Colonial Marine Corps Task Force 312

M56 Smart Gun

 The core of a Colonial Marine squad's fighting power is it's machine guns. More effective than a rifle, machine guns can sustain large volumes of continuous fire both in the attack and defense, and are frequently the most decisive weapon in a firefight. The M56 Smart Gun is the Colonial Marines' primary squad machine gun. Lightweight, rugged, and reliable, the Smart Gun is carried into battle on a self-aiming stabilized mount - so negating the need to position or set up the gun for full automatic fire - and is linked to an infared target tracking system for accurate aiming. Flexible and powerful, the M56 system is now deployed in a variety of combat theaters and environments.

General Description

The M56A2 is a 10mm general-purpose automatic squad support weapon, effective out to 4,921 ft. The pulse-action system employs a free-floating recoil-dampened motorized rotating breech mechanism chambered for the M250 series 10mm x 28 caseless round. The gun also incorporates a muzzle booster to ensure the necessary operating forces from the large rounds. Cyclical rate is 1200 rpm. The gun is constructed largely from molded carbon-fiber and light alloy stampings, though some interior parts of the mechanism are made from plastic. The replaceable barrel system is air-cooled, though a heat-sink attachment can be jacketed onto it. The system is mounted on an operator's harnass and slaved to an infared tracking system. The gun is self-steering on the mount, though firing must be commanded manually. The entire gun assembly (including harness and full ammo load masses 39 lbs. The length of the gun itself is 4 ft and the length of the barrel is 1.7 ft.

Smart Gun Operation

Smart Gun Movement

 
While the operator is standing, the gun is held and steered by its fire and back grips. Operators have a wide degree of motion with the gun and can play it in an arc from their front to their sides, or point it directly upwards. When prone, operators must lie on their backs and employ the fore grip, while locking the cocking handle forward and using it as a side grip. The articulation is gyro-stabilized and provides additional recoil dampening to keep the gun steady while the operator is walking or running. When tracking a target, the arm will self-steer the gun barrel so as to bore sight the target's center of mass. An operator must be sensitive to these movements of the gun and allow it to aim itself, though they may override the gun's motion at any time simply by steering the barrel elsewhere.

Target Tracking
 
When powered up, the gun begins tracking targets via its infrared tracker mounted above the barrel. The tracker consists of a 256 x 256 element Platinum-Silicide focal plane array cooled to 77 degrees Kelvin by a tiny cryogenic gas-cooler working on the Stirling principle. This system monitors a 30 degree cone in front of the gun, and transmits high-resolution thermal images in the 8-10 um range to a miniature video display in the operator's eyepiece. If a target is detected, the tracker will overlay a lighted box or rectangle on screen over the target's center mass. The articulation arm will then self-steer the gun to aim at this point, and as soon as it has done so, a target lock circle on the screen lights to indicate that the target has been bore sighted. If multiple targets or infrared false-target decoy appear in the sight, the operator simple steers the lighted box to bracket whichever target he actually wishes to engage.

Firing the Smart Gun
 
All the firing is controlled from either the forward hand grip or the rear firing handle; the operator fires the weapon by depressed the red 'fire' switch or pulling the firing handle upwards. A selector at the grip controls the gun's safety features and the rate of fire. There are three settings on this switch: Safe, Burst and Full Auto. Clicking off the safety will automatically charge the weapon. (If there is a round in the breech, the gun's diagnostics will prevent any further loading.) The Burst setting will fire four round bursts, while the Full Auto feature will continue to fire the weapon at it's full cyclical rate so long as the fire switch remains depressed. (The cyclical rate of the Smart Gun being what it is,1200 rpm, you can dump a 300 round drum on Full Auto in 4 seconds flat. So maybe going rock n' roll isn't such a good idea.)
 
The M250 10mm x 28 ammunition is a 230 grain (14.9 gram) caseless projectile encased in a rectangular block of Nitramine. Higher powered than the M309 round for the M41A1 Pulse Rifle, the M250 also significantly differs in having a selectable fuse setting. A switch on the hand grip is used to select the ammunition fusing, which is set electronically as the round is loaded into the chamber. The 'Super' setting is optimized against soft targets and will detonate the round on impact, while the 'Delay' setting explodes the shell only after penetrating the target armor.
 
The M250 ammunition is stored on a roll of continuous plastic non-disintegrating link belt in the ammunition drum, which can be reloaded in the field. The gun motor drives the feed mechanism as well as the rotating breech, and automatically loads each round off the belt and into the breech. In the event of a jam, the manual cocking handle at the side can be pulled to eject the round and clear the breech. This procedure can also be used to manually charge the mechanism.

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