Advanced Rifles 1990-2006

Copyright Peter Grining

West German G11

West Germany adopted the 7.62x51mm NATO G3 in 1959. Heckler & Koch decided the answer to better hit probability was to increase the ROF. Three round bursts could then be used as one 'aimed' salvo to increase hit probability out to 300 metres. The only problem was that conventional assault rifles had to eject brass catridges as part of the reloading cycle and had rates of fire of 450-600 rds/minute. At 450 rds/minute a 3 round burst takes 140 milliseconds. H&K decided the 'caseless' round or a bullet in a block of propellant was the answer, with an estimated ROF of 2000 rounds/minute (3 rounds in less than 60 milliseconds). Such high rates of fire mean the recoil is not felt until after the third round leaves the barrel. Essentially aimed 3 round bursts at this rate of fire would increase hit chances. Work started on the G11 in 1969 for a 1990 service entry. The major problems with caseless rounds is heat dissipation. A conventional brass cased round removes as much as 80% of the heat from the chamber. The G11 eventually solved this problem.

The G11 concept has the 50-round magazine above the barrel in a horizontal poistion. The vertically stored round feeds nose-first, down into the chamber block. The round is turned 90 degrees and fired. The recoil action reloads the next round. A three round burst is fired as 2200 rounds per minute, and the user feels the recoil as if one round had been fired. Full automatic fire is at 600 rounds per minute. 50 round magazines are reloaded from 10 round reloaders, enabling reloading of 50 rounds in a few seconds.

Trials with the G11 from 1989-90 lead to the G11 K2 (second configuration). New recruits achieved a 50% increase in hits compared with the G3. However with the costly reunification of Germany the G11 project has been postponed. German rapid deployemnt troops have been equipped with the 5.56mm NATO G36, so the G11 will probably never enter service in its present form.

Each round is rectangular for more efficient use of space (7.9mm wide, 32.8mm long, 5.2 grams each, bullet 3.2 grams). The G11 had a 50 round magazine with a non-detachable 1:1 sight (200 mil FOV). The G11 K2 had a 45 round magazine, another two magazines carried either side of the in use magazine. G11 K2 had a sight rail for a x3.5 or night sight. Emergency fixed sights were also provided for along with a attachment point for a bayonent, bipod or laser aimer.

A G11 K2 45 round magazine would be around the same length and halve the weight of a 30 round M16 magazine. A soldier can carry 6 M16 magazines plus 1 in the weapon, or 210 rounds, for the same weight the G11 soldier could carry 12 magazines in the webbing/vest along with 3 on the weapon, or 675 rounds.

A caseless Light Support Weapon (LSW) was under development.

G3 (1959)

Type: Assault rifle Country: West Germany Weight: 4.8 kg Length: 101 cm (Bulk=3) Action: SS or Auto Ammunition: 7.62x51mm Muzzle Velocity: ? Magazine: 20-round box Magazine Weight: ? ROF: 5 Aimed Fire Range: 300 m Area Fire Burst: 10 rounds (AFV=1) Area Fire Range: 10 m DP Value: 0.9

The G3A3 is the current standard plastic stock and trigger group. The G3A3ZF is the G3A3 fitted with a telescopic sight. G3A4 has a retractable stock (slides out the back).

G11 K2 (1990)

Type: Bullpup assault rifle Country: West Germany Weight: 3.6 kg unloaded, 4.5 kg loaded plus 2 ready use magazines. Length: 75 cm (Bulk=2) Action: SS, 3 round burst or Auto Ammunition: 4.73x33mm caseless Muzzle Velocity: 930 mps Magazine: 45-round box Magazine Weight: 0.3 kg ROF: 5 Aimed Fire Range: 300 m Full Auto Area Fire Burst: 10 rounds (AFV=1) Full Auto Area Fire Range: 30 m Three round Burst Area Fire Burst: 3 rounds (AFV=0.2) Three round Burst Area Fire Range: 150 m DP Value: 0.5

Standard (as above), blank and plastic training rounds (DPV 0.2) are available. A 3 round burst from a G11 is treated as one aimed attack and an area fire attack.

LSW (?)

Type: Light Machine Gun Country: West Germany Weight: ?5.4 kg kg loaded. Length: ? cm (Bulk=?3) Action: SS or Auto Ammunition: 4.73x33mm caseless Muzzle Velocity: ? Magazine: 300-round box Magazine Weight: ?1.6 kg ROF: 5 Aimed Fire Range: 400 m Full Auto Area Fire Burst: 10 rounds (AFV=1) Full Auto Area Fire Range: 200m DP Value: 0.5


Between August 1989 and April 1990, the US Army held a technology demonstrater Advanced Combat Rifle (ACR) competition. It was never intended as a replacement for the M16A2 (which had only just entered service).

