I know very little about belt-fed machine guns and the feed chute systems available to guide the ammunition reliably. So when the TMIL Systems PRIME belt-fed manpack and ammunition system popped up on my Twitter feed, my first thought was that it might qualify as news-worthy. Then I got that weird ‘gear deja vu’ feeling. And after a minimal amount of searching, I found it: the TYR Tactical MICO belt-fed backpack and feed chute has been around for about five years and has been covered by several major digital and print publications.
So, just as I was about to punt the entire story into the trash, I decided to reach out to TYR Tactical to see about licensing agreements, updates and feature upgrades to the MICO system. “Well the interesting thing is the TMIL system is a copy. They didn’t bother contacting us or licensing it from TYR Tactical they just straight up copied the MICO the best they could,” said Jason Beck, founder and owner of TYR Tactical, which is based in Peoria, AZ.
Now, the idea to use a feed chute and backpack/canister to supply ammo to a belt-fed machine gun is nothing new. Field expedient versions of such systems on typically crew-served weapons were used successfully by U.S. troops in Vietnam.
And of course turret mounts and flexible mounts for belt-fed guns like the Browning M2 have been around for decades, incorporating feed chute systems into their helicopter, vehicle and ship-based deployments.
But the similarities between the recently unveiled TMIL Prime system and the battle-proven TYR Tactical MICO are unmistakable. Even a cursory look at the sections of the PRIME and MICO’s feed chute sections and backpacks by an untrained eye would reveal very few differences. “From what we can tell, everything from the magazine, top lid with roller ([an]exact copy), the way the top flap comes over to the 3 side buckles on each pack, all are direct copies,” said Beck
“The MICO has been in service since 2010 and is utilized by US Combat forces all over the globe as well as International SOF Units,” said Beck. In November of 2014, the TYR Tactical MICO was assigned a National Supply Number (NSN) which gives stocking and ordering capabilities of items by the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) as well as NATO Forces. As such, the existence and application of the MICO is no secret.
Before I jumped to any conclusions, I wanted to confirm that this was not a good-faith error made on behalf of TMIL. “I have never met with TMIL nor have they ever tried to contact me. In no way is this a miscommunication,” said Beck. All signs are now pointing to TMIL attempting to copy the parts used in the TYR MICO. Beck has an idea on who the individual(s) were that played a part in the technologies “borrowed” by TMIL to make the PRIME system. A lack of direct evidence prevents us from reporting those names in this article.
A close look at both products detail the similarities between the two:
The feed chute design pictured is patented by Xavier Gonzalez, CEO of GSI International, based in Mesa, Arizona. A request for information on the TMIL PRIME from GSI International was not immediately returned.
A request for further information from Allepo Systems International, TMIL’s parent company, was responded to by Business Director Michael Berry. “The PRIME manpack is not a copy or breach to any product or contract related to TYR Mico or other company,” said Berry. “We made a great product, PRIME MANPACK, integrating an advanced feed chute, manufactured with all authorizations at ISO Std [sic].”
“TMIL uses feed chute manufactured at GSI international while Aleppo Systems is responsible for worldwide marketing and integration’s [sic],” continued Berry.
TYR Tactical doesn’t hold any patents on the MICO backpack system, so it is unclear if there are any legal ramifications. However, the similarities between the veteran TYR Tactical MICO and the freshman TMIL Systems PRIME are unavoidable.
TYR Tactical will be on hand at Eurosatory 2016, Defense and Security International Exhibition in Paris from June 13-17, to display and demonstrate the MICO. According to Berry, the TMIL PRIME was not prepared in time to demo at Eurosatory.
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