Squad Support Weapons

Ack, the board has become overrun with Taflmen. Thanks a lot, Fishbreath. Fortunately for you, dear reader, I have just the solution:

Underneath our starry flag, Civilize ’em with a Krag!
And return us to our own beloved home.

Wait, no, wrong century. Krags are rather old fashioned. What about more modern weapons? Well, we’ve already opted for the kickass HK 416 for general issue carbine. Let’s look at what our soldiers have in terms of lightish support weapons.

We’ve established an eight man dismount squad, nominally comprised of two fireteams of four. Let’s talk basis of issue of some support weapons. We’ll also flesh out a few more choices.

We’ve established our choices of rocket launchers and anti-tank missiles in the Panzerfaust 3 and the FGM-148 Javelin, and will not repeat the reasoning here. In any case, we’ll call for one Javelin CLU and one PzF 3 computerized Dynarange sighting unit per squad. In general, we’d expect two Javelin missiles and two Panzerfaust 3 rockets, some combination of the PzF 3T anti-tank rocket and the PzF 3B demolition rocket. This is some of the joy of a mechanized force: the IFV can carry the weapons when you don’t need them.

We’ll also allocate each fireteam one underbarrel grenade launcher. This needn’t be carried all the time, but it’s a quick way to give the squad some indirect firepower. For underbarrel grenade launcher, we want something that needs nothing beyond a picatinny rail for a mounting solution. Our choice is the HK AG36. It’s a 40mm grenade launcher that is as modular as we need, plus it has a sideways-opening break action that lets it accomodate longer specialty 40mm rounds. And yes, it attaches to picatinny rails.

You’re probably waiting for the machine gun choice though. Every squad needs a machine gun. Or two. Or three, even. We’re going with two, one per fireteam. Again, nothing surprising here. Now we ought to choose a machine gun. There are many to choose from, but first we ought to determine the caliber. Nato-wise, we’ve got 7.62x51mm and 5.56x45mm. All of the advantages of the smaller, lighter round are apparent. Troops carry more, full stop. But this is a mechanized army, and this brings a wrinkle. The CV90, like nearly all other self-respecting IFVs, has a 7.62mm coaxial machine gun, and provision for several hundred rounds of 7.62mm ammunition in belts. The infantry, of course, have 5.56mm carbines, but those operate with “loose”1 5.56mm ammunition in magazines. So, with a 5.56mm squad automatic weapon, we have three kinds of small arms cartridges to ship, according to the logistics tables: 5.56mm magazines, 5.56mm link, and 7.62mm link. If we go with 7.62mm, we drop this down to two kinds, plus the infantry can share ammo with the coax. One big pool of reserve ammo. So we’ll go with this.

Now, the question becomes, which 7.62mm NATO machine gun to choose? Here, weight becomes an important factor. There are lots of excellent, big, heavy machine guns out there, built for lots of abuse and sustained fire. Chief among them is the excellent FN MAG 58.2 This is our coaxial- and pintle-mounted gun of choice, but it weighs 11.79 kg (about 26 lbs). Nicely accessorized with modern rails and a heat shield in the M240B variant brings us up to 12.5 kg (27.6 lbs). Both weights are unloaded and without optics, and we can see how it’s hard for a MAG gunner to move with his squadmates. He can’t assault positions very well. There is a lightened version available, the M240L, which uses expensive titanium parts to cut weight, and manages to get under 10 kg (21.8 lb) if you reduce the barrel length to about 20″ and use a collapsible stock.

Can we do better? Sure, provided we give up some durability for lots of sustained fire. And this is ok for our needs. Remember, this is for the squad automatic weapon. It’s not for sustained fire from a vehicle or a weighted tripod. It’s for support of the close attack. Fire and movement. Plus, the IFV is going to be a better base of fire anyway. The Russians have a superlight machine gun in the PKM, which comes in at a svelte 7.5 kg (16.5 lbs). But it’s in 7.62x54mm R. The R is for Rimmed, and while archaic, the brilliant Mikhail Kalashnikov used it to his advantage in the feeding mechanism. One might think to convert it to 7.62x51mm Nato, but then we gain wait. The Poles have done this in the UKM-2000, and that weighs almost a full kilo more, coming in at 8.4 kg (18.5 lbs). Oof. That’s still lighter than the M240L though.

We might think to try the M60, but that comes in around 10.5 kg as well. No better. But SOCOM has some ideas. They had FN scale up the Minimi/M249 light machine gun to take the 7.62mm Nato round. This is the FN Mk. 483, and it fits the bill for a reliable modern 7.62mm machine gun that’s lightweight. SOCOM approved! And it comes in at 8.2 kg (18.3 lbs). Not bad. Beats out the German HK121 as well.

So is that it? Have the Belgians taken the gold? Not quite. There’s still the Israelis to think about. And their Negev NG7 is another scaled-up 5.56mm machine gun. But it’s phenomenally light. Comes in at 7.6 kg. That’s almost PKM weight, and with rails and an adjustable stock to boot. We have our winner. Mazel tov, IWI.

Oh, and if you do have a song celebrating more modern weapons and using those to civilize terrorist scum, drop us an email. Or, write to us at:

c/o This song should have been at Fishbreath’s Wedding
1 Parvusimperator Way
Imalwaysright PA, 16046

1.) I.e. unbelted
2.) You may be more familiar with the American version, the M240.
3.) Not to be confused with the Mk 48 torpedo.

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  1. Pingback: Mechanized Infantry Platoon 2: Experimentation - The Soapbox

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