For the first time since World War II, the Army is working on a fundamental redesign of the venerable M2 .50 caliber machine gun, cutting its weight in half, increasing its accuracy and making it a lot easier to shoot for Soldiers on the move.
Dubbed the XM806, the new version of the “Ma Duce” is being developed in response to the Army’s concerns about the weight and mobility of the current M2. With a greater emphasis on light infantry tactics since 9/11, officials wanted a weapon that can be as easily mounted on a Humvee as it can a hillside. The XM806 with its specially-designed tripod weighs a little over 60 lbs. The M2 Heavy Barrel currently in use weighs 120lbs.
With recoil 60 percent less than an M2, the new lightweight .50 allows Soldiers to fire the weapon with tactical optics, making for a more accurate shot within the first few rounds. The Army is midway through testing the new machine gun at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland. The service has four weapons on hand and has so far fired almost 90,000 rounds through each test weapon.
Officials say the XM806 will not replace all the Army’s M2 machine guns, but will instead be fielded to light infantry units such as the 101st Airborne, 10th Mountain and 82nd. It is still unclear how many weapons the Army will buy, but if all goes according to plan, the service will begin fielding the lightweight .50 cal in late 2012.
The Army also plans to field a new version of the M2 tripod that’s 30 percent lighter than the current one that weighs 44 pounds.
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