The AICW (Advanced Infantry Combat Weapon) is a joint development of the Australian DSTO (Government operated Defense Science and Technology Organization), and private companies Metal Storm and Tenix Defense. This development has been carried out since the turn of 21st century, closely following the concept of the American XM29 OICW system.
Overall, AICW represents the modular weapon system that combines the 5.56mm rifle/carbine component as a host (basic) platform with 40mm multi-shot grenade launcher (G/L) module and multi-purpose electro-optical sighting system, which can be used to fire either rifle or G/L component, and also can provide recon data to external “consumers” such as tactical computers.
The host rifle component of the AICW is the updated Australian-made F88 rifle, which is a license-built Steyr AUG. However, the basic F88 rifle has been extensively modified to accept other elements of the system – for example, the receiver has been upgraded to receive the G/L module at the top, and the butt stock has been enlarged to accommodate G/L electronic fire control module. Other changes include modification to the safety and trigger arrangements – AICW system has a single trigger for both weapon components (5.56 and 40mm) and a three position (safe – rifle – G/L) safety/selector switch at the side of the pistol grip.
The most interesting part of the AICW weapon is the multi-shot Metal Storm 40mm grenade launcher, which looks like a single 40mm G/L barrel but contains three 40mm projectiles stacked one behind the another. These projectiles are launched using the electric ignition impulses, provided by the fire control module built into the buttstock of the host rifle. Since the muzzle velocity of these projectiles is slightly more than usual for 40mm handheld G/L (95m/s instead of 75m/s), host rifle incorporates the recoil reduction buffer, that allows the Metal Storm G/L barrel to recoil against the spring, decreasing the peak recoil impulse.
The top of the receiver hosts the multi-role sights of various type and make. At the AICW VX3 live fire demonstrations that took place in the summer of 2005, AICW prototypes were displayed with ITL Viper multi-purpose rifle sight (that incorporates laser range-finder and digital compass), or with Vinghog Vingsight Fire Control System.
In late 2005 AICW prototypes have not yet fired 40mm grenades with live warheads, nor incorporated an airburst facility. However, it is stated that it is possible to easily adapt most of the existing 40mm grenade warheads to the Metal Storm technology, including air-bursting grenades that are now in development in several countries.
At the present time AICW weapons are available only as the “3rd generation technology demonstrators”, that completed first live-fire trials (as a complete system) in the summer of 2005. Australian MOD had plans to purchase AICW systems in around 2010-2012.
Technical specifications for AICW assault rifle
|Caliber:||5.56x45mm NATO + 40mm|
|Action:||operated, rotating bolt + Metal Storm patented stacked-projectile case less|
|Overall length:||738 mm|
|Weight:||: 6.48 kg unloaded, w/o sight; 7.85 kg loaded w/o sight (30 5.56mm + 3 40mm rounds); 9.9-9.9 kg loaded w. electronic sight|
|Rate of fire:||rounds per minute (for 5.56mm barrel)|
|Capacity:||30 rounds (5.56mm) magazine plus 3 40mm rounds in the G/L barrel|
Portuguese Army new Assault Rifle: SCAR-L in 5,56x45mm
On the 20th February 2019, FN Herstal was awarded a major contract for thousands of assault rifles, by NATO’s Support & Procurement Agency (NSPA) on behalf of the Portuguese Army. The contract is for the 5.56x45mm caliber FN SCAR L assault rifles. Included in this contrat, FN will also supply other guns, namely the FN40GL grenade launchers, MINIMI 5.56 and 7.62 Mk3 light and medium machine guns respectively, and the designated Marksman Rifle SCAR-H in 7,62x51mm.
The NSPA, is the main logistics and procurement agency of NATO and is able to handle and support procurement for member nations. NSPA described the contract as a ‘major milestone’ for the agency. The contract was signed by FN’s sales director and NSPA General Manager.
NSPA made a short statement:
“NSPA awarded today a contract to Belgium-based FN Herstal, one of the world’s leading designers and manufacturers of small caliber weapons. This is for the Agency a major contract to produce FN SCAR® assault rifles and FN MINIMI® machine guns as new standard issue weapons for the Portuguese Army’s.
The contract includes the manufacture and supply of 5.56mm and 7.62mm NATO caliber FN SCAR® assault rifles, FN40GL grenade launchers, MINIMI® 5.56 and 7.62 Mk3 Tactical light machine guns, and all related accessories.
The Portuguese Army’s standard issue service rifle is currently a Portuguese license produced variant of the Heckler & Koch G3, while the MG3 and HK21 are used in the General Purpose and Light Machine Gun purpose. The exact size of this new contract and its worth have not yet been announced, but In 2017, when the program was released, the acquisition called for 11 000 assault rifles in 5.56x45mm. The value of this weapons package procurement would be €42.8 million ($50.3 million).
