The Army plans to replace many of its M16 rifles and M203 grenade launchers with a single weapon that uses laser range finding and "smart" ammunition. The OICW combines a rifle and grenade launcher with laser ranging, optical and IR imaging, smart ammunition, and an electronic compass. It can fire its load of six grenades in under 5 sec, much quicker than the current M203 grenade launcher's rate of four rounds in 40 sec. Combining rifle and grenade launcher and sensors into one weapon makes training and maintenance simpler, according to GI's involved in testing and evaluation. It also keeps the weapon's center of gravity constant, so a soldier's accuracy should be more consistent. The Army's standard issue rifle, the M16, is nearly 40 years old. Though it was revolutionary when introduced and used in Vietnam, the rest of the world now arms its soldiers with weapons that have similar firepower and sophistication. To stay ahead of the curve and increase the lethality of its GIs, the U.S., together with a team of defense contractors, is developing the OICW (objective individual combat weapon). The design team consists of prime contractor Alliant Techsystems, Hopkins, Minn., Heckler and Koch of Germany developing the firing systems, and Brahsear LP, Pittsburgh, building the fire-control system. Current plans are to issue it to four soldiers in every nine-man platoon around 2009. The OICW fires both 5.6-mm rounds (as used by the M16 and NATO) and 20-mm grenades, and includes high-tech add-ons such as laser range finding, thermal imaging for night vision, optics for daylight targeting, an electronic compass, and computer-controlled fusing and target tracking. At the heart of the OICW is a stand-alone automatic carbine. A removable grenade launcher mounts on top. There is talk of making both rifle and grenade launcher operational when separated. But
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