This is a US Army project to develop a ridiculously overengineered, very science-fictional-looking firearm for the individual soldier. It is to become the successor to the M16. Currently, different designs are being evaluated.

The OICW is to consist of a launcher for smart grenades and a conventional rapid-fire rifle. Some designs propose that the rifle should be a removable module. Then, the weapon will be incredibly computerised and wired directly to the soldier's backpack computer. The goal of the whole shebang is enabling the individual Land Warrior (the Army's designation for "the infantry(wo)man as an integrated weapons system") to engage targets at any distance up to more than 1000 metres. Critics consider the entire OICW a rather catastrophically misled design. The grenade launcher, with a caliber of probably 20 mm, will launch grenades to small to do anything meaningful, considering that there will be a complete guidance system inside (100% silver bullets), the entire beast will be too heavy, and a nightmare to maintain and supply.

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The OICW is the planned replacement for the stunningly unreliable LSW (light support weapon) as the squad support weapon of the British army, after both the LSW and its lighter companion, the SA-80 were heavily criticised. It is essentially a standard assult rifle with advanced targeting and a special laser guided grenade system that is supposed to be able to detonate the grenade at any point on its flight, designed to be used to explode grenades over or behind defences, which has earned the weapon the nickname "the gun that fires round corners". It is being developed along with the USA.

The OICW consists of two separate components, which can be used together or apart - a modified, greatly shortened version of the Heckler and Koch G36 assault rifle, on the back of which is mounted a larger, six-shot 20mm grenade launcher with an advanced targetting system. The 20mm grenades can be set to detonate on impact, or after they have travelled a certain distance - the idea being that the user points the gun at, say, a window, and sets the range with the scope, after which the grenade is fired, primed to explode at that point. As mentioned above, this allows the rifleman to engage targets hidden behind corners; putting one's conjecture cap on, however, it seems unlikely that such a feature would actually be used in the murderous confusion of an actual firefight.

It's a clever concept, but there are some obvious drawbacks. Firstly, a six-shot 20mm grenade launcher, no matter how accurate, is limited by dint of capacity, weight, and a lack of power. Secondly, the shortened G36 appears to lack a useful shoulder stock, and would thus be of limited use when detached from the OICW - yet, when attached, the complete package seems rather large and unweildy. Thirdly, the OICW, at a projected unit cost of $11,000, half as expensive again as a standard M16 with an M203 grenade launcher, a combination which is cheaper, lighter, easier to use and less complex (and, in the case of the M203's 40mm grenades, more powerful).

The OICW is precisely the kind of thing that might appear in the pages of GI Joe and, if it is ever developed at reasonable cost, it is likely to be issued to select units only, those who have a need for a tiny rifle and an accurate low-power six-shot grenade launcher. Special Forces will probably balk at the complexity of the design, whilst it will probably be too expensive and fragile for conventional troops.

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