This is a major acquisition for the Portuguese Army as the old G3 Battle Rifles are outdated, even in its class, and are obvious not adequate for the assault role. This purchase does not only manage to replace the G3 Battle rifle with one of the best current assault rifles, if not the best, but it will allow that the Portuguese Army to change the fire dynamics of it´s small units, increasing firepower and combat capabilities and being able to have more Hit probability on the enemy.
QBZ-95-1: China’s Super Assault Rifle
The QBZ-95-1 is issued with a bayonet and, along with six WY-91 hand grenades, forms the firepower of the average PLA soldier. Each nine-man PLA squad has two fire teams, with one grenadier per fire team. The grenadier carries a QBZ-95-1 equipped with a 35-millimeter under barrel grenade launcher similar in concept to the long-serving U.S. Army M203 grenade launcher.
One of the most widely issued—but least known—infantry small arms is the QBZ-95-1 assault rifle. The QBZ-95-1 is the official rifle of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and its various sub-branches, including the People’s Liberation Army Navy Marine Corps. Unorthodox in appearance, the bullpup QBZ-95-1 also fires an unusual 5.8-millimeter cartridge. The result is a unique weapon symbolic of China’s attempt to go its own way in the world of military small arms.
China was one of the largest land powers of the twentieth century—though not exactly the most powerful. The People’s Liberation Army, both before and after the end of the Chinese Civil War, was predominantly an infantry army with millions of trained ground troops. After the civil war, China’s “People’s War” military doctrine stressed defensive wars, in which invaders were lured deep into the Chinese interior and then destroyed by a combination of regular and guerrilla forces.
The 1991 Gulf War, in which a rapidly moving U.S.-led coalition swiftly destroyed a larger Iraqi Army (often equipped with Chinese weapons) was a seismic event in Chinese defense thinking. The People’s Liberation Army was thoroughly revamped, and part of that revamping was the introduction of a new generation of infantry small arms. Older weapons, including the Type 68 and Type 56 assault rifles were retired.
In their place arrived the new QBZ-95-1 series of assault rifles. The QBZ-95-1 is a uniquely Chinese rifle, with a futuristic look that was a clean break from older, Soviet-inspired weapons. The weapon is officially known as the QBZ-95-1 5.8-millimeter assault rifle, with the initials standing for “Light Infantry Weapon, Infantry, Automatic.” The basic ammunition load for PLA troops is 300 rounds, carried in ten 30-round magazines.
The QBZ-95-1 is a bullpup weapon, meaning the action and magazine are all located behind the trigger group. This creates a more compact weapon: although the rifle is just under 30 inches long, it has a barrel with a length of 20 inches, as long as that on a M16A4 assault rifle. That’s 5.5 inches longer than that on the M4A1 carbine and should be good for a slight range increase over the American infantry carbine.
The QBZ-95-1 uses a short stroke, gas piston design, the same as used in rifles such as the M1 Garand and AK-47. In that respect, China’s infantry rifle still maintains its Soviet heritage. Its rate of fire is 650 rounds a minute. The weapon uses iron sights integrated into a carry handle running along the upper portion of the receiver. Although some rifles have been observed with optical sights installed on the carry handle, the already high height over bore of the mounting site makes add-on optic integration less than ideal.
Unlike U.S., NATO, and Russian assault rifles that use 5.56 or 5.45-millimeter cartridges, the Chinese weapon uses a locally designed 5.8×42 round. Exactly why China chose to develop an entirely new round is unknown, although it could be for security reasons. The 5.8-millimeter round offers improved ballistics performance over the U.S. Army’s 5.56-millimeter M855 round when that round is fired from the M4A1 carbine. This may be a function of the slightly larger round, pushed by slightly more propellant out of a longer (20” vs. 14.5”) barrel.
The QBZ-95-1 is issued with a bayonet and, along with six WY-91 hand grenades, forms the firepower of the average PLA soldier. Each nine man PLA squad has two fire teams, with one grenadier per fire team. The grenadier carries a QBZ-95-1 equipped with a 35-millimeter underbarrel grenade launcher similar in concept to the long-serving U.S. Army M203 grenade launcher. The grenadier also carries an additional fifteen rifle grenades. A heavier QBB-95 light support weapon features a bipod and 75-round magazines for laying down suppressive fire.
Despite the increasingly mechanized nature of the People’s Liberation Army, China’s infantry arm is still, as it is in other armies, the “Queen of Battle.” The QBZ-95-1 is a powerful and reliable, although slightly dated, weapon that was emblematic of the military revolution that began in China in the early 1990s and continues to this day.