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.
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.
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.