Colt Industries entered an M16A2 derivative, with retracting butt (slides in/out). Standard 5.56mm NATO and duplex rounds were used. Duplex rounds have two bullets in the catridge nose-to-tail weighing 2.1 grams each. Duplex rounds were in limited use in Vietnam.

Colt ACR (1989)

Type: Assault rifle Country: USA Weight: 3.3 kg Length: 103 cm (Bulk=4), 93 cm (Bulk=3) butt retracted Action: SS or Auto Ammunition: 5.56 x 45mm NATO Muzzle Velocity: ? Magazine: 30-round box Magazine Weight: 0.5 kg ROF: 5 Aimed Fire Range (standard/duplex): 200/80 m Area Fire Burst (standard/duplex): 10 rounds (AFV=1/2) Area Fire Range: 20 m DP Value (standard/duplex): 0.6/0.5

The Heckler & Koch entered a G11 derivative the G11 K2. See earlier in this article for stats.

The Steyr Mannlicher bullpup ACR fired a 0.66 gram Synthetic Cased Fletchette (SCF) that is 41.25mm long and has a diametre of 1.6mm, contained inside a 5.56mm body. The round is a 45mm long cylinder 10.4mm in diametre weighing 5.6 grams. The Colt ACR can not fire conventional 5.56mm NATO rounds due to different action design. As this round is fired, sabots seperate from the 5.56mm SCF round and are a hazard to anyone in the front arc of the weapon. The sight is a x3.5 power with selectable x1.5 combat.

Steyr ACR (1989)

Type: Assault rifle Country: USA Weight: 3.2 kg Length: 77 cm (Bulk=2) Action: SS or Auto Ammunition: 5.56 x 45mm SCF Muzzle Velocity: 1480 mps Magazine: 24-round box Magazine Weight: ?0.2 kg ROF: 5 Aimed Fire Range: 350 metres Area Fire Burst: 10 rounds (AFV=1) Area Fire Range: 50 m DP Value: 0.9 (Remainder halved after armour penetration. Drop any fractions)

AAI Corporation also entered a bullpup fletchette rifle. The subcalibre fletchette also weighs 0.66 grams with a diametre of 1.6mm and 41.27mm long, weighing 9.1 grams. The fletchette with sabots weighs 1.36 grams. As with the Steyr ACR a sabot hazard exists and 5.56mm NATO rounds can not be fired. An earlier AAI design had the choice of a 5.56mm (4.68 grams@882 mps) or a 4.32mm bullet sabot round (1.8 grams@1155 mps). The 5.56mm round would be used for semi-automatic fire at long ranges, the lighter 4.32mm for high rate of fire at closer ranges.

AAI ACR (1989)

Type: Assault rifle Country: USA Weight: 3.5 kg Length: 102 cm (Bulk=4) Action: SS or Auto Ammunition: 5.56 x 45mm subcalibre fletchette Muzzle Velocity: 1402 mps Magazine: 30-round box Magazine Weight: ?0.4 kg ROF: 5 Aimed Fire Range: 350 metres Area Fire Burst: 10 rounds (AFV=1) Area Fire Range: 50 m DP Value: 0.9 (Remainder halved after armour penetration. Drop any fractions)

The required 50% increase in efficiency wasn't achieved by any of the designs. Although fitted with telescopic sights the competitors concentrated on weapon/bullet designs.


Into the 1990s the US Army started looking at equipping the soldier of the future with a more lethal integrated weapon. The Generation I Land Warrior will use the M16/M4 with uncooled thermal imager, digital compass and laser aimer. Generation II will add the Objective Crewed Individual Weapon from around 2006. Testing is underway in 1999. OICW is a combination of a 5.56mm rifle, (minus the buttstock) a 20mm grenade launcher and a ballistic sight.

The 5.56mm Kinetic Energy (KE) weapon has a very short 254mm steel barrel (M16 has 508 mm, G11 540mm). KE part of OICW is referred to as a 'high tech bayonent'. The 20mm is the weapon of choice for OICW, KE is used close in (usually <20 metres). The KE can be seperated from the OICW, a stock added and used as a rifle (although why bother? Plenty of M16 rifles available). The trigger guard has the laser rangefinder button, and possibly the 20mm fuze set option.

