There was significant buzz around FN America’s booth during the first day of SHOT 2023. FN America have unveiled a brand new rifle developed for a US government requirement. We headed over to take a look.
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The new Individual Weapon System, chambered in .264, is on display in a case, tucked away in the military section of FN America’s booth. On first sight you might mistake the rifle for an AR-10 pattern marksman’s rifle but on closer inspection the rifle is a different beast.
The new weapon and ammunition was developed for the Irregular Warfare Technology Support Directorate (IWTSD). Interestingly, the aim for the project was to provide overmatch against emerging great power competitors and future threats. A similar goal to the US Army’s Next Generation Squad Weapon System which coalesced on a 6.8mm round.
Getting photos through glass is tricky so FN America have kindly provided some photos:
But what is the IWTSD? The Irregular Warfare Technology Support Directorate is responsible for carrying out research and development to support U.S. and allied organizations involved in irregular warfare. Originally set up in 1999 as the Combating Terrorism Technical Support Office, its name was changed in 2021. The Department of Defense defines the Irregular Warfare Technology Support Directorate role as:
to identify and develop capabilities for DoD to conduct Irregular Warfare against all adversaries, including Great Power competitors and non-state actors, and to deliver those capabilities to DoD components and interagency partners through rapid research and development, advanced studies and technical innovation, and provision of support to U.S. military operations.
The IWS chambers the Lightweight Intermediate Caliber Cartridge (LICC), developed from .264 USA. The 6.5x43mm round uses a steel case, which FN America says reduces weight by 20% compared to equivalent brass. No data on velocities has been released yet. The round has a two-piece, lightweight steel design with a stainless steel head and case body. a variety of loads have been developed with a number of different projectiles, including a 130gr Reduced Ricochet Limited Penetration round, a 109gr copper open tip match (OTM), a 120gr copper OTM and a soft nose 125gr cartridge.
A new 25 round polymer magazine has been developed for the rifle, sized somewhere between a 5.56x45mm AR-15 magazine and a 7.62×51mm AR-10 pattern magazine.
The Individual Weapon System began concept development in the late 2010s and in January 2018, IWTSD published their annual Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) which outlined the requirement for the IWS. In 2019, FN America were awarded a contract to develop a weapon system to meet the IWTSD’s requirement. FN America is the lead contractor on the development working with a team of other industry manufacturers which includes 4 ammunition manufacturers, a magazine manufacturer, and a suppressor developer. FN representatives noted that the COVID pandemic inevitably slowed development but by late 2020 the ITWSD had decided to accelerate the project. The summer of 2022 saw the weapon under go initial User Acceptance Testing and Performance Evaluations.
The IWS uses a long stroke piston operating system and a paired with a three-lug bolt. FN note that the weapon is designed to run without any adjustments when operating suppressed or unsuppressed via the virtue of a self-regulating gas block.
Development of the ammunition and weapon has been an iterative process and three variants will be delivered: an 11.5” Close Quarters Battle carbine, a 14.5” Carbine, and a 18.5” ‘Recce’ (Designated Marksmanship Rifle). FN America say these variants weight 7 and 9 pounds, empty depending on configuration.
The weapon is fully ambidextrous, has a self regulating gas block, a non-reciprocating charging handle, a two stage trigger, a self contained operating group, a monolithic upper, a folding stock and several built-in recoil mitigation mechanisms.
Later this year FN America will be delivering 55 of the LICC IWS. Three configurations, along with a number of the EVOLYS-based LICC Assault Machine Gun, along with ammunition will be delivered. Canadian Special Operations Forces are a co-sponsor of program and they will also be receiving a batch of the weapons and ammunition for testing and evaluation.
It remains to be seen what applications the LICC IWS has in the field but on the face of it appears to be an interesting answer to a similar question the Army’s Next Generation Squad Weapon program has sought to answer.
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