Every infantry fire team has a light machine gun called the SAW (squad automatic weapon). The SAW gunner carries a 17lb weapon and typically a 600 round basic load which is another 15lbs for a total of 32 lbs. The LSAT SAW the Army is testing cuts the same load down to 19lbs.
I was able to get my hands on the Lightweight Small Arms Technology (LSAT) SAW at the Maneuver conference at Ft. Benning in Sep. The LSAT SAW is a highly modified SAW firing a unique round called cased telescoping ammo or just telescoping ammo. It’s experimental but the tech is very promising. It cuts the weight of the SAW to a little under 10 pounds due to the use of a stamped aluminum receiver. Rate of fire is around 650/min.
The big advantage of telescoping ammo is it eliminates the brass casing, the heaviest part of the round. For his particular round (5.56) that’s a 40% weight savings. Interestingly that’s virtually the same weight savings we got when we went from 7.62 to 5.56. Instead of a brass case the bullet sits inside a plastic cylinder which contains the bullet, propellant and primer.
The difference in design of the LSAT SAW is the breach is rotating. Think of a one cylinder revolver where the breech rotates into and out of battery. The round is loaded by a “rammer” taking the place of the bolt in the SAW. Rammer pushes the telescoping round into the rotating breech. Rotating breech rotates to the left to line up with the chamber. Round is fired. Breech rotates out of battery. New round pushes used plastic casing out of breach. Note the opening on the right side of the SAW forward of the feed tray? That’s to eject the plastic case of each round. After going through a belt of ammo you have two separate piles, one of links and the other of cases. Here’s a video worth watching. It explains the operation (1:30) and gives you a good look at the ammo.
The Army has been looking at this weapon since 2011 and could be fielded in inside of 2-5 years depending on money and desire. USASOC recently conducted its own testing in Sep firing 15k rounds through its version of the LSAT SAW which features a telescoping AND folding stock, modified the carrying handle to a folding barrel change handle and improved flash hider. Both the Army and USASOC’s testing has been favorable with the low recoil system improving accuracy.
Besides funding the greatest shortcoming is the LSAT SAW ammo is not interchangeable with the M4 family and vice versa. There is an initiative to create a telescoped ammo M4 but no interest from the Army as of yet.
Tags: LSAT, machine gun, SAW, technology, telescoped, weapons, weight