The U.S. Army has a new weapon in its sights that would merge the lethal .50-caliber machine gun workhorse with a grenade launcher.
The new weapon would be a combination of the M2 machine gun that has been a mainstay of American fighting forces since World War II and the Mk 19 grenade launcher, according to the military website Scout Warrior.
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Developers told Scout Warrior that the idea is to lighten the load of mobile attack units while equipping them with the “suppressive” firepower of a .50-cal and the explosive threat of a grenade launcher – all in one weapon.
At the same time, the Army is looking to improve the current version of the M2 with a new barrel that could shave 16 pounds off the current 26-pound barrel; lighter ammunition; and a laser rangefinder.
Variations of the M2 – nicknamed “Ma Deuce” -- have been used by all the services in every major conflict since WW II, including the wars in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.
The current ground version – referred to as Browning Machine Gun, Cal. .50, M2, HB, Flexible (HB means “heavy barrel”) – can fire up to 550 rounds per minute but can also fire single shots. In Vietnam, a modified M2 was used by a U.S. sniper to kill an enemy combatant 2,500 yards away, a record that stood until 2002.
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The military has thousands of M2s, including versions mounted on Humvees, M1 Abrams tanks, Navy ships and Black Hawk helicopters. The ground model costs about $14,000. The machine gun-grenade launcher hybrid would presumably be more expensive.