Monday, July 4, 2011

General-Purpose Machine Guns

The GPMG (general-purpose machine gun), which was exemplified by the MG42, would be regarded as an essential weapon by all armies after the war, and widely copied. The French had their AAT-52 and the Belgians their highly successful MAG, while the Russian belt-fed RPD LMG was a step towards the GPMG concept.

The AAT 52 GPMG
Designed by the French MAS company in the early 1950s, the Arme Automatique Transformable modele 52 machine gun, better known simply as the "cinquante-deux", was adopted by the French Army in 7.5mm and later, after conversion to fire the 7.62mm NATO round, as the AAT F-1. It uses stampings wherever possible for ease and speed of production.

The AAT-52 uses 50- or 200-round belts and has a delayed blowback action and a rate of fire of 900 rpm. The quick-change barrel has a fluted chamber to assist extraction. In the light role the gun has a 50cm/20in, 2.9kg/6.4lb barrel, while in the sustained fire role it has a heavier 4.3kg/9.5lb barrel that is 60cm/2ft long.

The gun gave good service in Algeria in the 1960s and in numerous operations around the world. It is still in service with the French Army.
The French AAT-52 in medium machine-gun role mounted on a US M2 tripod fitted with a heavy barrel. It has a practical range of 1,200m/1,320yd.

The RPD
The RPD 7.62mm light machine gun was designed by Vasily Degtyarev in the USSR in 1943 and introduced into service in the Soviet Army shortly after the end of World War II. It was adopted by Warsaw Pact forces and copied by China as the Type 56 and North Korea as the Type 62. The RPD weighs 7. lkg/15.61b empty and fires a 7.62 x 39mm round from a 100-round disintegrating link belt housed in a drum clipped below the weapon. It fires only on automatic and has a cyclic rate of 700 rpm and an effective range of 800m/875yd. It works well in adverse conditions and is very easy to strip and assemble.
An Egyptian soldier taking part in a joint exercise with US Forces takes aim with an RPD LMG fitted with the 100-round magazine. The rugged weapon has performed well in the jungles of Asia as well as in the desert.

The FN MAG GPMG
The Belgian 7.62mm FN Mitrailleuse a Gaz, or MAG, is one of the most successful GPMGs to be manufactured since World War II. An FN design, it uses the feed mechanism developed by the Germans for the MG42 during the war. This gives it a rate of fire of 650-1,000 rpm, which can be adjusted by opening or closing the gas regulator controlling the flow of gas from the barrel back on to the cupped piston head. Gunners learn to "balance" their weapon so that this gas flow gives an optimum performance.

The MAG can be used in the light role with a bipod or on a sustained fire (SF) spring-buffered tripod.

In the SF role a butt plate is fitted, and the rear sight flips up and shows ranges of 800-1,800m/ 875-1,970yd. An optical sight, similar to that on a mortar, can also be fitted; this allows the gun to be fired on pre-registered targets that may be obscured by darkness or smoke. In the light role the sights lie flat and are graduated between 200-800m/220-875 yards in 100m/l 10-yd intervals. The GPMG/MAG weighs 11.7kg/25.7lb empty and has an overall length of 126cm/50in. The rate of fire is 650-1,000 rpm and the muzzle velocity is 840m/s/2,755ft/s. The MAG is probably the most successful general-purpose machine gun in the world. It is manufactured under licence in Argentina, Egypt, India, Singapore, the United States, and the UK.
An Israeli soldier in Lebanon in 1984 lounges by an M151 fitted with two MAGs. The one in the rear has had the butt removed and replaced with the butt plate for ease of operation in the confined space.

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