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New machine guns displayed

Lighter weight options for extended patrol.
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The MK48, shown here, is 18.5 pounds compared to the 27.5-pound M240B.

Two new lightweight machine guns were among new equipment displayed in October at the Pentagon.

Officials from Program Executive Office (PEO) Soldier met with members of the media at the Pentagon to discuss the latest equipment fielded to soldiers. Four program managers from PEO Soldier talked about advances in weapons, personal gear, and lasers and sights that soldiers use on the battlefield.

One major improvement, according to Col. Doug Tamilio, program manager for Soldier weapons, is the development of lighter weapon systems such as the MK48, which weighs 18.5 pounds.

The Army has fielded about 350 of the 550 MK48 machine guns it plans to issue to infantry brigade combat teams. The effort began last year as part of a larger plan to find ways of lightening the loads soldiers struggle to carry in Afghanistan. In some cases, units would not take their M240B machine guns on extended patrols because they were too heavy to carry.

The MK48 is already standard issue to Special Operations Command units such as the 75th Ranger Regiment. The MK48 is 18.5 pounds compared to the 27.5-pound M240B — that’s about 30 percent lighter.

The MK48 has a cyclic rate of fire of 720 rounds per minute compared to the 240, which fires about 600 rounds per minute on cyclic. As with the M240B, the MK48 has a maximum effective range of 1,800 meters on an area target and 800 meters on a point target.

The MK48 will not replace the M240B because it doesn’t have the durability of the M240B. Its receiver will last for about 50,000 rounds; the bolt lasts about 15,000 rounds. By comparison, the M240B will last for about 100,000 rounds before parts need replacing.

Navy SEAL teams first adopted the MK48 in 2000. It’s made by FN Manufacturing LLC, which also makes the M240 and M249 squad automatic weapon.

The MK48 is intended to serve as a temporary fix until the Army starts fielding the M-240L. The M-240L weighs 22.3 pounds and is made out of titanium.

These weapons are lighter than the M-240B machine gun that weigh 27.3 pounds and they have similar capabilities to their heavier counterpart. A soldier who is fully equipped with the M-240B carrying the equivalent of about four gallons of milk. Giving him the M-240L instead is like taking one of the gallons away. Switching to a 17.6-inch barrel from the standard 23.6-inch barrel will cut that down to 20.5 pounds.

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