The United States Special Operations Command (SOCOM) is advancing plans to develop lightweight machine gun ammunition.
In a solicitation notice published on 24 August, the SOCOM reported about its plan to develop innovative belt link cartridge cases that are significantly lighter than brass cases and have increased internal volume, pressure ratings, corrosion resistance, long-term storage, and structural integrity to withstand belt feed in machine guns and high rate of fire mini-guns.
According to the solicitation notice, SOCOM wants to conduct a feasibility study to develop belt link cartridge case alternative concepts, designs, and materials that meet or exceed the performance of brass belt link cartridge cases with a minimum of 40% reduction in weight.
The 7.62mm NATO and .338 Norma Magnum prototype belt link cartridge are to be the most feasible solution during the feasibility study.
In the notice report, SOCOM specifies that the focus of the study is on metallic and composite materials only. As a part of this feasibility study, the proposers shall address/analyze all viable overall system design options with respective specifications on the key system attributes of cost, internal volume, pressure ratings, shot start, corrosion resistance, water proof, long term storage, and structural integrity to withstand belt feeding in machine guns and high rate of fire mini-guns.
The introduction of these lightweight machine gun ammunition is expected could be used in a broad range of military applications where the weight of small arms ammunition is a critical consideration both for the operator and the logistics system.
Lighter weight saves transportation cost for military and commercial ammunition shipments.
According to the Military.com, Lightweight ammunition is not a new concept. Commercial companies continue to work new methods to lighten one of the heaviest necessities of warfare.
The Chesapeake Cartridge Corporation showed off its new line of nickel ammunition at SHOT Show 2018 in Las Vegas.
Companies such as PCP Ammunition make polymer-cased ammunition, which offers up to a 30 percent weight savings compared to brass-cased ammo.
Textron Systems makes case-telescoped weapons and ammunition. The ammo concept relies on plastic case rather than a brass one to hold the propellant and the projectile, like a conventional shotgun shell.
Over the past decade, the U.S. Army has invested heavily in Textron’s concept, formerly known as Light Weight Small Arms Technology.
Textron doesn’t currently make .50-caliber, case-telescoped ammunition, but its 5.56mm CT ammo weighs about 37 percent less than standard belted 5.56mm.