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Top gun makes Picatinny debut - Assault weapon adaptable to (1 Viewer)

Jun 5, 2004
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By Navid Iqbal, Daily Record

ROCKAWAY TWP. -- American military technology has advanced rapidly since the Vietnam War but many soldiers are still carrying the M-16 rifle developed in that era.

A new gun -- called the XM8 Modular Assault Weapon System -- is being developed at Picatinny Arsenal that soon could replace that famous rifle.

The XM8 was on display on Thursday at the arsenal, which held a media day to show off some off its latest achievements. Col. Michael Smith, the project manager for soldier weapons at the 6,491-acre military installation, said the weapon is highly adaptable to "nasty environments" such as in Afghanistan or Iraq, where dust or heat can corrode weapons.

Also on display were non-lethal weapons now being used by nearly 3,000 troops, mostly Military Police National Guard soldiers in Iraq, said Steve Toth, the Army's program manager for close combat systems.

These weapons, such as a sponge grenade that can shoot 50 meters away, or claymore grenades with rubber balls, can be fired from vehicles or from shoulder-mounted weapons.

"The resistance in Iraq is more organized," Toth said, "but the Army is still using (these weapons). There are large crowd control situations."

In operation for more than 120 years, Picatinny Arsenal develops many of the Army's weapons. It is the site of ARDEC, or the Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center. It has approximately 3,700 soldiers and civilian employees and roughly 4 million square feet of building space.

With an annual budget of $600 million, according to ARDEC director Michael P. Devine, Picatinny Arsenal is where the "technology of the battlefield future" is created.

A sergeant, who identified himself only by his rank and last name -- Williams -- demonstrated the XM8 in a 300-meter long firing range built at the arsenal in 1995.

Williams fired on a target 30 meters away in single, double, then burst shots. The 20-year military veteran said he hit "80 percent of the target."

The gun also is more resistant to water, making it better suited for the amphibious operations of Navy SEALS or Special Forces, said Lt. Col. Matthew Clarke.

The Army is no longer buying M-16s, which have been in production for more than 40 years. The XM8, which began development two years ago, combines the accuracy of the old rifle with the firepower and explosiveness of guns like the AK-47, Clarke said.

At 6.4 pounds, the sample weapon Williams fired weighs 30 percent less than conventional rifles. The gun also comes in variants, such as in a compact form with a 9-inch barrel; with a grenade launcher; in a 20 inch barrel for sharpshooters; and in the standard 12.5 inch barrel assault rifle.

"Hundreds of troops have fired (the XM8)," Smith said. "I was pleased with the capability that came out of it."


Although it's a shame that this is the main effort of the military these days....high technology, downsized personnel.

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