Advanced Individual Combat Weapon (AICW): Australia’s modular weapon system

Author: Eric Sof

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The Advanced Individual Combat Weapon (AICW) was 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 the 21st century, closely following the American XM29 OICW system concept.

The Advanced Individual Combat Weapon was designed in 2001, and the project itself ended in 2006. The cost of the project was estimated at $3.2 million at the time.

Design

Overall, Advanced Individual Combat Weapon represented the modular weapon system that was supposed to combine the 5.56mm rifle/carbine component as a host (primary) platform with a 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 Advanced Individual Combat Weapon was de-facto 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 buttstock has been enlarged to accommodate the G/L electronic fire control module.

Other changes include modification to the safety and trigger arrangements – the 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.

Advanced Individual Combat Weapon AICW
Advanced Individual Combat Weapon was designed in 2001 for demonstration purposes only (Photo: Metal Storm)

The most exciting part of the Advanced Individual Combat 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 other. 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), the 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 types and make. At the AICW VX3 live fire demonstrations 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.

3rd Generation Technology

In late 2005 AICW prototypes had not yet fired 40mm grenades with live warheads nor incorporated an airburst facility. However, it is stated that it is possible to quickly 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.

Advanced Individual Combat Weapon was available only as of 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.

The weapon was not intended to enter service but rather a concept demonstration to “generate ‘advance thinking within the ADF about the future of small arms.” As such, the development of the AICW ceased following successful final demonstrations and the completion of the CTD program.

Technical specifications for Advanced Individual Combat Weapon

Caliber: 5.56x45mm NATO + 40mm
Action: operated, rotating bolt + Metal Storm patented stacked-projectile case-less
Overall length: 738 mm
Barrel length: n/a
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
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