British Army tests gun that
'fires round corners'
By Peter Almond
|BRITISH DEFENCE chiefs are examining an infantry rifle with two barrels
that can hit targets hidden behind obstacles to replace the SA80.
The new weapon is called "the gun that shoots around corners"
because it fires shells that can be primed to explode around an enemy
behind a wall or ditch.
The Objective Individual Combat Weapon will be in use by the US army
by 2009. The Ministry of Defence is also interested. It has been partly
designed by Heckler and Koch, the British-owned weapons specialist,
which is modifying the standard British Army SA80 in an £85 million
programme set up by the MoD after complaints. The SA80 has been
widely criticised for having too many moving parts and for jamming in
extreme weather conditions.
The OICW can operate as a conventional rifle but with five times the
power of an SA80, or an M16, the gun favoured by the US army. It can
also fire 20mm laser-guided high-explosive air burst shells with a range
of up to two miles.
US military analysts believe that it will transform warfare. The weapon is
designed to incapacitate targets rather than kill them. Tacticians believe
that forcing troops to tend wounded comrades will undermine the
strength of a fighting unit. An MoD spokesman confirmed that the
Government was interested in the new weapon "in the context of the
British Army's Future Infantry Soldier Technology and new support
A senior British infantry officer said: "The SA80 is actually quite a good
rifle and the modifications will make it better, but it has an image
problem with the average soldier. I fear most will not be happy until they
know something new and better is coming along soon." The modified
SA80 is to remain in service with the British Army until 2020.
Last week the Pentagon gave the US firm Alliant Techsystems £60
million to combine the Heckler and Koch design with its own airburst
system and laser-fire control. Tom Bierman, an Alliant spokesman, said:
"If the enemy is hiding behind a wall next to a window, the weapon
targets the edge of the window, the shell pops through and explodes a
yard behind him. It's like throwing a hand grenade but from 1,000 yards
The airburst is primed to explode about three feet from its target, near
enough to shatter Kevlar helmets and body armour and seriously injure
a soldier. Each OICW will cost about £6,000, about 10 times that of an
SA80 or M16.
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