This has been floating around the web a few days, and LT Rusty sent me a link, which, I guess means he wanted me to post on it.
Carrying ammo for belt fed machine guns has always been a problem for the infantry. 7.62mm ammo for guns comes in watertight metal cans of 200 rounds. Inside, there are two belts of 100 rounds each (in a mix of four ball to one tracer). Each belt is in a cloth bandolier with a cardboard box inset. Theoretically, this cloth container can be attached to the gun. In reality, it can’t be. The metal can is heavy and awkward to carry. The bandolier is much handier to carry, but is fragile. Further, a 100 round belt doesn’t last very long in a fire fight. But exposed ammunition is fragile and liable to picking up all kinds of dirt and debris. When that happens, the dirty ammo causes jams and malfunctions. There’s few things more useless than a machine gun that won’t fire.
At any rate, a few Iowa Army National Guardsmen in Afghanistan, pondering on the problem, decided to make an improved system to carry ammo, and it’s straight out of Hollywood.
Who hasn’t seen Predator? If you haven’t, report to the re-education camps. Your pop-culture history is sorely lacking. Of course, if you have seen it, you remember Jesse Ventura (before he went insane) carrying a Mini-gun with a backpack ammo system. While the intrepid Iowa Guardsmen aren’t using a Mini-gun, they did pretty much copy the ammo system.
Having hand built an example, they also asked Big Army to take a look and consider building them for everyone. Which the good folks at the R&D lab at Natick are doing.
A couple thoughts. First, I distinctly recall seeing a very similar system a couple years ago. In fact, I can’t find it, but I’m almost certain I blogged a youtube video of a nearly identical system. That system was being demonstrated at a range facility.
The other thought is, while the feed system probably does work pretty well, adding that much weight to a gunner (who already has an incredibly heavy load, even with a Mk48 instead of a conventional M240B) is problematical. 500 rounds of 7.62mm ammo is roughly 40 pounds of ammunition.
Also, per the article, $1,700 for a freakin’ feed chute? It’s stamped steel! Holy cow!