Objective Individual Combat Weapon
The OICW is a "next-generation" infantry weapon designed for deployment in the battlefields of the 21st century. It is being built by a conglomerate of contractors, primarily Heckler and Koch.
Okay, that's a lot of buzzwords, so what do they mean? The OICW is the United States' armed forces replacement for the M16A2 (and it will combine the uses of and thus obsolete several other weapons). It consists of three main components: a 5.56mm rifle, a 20mm "high explosive" launcher, and a computerized weapon management system.
The 5.56mm rifle components share many properties with the M16 and M4 systems that predate the OICW. It fires the same 5.56mm rounds as the M16A2 (e.g. M855 NATO Ball, M200 Blank, M856 Tracer, and M862 Short-range training ammunition) and operates on the same principles: rapidly burning powder creates a rapidly expanding volume of gas which accellerates the projectile out the barrel toward a target. Gas carbine. Yum.
The 20mm grenade launcher is designed to replace primarily the M203 Grenade Launcher (which itself replaced the Vietnam War-era M79 grenade launcher of Terminator fame). However, and this is one of the cool parts, the projectiles from this unit will be "distance fused." Each round will have the ability to count the number of spins from the time it is fired (since it is being propelled through a rifled barrel, it will spin) and detonate after a number of spins as set by the operator of the OICW. This means the infantryman can "tell" a grenade to denonate in 100 meters, and that's where it will go off. The grenades are expected to be needed with increasing frequency due to the "urbanization" of battlefields that is expected in future armed response situations. Since bad guys will be potentially hiding behind concrete and steel walls while firing at our soldiers and marines, there needs to be some way to disable the enemy without walking up next to them and asking for a smoke.
What really sets apart the OICW from other infantry weapons (and what increases the per-unit cost to approximately $20,000 -- compare to an M16A2 at $800) is the computerized weapon management system. This provides a plethora of features to the person operating the weapon including night/daytime firing control (e.g. night vision), a laser range finder, and video games. Okay, well not really video games, but it's still a useful unit. It can set the fuses on the 20mm rounds. It can put a red dot on the target. It can provide tactical information on what's in the viewfinder. Basically, we all want one of these for our car dashboard.
Even with all these features, thanks to modern advancements in materials technology and extensive use of composites, the OICW units will weigh 12 pounds (or less) -- that's 1.5 times a standard M16A2, but noticiably less than an M16A2 outfitted with night vision and grenade-launching capabilities.
Some specs, primarily from the Federation of American Scientists (based on government specifications for the contract and prototype units):
- Weapon Length: < 33 in
- Weapon Weight: < 12 lbs
- Rates of Fire:
- 20MM: 10 RPM
- 5.56MM: 800RPM
Single trigger control for both barrels
Unique recoil mitigation
- 20MM: 1,000 meters
- Area target: > 800 meters
- Point target: > 550 meters
OICWs should be in the field by 2005. Don't expect to be issued one during basic training, these are for special units only. For the first few years, anyway.
You'll also notice that the OICW is making grounds into the FPS video game market. It appears in "cutting edge" and "futuristic" games, like Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon and Soldier of Fortune 2.