Skip to comments.Will the OICW Rifle see combat in Iraq?
Posted on 11/30/2002 12:19:57 AM PST by VaBthang4
Will it Work?
New weapons, particularly very different new weapons, have a hard time gaining acceptance among the troops until the new gadget has performed well in combat. As a result, every time the U.S. gets involved in some new war, large or small, there is a lot of pressure from the weapons development crew to get some of their new stuff tried out against a real live enemy. One candidate for this treatment in the coming war with Iraq is SABR (or "Selectable Assault Battle Rifle, otherwise known as OICW or the XM29). This is an over and under weapon with a 20mm computer controlled grenade launcher on top, and a 5.56mm assault rifle underneath. In development since 1994. The weapon has proved it can work, and development is now concentrating on getting the weight down to 14 pounds, and reliability improved to the point where it will keep working under battlefield conditions.
The major question to be answered on the battlefield is whether the heavier, awkward weapon is worth the weight and cost (up to $20,000 each) in combat. The key new feature of the SABR is the ability to fire 3.25 ounce 20mm shells up to 1,000 meters and hit targets in trenches, inside buildings or around corners. Each 20mm round costs $25. This particular magic is accomplished with a computer controlled fuze in each 20mm shell. The infantryman firing SABR can select four different firing modes via a selector switch on the weapon. The four modes are;
"Bursting" (airburst). For this to work, the soldier first finds the target via the SABRs sighting system. This includes a laser range finder and the ability to select and adjust the range shown in the sight picture. For an air burst the soldier aims at an enemy position and fires a round. The 20mm shell is optimized to spray incapacitating (wounding or killing) fragments in a roughly six meter radius from the exploding round. Thus if enemy troops are seen moving near trees or buildings at a long distance (over 500 meters), the SABR has a good chance of getting them with one shot. M-16s are not very accurate at that range, and the enemy troops will dive for cover as soon as M-16 bullets hit around them. With SABR, you get one accurate shot and the element of surprise.
The second mode is "PD" (point detonation), where the round explodes on contact.
Then there is PDD (point detonation delay), where the round detonates immediately after it has gone through a door, window or thin wall.
The fourth mode is "Window", which is used for firing at enemy troops in a trench, behind a stone wall or inside a room. The round detonates just beyond the aiming point. For buildings, this would be a window or door frame, cave entrance or the corner of a building (to get enemy troops thought to be around the corner.)
The 3X site on SABR also has a thermal imaging mode useful at night. In fact, the SABR has a five pound fire control module with a computer as powerful as those found in some laptop computers. The current version of SABR has a lot of adjustments and features the soldiers can play with, too many according to some combat veterans. Again, only combat testing will decide which adjustment features are needed and which are not.
In theory, and so far successfully in tests, SABR would be a very useful weapon for fighting in urban areas, or even forests. What is difficult to replicate in tests is the wear and tear a weapon will receive in combat, and exactly how many situations will be encountered where the troops will end up saying, "it's a good thing we had SABR along." Indeed, the impact on enemy troops encountering SABR for the first time will be demoralizing. Once word gets around that the Americans have a weapon that can get you when you are taking cover in a trench, or around a corner, panic will set in with some troops and entire units may surrender or flee after getting shot up by SABR armed troops. Eventually, however, more experienced troops will learn to deal with SABR.
There have not been any reports of SABR being used in Afghanistan, and it's unknown if any of the weapon will be brought along for an invasion of Iraq. It's likely that the engineers, or combat officers supervising the project, will veto use of the SABR in action this year because it just isn't ready for field use yet. But the temptation is there. For until SABR gets tagged as "proven in combat," it's future will be in doubt.
During my 26 years I was lucky enough (EOD) to be able to carry a scoped M1A/M14 and a 1911A1 or Browning High Power when I could get away with it. When it comes to something as important as a primary weapon in a hostile fire zone I say no to new and improved until it's old and proven.
Give it to troops in each potential environment (desert, artic, mountain, jungle), from each respective service and tell em it's their job to find out what it "won't" do . Unlimited range time and cases of ammo...........carry it with em 24/7 . Drop it, kick it , let their dog chew and crap on it if need be. Make sure it's empty and let their three year old use it as a swing seat from the tree in the back yard.
That's the test I would like to see versus one from the company selling it and promising the liason officer future employment etc etc ....
Stay Safe !
Let me explain! And let me start by saying there is no comparison between the Steyr Aug and the OICW! The OICW is a truly spectacular and awesome weapon! I especially love the fact that it packs 20mm HE rounds thata re programmable, plus extra features like automatic target trackers, direct view optics, and heat-seeking thermal capabilities! Succinctly put the OICW is an awesome weapon.
However a look at the cost-performance comparison shows that the gun may be great, but is it sufficiently great to justify spending 20,000 per gun to replace an M-4 + attached grenade launcher configuration? That i fear may be no. Especially when you consider that with all the pertinent improvements on the OICW the increase in effectiveness is just 40%.
Personally i think a more prudent allocation of resources would be the Land Warrior System where the US soldier is given top-notch tech that allows him to become a veritable cyborg! For example soldiers packing normal M-4s ...however these soldiers have computer linkages with each other (eg their M-4s have optical sights that allow all the soldiers in the group to see what each member is seeing, plus the normal M-4s can have the great thermal sights and what-not that the OICW is supposed to have ....however at a much lesser cost). Using the Land Warrior system will allow all US soldiers to know the positions of each member, to integrate themselves extremely well, to have M-4s/M-16s with thermal/video sights, to have light weight computer operated gear, helmet-mounted video display, radio with in-built GPS receiver (for when you need to call in JDAMs from above), next generation laser night-vision goggles etc etc etc! In essence this is by far better than the OICW whose merit is just being able to lob a 20mm shell 40% better than what can be done currently!
I believe the Land Warrior system, using current guns (because the OICW was also supposed to be added to Land Warrior before they started doing tests using current guns) is a much better option than OICW guns. Land Warrior improves the whole soldier (and turns him into a cyborg ....yeah) while all the OICW does is give the soldier a nice gun.
As for the OICW let me finish this post with some positive stuff on it (it is after all a nice gun). If i had the final say in the defense planning program of the US (which i do not for various reasons, LOL) i would scrap the OICW and chose the Land Warrior ...however what i would keep in the OICW family is the Objective Crew Served Weapon (OCSW)! This is supposed to eb the replacement for the .50 cal machinegun, and it is the big brother of the OICW. The reason i like the OCSW is that it can be placed on a vehicle (eg a Hummer) , it has a laser rangefinder, the ammo can be programmed to detonate abovea target, and it is extremely effective when compared to the .50 cal. On top of that it is like the OICW ...and does better since it can be able to fire 2 types of 25mm ammo distances of 2000m at speeds of 250 rounds per minute (when you consider one type of 25mm ammo is programmable HE, while the other is armor piercing for use against vehicles, you will see that the OCSW is a mighty weapon).
Hence if i had a say i would scrap the OICW, utilize the Land Warrior, and utilize the OCSW.
And then i would give Saddam (or whoever the big bad wolf is when the systems are operative) and say a BIG 'hi'........
In short,send these things to Pendleton and Lejune for a couple years. There is plenty of nasty things that can be done there to them, without putting our troops in danger.
Without the 5.56mm capability, would a 20mm-only OICW run into Geneva Convention exploding ammo problems?