Army infantry officials say the squad machine gun developed under the Lightweight Small Arms Technologies program has matured enough to become a serious contender to replace the venerable M249 squad automatic weapon. It's nearly half the weight of the M249, and its "cased-telescoped" ammunition is significantly lighter than standard linked ammo, according to Col. Daniel Barnett, director the Soldier Requirements Division at Fort Benning, Ga.
"It's actually progressed pretty well; I have fired it a couple of times," Barnett said. The current version of LSAT, developed by AAI Corporation with government funding, weighs 9.4 pounds compared to the M249 squad automatic weapon, which weighs in at roughly 17 pounds.
LSAT's cased-telescoped 5.56mm ammunition that relies on a plastic case rather than a brass one to hold the propellant and the projectile, like a conventional shotgun shell. It weighs 37 percent less than standard belted 5.56mm.
Small Arms experts don't argue that LSAT is extremely impressive, but they doubt big Army anywhere near ready to dump brass-cased ammo. Huge stockpiles of ammunition and shrinking defense budgets will likely convince the top brass to shelve the program until the next war.
Benning officials recently told Military.com that it's time for the Army to decide if it wants to send LSAT down range for an operational assessment. Aside from the current LMG version, the materials and some of the technology LSAT uses could spin off into other small arms programs, Barnett said: "It has a lot of potential."
The Army has come a long way in its effort to lighten the soldier's combat load, but it seems like that effort is at a stand still until it finds a way to make bullets, mortar rounds and other munitions significantly lighter.
So what do you think? Is it time to really think about dumping brass-cased ammo or is LSAT just another "leap-ahead technology" that's destined to fail?