And now another casualty of the end of the Cold War and the “Peace Dividend”. To understand it though, we first need to look at the state of emplacement weapons circa 1980 (or now–they haven’t changed much). By ‘Emplacement Weapon’, I mean something large, movable by a group of men, that’s mounted on a tripod in a more or less fixed position, on a pintle in helicopters and light vehicles, or mounted in a remote weapons station. More specifically, I’m interested in the Browning M2 HMG and the Mk. 19 automatic grenade launcher, and replacing both.
The Browning M2 was designed in 1918, and has seen a long and storied use as an antiaircraft gun, as the armament of the vast majority of fighters in the Second World War, as a pintle weapon, as a weapon for remote weapon stations, as a gunpod gun, and even as an impromptu sniper rifle. It does many things well, like penetrate light armor, and reach out to about 1,800 meters. There are even some pretty fancy armor piercing incendiary rounds available. All wonderful things, but it can’t throw small but useful quantities of high explosive very well. The rounds are too small for that.
On the explosive-throwing front, we have the Mark 19, which was born out of the need for explosives-throwing on the Mekong Delta in 1966. It shoots 40x53mm grenades, which have more velocity than the standard 40x46mm grenades used in underbarrel grenade launchers like the M203. Even so, the grenades fly an arcing trajectory, and aren’t very easy to aim at longer ranges, despite the site having overly optimistic markings out to 1,500 meters. It’s another super useful support weapon, since throwing lots of explosives is always helpful. But wouldn’t it be nice if we could combine the advantages of both? Explosives, armor penetration, flat trajectory, and good range, all in a single weapon.
The ASP-30 promised to do just that. It fired the 30x113mm B round, getting a flat trajectory and effective range out to 4,000 meters on an energy basis. Even when tested on a simple pintle mount, the ASP-30 can match the range of the M2. Due to the relative volumes of the shells, the 30x113mm high explosive dual purpose rounds have about the same amount of explosives as the 40x53mm HE grenades of the Mk. 19. Those M789 HEDP rounds are also capable of defeating the armor of BMP-1s and BMP-2s, which is quite a bit more armor penetration than the .50 BMG. As a bonus, the 30x113mm B rounds are already in the NATO inventory, being used in the M230 autocannon on the AH-64 Apache.
So what do we give up? In a word: weight. The ASP-30 weighs in at 52 kg, which is 14 kilos more than the Mk. 19 or the Browning M2. This hurts mostly on the manpacking front. While more weight is something that needs to be dealt with, the ASP-30 has been tested on vehicles as light as HMMWVs, and as weight-concious as helicopter door gun mounts. It’s a big gun, but it’s workable in vehicular applications. Infantry will have to wrestle with it quite a bit more, probably with a multiple people lugging the big ASP. That said, it’s a really big capability gain, giving a two-for-one deal for light vehicles and as a RWS mounted system for light and heavy vehicles. More firepower, more range, plus it would mean reducing the number of sets of spares that have to be stocked. With savings like that, Fishbreath might even be interested.
Verdict: Approved by Borgundy War Department Procurement Board.