The 20mm High Explosive (HE) grenade launcher fits over the KE. The 508mm titanium barrel is over, with the magazine behind the KE. The buttstock of the HE is also the buttstock of the OICW. The small 20mm size was chosen to carry the most rounds and still produce casualties. One source suggests the 20mm size would have a wound radius of 5 metres. The grenade consists of HE filler with pre-formed tungsten fragments capable of piercing body armour. The fragments are already formed so the explosive doesn't waste energy breaking up the outer casing to produce fragments. The grenade is programmed (based on a spin turn count) before firing with a number of fuzing options from the laser rangefinder. Firstly an air burst, reported as 2.5 metres to defeat targets in trenches, around building corners, etc. Secondly, delayed for penetrating light structures. Third MOUT short arm (shorter distances in city fighting) for ranges less than 70 metres. Lastly the default upon impact option. Most battlefield targets exposed (no cover), protected (trench, etc), fleeting (crossing a street) or are behind cover (no direct fire weapon can defeat these, besides penetrating) and the 20mm grenade should defeat all of these. The 20x90mm (length estimated) grenade covers 2000 metres in 5.5 seconds in a flat trajectory powered by a rocket motor.

The sight is an electronic x6 or close combat 'red dot' style. A laser rangefinder, environmental (wind, perhaps temperature) and ballistic computer give the OICW the same fire control as a modern main battle tank. A frame by frame video comparsion automatically tracks moving targets, lases these and sets a ballistic solution (should be under 0.1 second if similar to a tank FC). An uncooled thermal imager cartridge can be slotted in with a range of 1200 metres (targets as 'blobs'), and an identification range of 750 metres (targets as people, probably different uniforms giving different signatures). An electronic compass providing bearings is also integrated. The fire control battery is slotted into the shoulder side of the stock.

OICW is integrated into the Land Warrior system. GPS co-ordinates with laser ranges and compass bearings could provide a artillery forward observer function. Video images could be transmitted to command centres. The sight, HE and KE could be replaced as updated models become available. The 5.56mm NATO by 4.73mm caseless and so on.

Employment of the OICW is said to be 'light and special forces infantry units' and/or replacing the M16/M203 2 per infantry squad (1 per 4 man fireteam). If the sight goes unserviceable or the batteries flat OICW can fire the KE over open sights, and fire the He in contact mode. The laser must have a clear line of sight to the target, so no obscurants or heavy dust

The following are estimates.

OICW (2006)

Type: Selectable Assault Battle Rifle Country: USA Weight: 6.4-7.2 kg fully loaded Length: <84 cm (Bulk=3) Cost: US$12,000 or Lv 2600

5.56mm KE weapon

Action: SS or Auto Ammunition: 5.56x45mm NATO Muzzle Velocity: ?900 mps Magazine: 30-round box Magazine Weight: 0.5 kg ROF: 3 aimed or 5 auto Aimed Fire Range: 160 m Area Fire Burst: 10 rounds (AFV=1) Area Fire Range: 20 m DP Value: 0.5 (reduced due to shorter barrel)

20mm HE grenade launcher

Action: SS Ammunition: 20x90mm HE Muzzle Velocity: 181 mps Magazine: 6-round box (production model may be 10-round box) Magazine Weight: ? ROF: 3 Aimed Fire Range: 500 m Airburst/Contact DP Value: As explosion (EP=2) Fragments DPV 0.8 burst radius, DPV 0.4 twice burst radius (Any remainder halved after armour penetration). Penetration DP Value: 0.5 then as airburst explosion inside target Cost per round: US$20-30 or Lv 4-6 each

The x6/video tracker sight makes KE and HE shots one level easier (double above ranges). However, the 5.56mm is one level harder over 600 metres (ammo limits) and the 20mm HE one level harder over 1200 metres. The 'red dot' close combat sight gives the weapon a ROF of 4, and is useable up to 200 metres. However, this mode does not have the one level bonus.

2300 AD Suggested Additions

The OICW sight doubles the KE range (Say an M16A2 200 metres to 400 metres). This approaches 2300 rifle ranges (M-2 500 metres, SK-19 600 metres). The FAM-90 and AS-89 double this again using high velocity flechette. So although 2300 rifle ranges seem unrealistically long, they are actually quite reasonable.

All 2300 rifle grenades should have the OICW airburst option added as standard. Time for overhead trench cover in 2300! Obviously this affects tactics.

A decent 2300 OICW is a GW-12 bullpup derivative, with a SK-19 or FAM-90 rifle (minus the stock). This doubles the weapon grenade loadout from 3 to 6.

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