U.S. Army Approves
Revolutionary Infantry Weapon
Written by ANDREW KOCH JDW Staff Reporter

Objective Individual
Combat Weapon 

The US Army has given approval for the formal acquisition
programme of its next generation infantry weapon. The
army gave a team headed by Alliant Techsystems (ATK) a
$95 million contract for programme definition and
risk-reduction (PDRR) of the Objective Individual
Combat Weapon (OICW), fielding of which is expected
to begin in Fiscal Year 2009 (FY09). 

Under a new programme schedule, revised last March,
the OICW will not be ready for deployment to the initial
units that will receive the service's integrated Land
Warrior individual combat system. Army officials
expect to begin fielding the Land Warrior no later than

The OICW is intended to be the primary weapon for
close combat infantry units, replacing some M16
series 5.56mm assault rifles, M4 5.56mm carbines and
M203 40mm grenade launchers. Under existing plans,
the army will equip four members of a nine-strong
infantry squad with the OICW. 

As part of the risk-reduction efforts, ATK will build five
full prototypes before the programme enters
engineering and manufacturing development in FY04.
According to Barbara Moldowney, the army's assistant
product manager for OICW, the weapon will be
redesigned and additional capabilities added during
PDRR. These include a laser rangefinder, digital
camera, combat identification system, integrated
thermal fire control and laser illuminator. Pre-planned
production improvements (P3I), including the use of
multifunctional lasers are also being considered for the
weapon, Moldowney added. 

ATK business development manager Tom Bierman
said improved battery technology is another area for
possible P3I upgrades. Live fire tests of the redesigned
weapon are due to be conducted at Aberdeen Proving
Grounds at the end of FY03. 

The OICW will be capable of firing both standard
5.56mm kinetic-energy ammunition as well as a new
20mm high-explosive airbursting round that the army is
describing as a revolutionary advancement because it
can attack concealed targets with greater precision at
1,000m. The electronic fire-control system, built by
Brashear, will have a laser rangefinder that can
transmit data directly to the fuse in the 20mm
airbursting round. 

The programme has suffered setbacks and criticisms
that the weapon is not rugged enough, is too heavy and
overly expensive. The largest setback came in
September 1999 when a 20mm round detonated in the
OICW's barrel, injuring two personnel (Jane's Defence
Weekly 3 Nov 1999). That problem has now been fixed
and live-fire tests will be held in October 2001 to prove
those solutions, programme officials added. 

The officials said that reducing the weapon's weight
remains the largest technical hurdle to overcome. The
weapon's weight currently stands at 8.17kg, but is
expected to be reduced to 6.81kg by the end of PDRR
and to a maximum of 6.36kg before entering
production. All of these weights include eight rounds of
ammunition in the magazine, ATK said. 

The army is expected to buy 20,000-40,000 weapons
for an estimated $8,000 to $10,000 per unit. That,
critics say, is expensive compared to the M16's cost of
$586. However, Beirman argues, the OICW offers five
times the effectiveness of an M16 mounted with an
M203 grenade launcher and requires fewer munitions to
be fired while providing greater survivability and reduced
life-cycle costs. 

The OICW will be capable of firing both standard
5.56mm kinetic-energy ammunition as well as a new
20mm high-explosive airbursting round. 
(Source: Alliant Techsystems)