house is safe? now you have to update the training facilities to facilitate a faster projectile which will punch through the walls. what about frangible rounds? well you're still passing a lot of kinetic energy into the object even though its designed to disintegrate. now back to the topic of this article, the LSAT. given all of that information, what would be the benefit of shooting a hot round which is known to break bolts and burn barrels through a light machine gun? you would have to beef up EVERYTHING just to reliably shoot the weapon, and what are LMG's typically? pretty damn heavy compared to a regular battle rifle. I carried a 240 and a mk48/mk46 during training evolutions and deployed, if i wanted a heavier weapon than a saw that shot a harder hitting round that flew farther than a 5.56 id just carry a mk48… i hope this short sighted answer will help verify Curious G's argument.

            also, IAN based on your replies, look into the .338 norma light machine gun that is being developed for special operations forces. that should tickle your fancy! =]

          • Marc

            Your post is based on a lot of false assumptions (every 6.5 mm is not exactly like 6.5 Grendel, which was shoehorned into a system designed around a smaller cartridge) and (intentionally?) ignoring the fact that LSAT is not backwards compatible no matter what. So you might aswell get the most of it, correct past mistakes and replace the false dichotomy of low-BC .30/.22 cal once and for all.

      • Cymond

        The fact that it’s a completely new cartridge case throws the “supply chain and logistics” argument in the mud. If they’re going to add another type of ammunition that is radically different than anything else in the field, then they may as well tweak the caliber.

    • greensoup

      If you can’t do it will in 5.56 you wasted more money looking at 6.5. Its do different items.

    • mechamaster

      To save research budget and to benchmark toe-on-toe with standart 5,56 performance.

    • Rick Randall

      It isn’t logistics, tradition, or anything at all like that.
      The program requirements are to DUPLICATE 5.56x45mm ballistics using the same projectiles as are currently in use, so that a true apples-to-apples comparison can be made. The program is not to develop the best caliber — it is to develop the CARTRIDGE TECHNOLOGY and the weapons to fire them.
      If they can make a gun that is lighter, uses lighter ammo, is more reliable than, at least as accurate as, and delivers IDENTICAL ballistics using an IDENTICAL projo to the current M249 SAW variants, they will have proven the technology is mature enough for prime time. Then the next development spiral begins — designing ammo and weapons that use the new tech.
      At every step in the program, they have pointed out that the NEXT phase after this program would be a program (likely much, much, shorter — the current program is the tough part) to develop the best round (caliber, projectile, and ballistics) and apply the new tech to it and its bullet launchers. ALL indications are that if they move forward, it will be with a larger, heavier bullet, probably between 6mm and 7mm.

  • Nicholas Mew

    This is one of the few good things our military actually spends money researching about.

    • Ian

      Not really. The reality of this gun and what it’s being sold as are very far from each other. There’s a reason that in the past 50 years (length of significant development on case telescoping and caseless ammo) these haven’t replaced metallic cartridges. The complexity is magnitudes above while the reliability magnitudes below standard modern small arms.

      I don’t think anything will be ever fielded.

      • Clodboy

        Look how long it took (semi-)automatic weapons to serve as the standard service rifle, even though they were around before WW1. Or think of polymer-framed handguns, which suddenly appeared on the market and then completely took it over.
        Polymers are an area where there are still huge advancements to be made (just think about it – that plastic shopping bag you use to carry your groceries and a high-end Dyneema bulletproof vest are made from the same basic material, Polyethylene)
        Personally, I think plastic cases are the future. And as for caseless guns, a tiny company in Austria made their own caseless rifle, the Voere VEC-91 – and if a bunch of intrepid Austrians can do it, imagine what the army can do with several million dollars (and they probably studied what went wrong with the G11 [although that one technically worked anyway]).

        • Rick Randall

          Actually, AAI licensed the caseless tech FROM HK. The G11 ultimately worked — it was killed off by the huge expense of reunification.
          AAI also fixed the biggest outstanding issue with the G11 round itself — the squared off round design was a bad idea (done to get maximum volume efficiency in the magainze, but chucking those lego blocks into the chamber at high cycles was tounger than doing the same with cylindrical rounds.)
          Right now, the caseless rounds are primarily hampered by a lack of production efficiency. The only way to fix that is to keep scaling up slowly, ironing out production bugs as they occur.

  • jim peacher

    I would like to see the 6.5 Grendel round adopted,replace the 7.62 and 5.56 while giving our troops a round that outperforms both and necessitates only an upper change as the Grendel round can use current magazines.so,the M16A2,M4,SAW and 240B would all use the same round.also with the increased range,any A2 would be as lethal as the designated marksmen rifle with the correct optics

  • MrSatyre

    Honest question since I’ve never shot one before: can you really see anything through an optic on one of these guns when you’re firing it? I’d imagine the gun would shake too much on full auto to make an optic of any practical use. Experienced shooters, tell me what you see! :-)

    • Joe Schmoe

      IF you fire in short bursts you can see pretty well. Also important is just seeing the enemy in the first place as well as seeing where the rounds land. For anything close range, just fire it from the hip/chest and follow the rounds and tracers.

  • Lance

    I think case less needs alot more work BUT is worth the research. Im not a fan of telescoping cases since more mechanics involved mean more to break or go wrong. Any way interesting.

    • Joshua

      Not true. The current LSA LMG is very simplistic and actually has less parts to break than the M4.

      Done right we could get the LMG pictured and a almost bullpup carbine that has the magazine right in front of the trigger and a good trigger pool, negating pretty much every con of the bullpup.

      Caseless is what we are heading to and it is a much needed huge step forward for small arms.

  • Brandon

    Yay! Hopefully they make good progress. It’d be nice to see the concept ready for prime time someday.

  • Jack

    If the caseless ammunition were to be unsuccessful, the Army/Marines should resort to plan B and Plan C. That is to redesign the LSAT to fire normal rounds of 5.56mm and/or 7.62mm NATO rounds. I’m just saying.

    • Rick Randall

      Won’t work. Period. Think of trying to “redesign an M16 to fire using the flint, powder, and round ball of the revolutionary Period”.
      If teh caseless tech track is deemed a failure (right now, the bottleneck is large scale production — remember it’s a few iterations behind teh cased telescoped ammo version), revert to the cased telescoped variant — which we KNOW works.
      There is ZERO net advantage in significantly changing rifles or machineguns right now if you are sticking with current NATO cartirdges, and very little net advantage in changing them and adopting some cool, new, “UltraDeathBlaster Wildcat” round, if you are sticking with traditional cased ammo.

  • Truth’s a Bastard

    Money down the rat-hole. Chasing the fantasy of ultra-high rates of fire and small arms that can be passed out to untrained oafs who will magically be able to deal massive death to everyone downrange. Another page in the long sad history of the US DoD’s reliance on hardware over training, even as battlefield experience shows the absolute necessity of well-trained shooters with accurate weapons.

    Meanwhile, we continue to use a pistol cartridge designed in 1902 that can’t handle even soft body armor.

    We use a rifle cartridge that, with the M855A1, has taken another step backwards in actual performance on the battlefield, but at least it’s “green”!

    We use an MG cartridge that fires a projectile designed in 1906.

    Before we spend another penny on pie-in-the-sky, how about we fix the actual shortcomings with our current small arms and ammunition?