The Advanced Infantry Combat Weapon (AICW) was a prototype assault rifle based on the F88 Austeyr being developed in Australia. The AICW combines a standard 5.56 mm assault rifle with a multiple-shot grenade launcher.
The AICW was developed by the Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO) in alliance with Metal Storm and Tenix Defence Systems, receiving funding primarily through the Australian Government's Capability and Technology Demonstrator (CTD) program. The M203 40 mm grenade launcher is currently the most common weapon of this type. The M203 is an add-on to the assault rifle, fitting beneath its barrel. However, the single-shot M203 has ergonomic disadvantages with two sets of triggers and sights, and the operator has to change firing stance to change from firing the rifle to operating the grenade launcher.
The AICW aimed to provide the infantry soldier with the ability to fire multiple grenades without having to reload, and to switch between 5.56 mm ballistic rounds and 40 mm grenades without changing sights, trigger or stance, giving the operator more versatility and reduced reaction times in combat.
Since the 40 mm grenade launcher entered service in the early 1960s the United States Army has been trying to develop a weapon with a capability similar to the AICW. The latest attempt, the Objective Individual Combat Weapon (OICW) project, was launched in 1986 but abandoned in 2004 having not achieved its aims, largely due to excessive size and weight of the weapon.
AICW, with its stacked round grenade launcher, did not require the weight, volume and complexity of conventional mechanical loading. This made the weapon more compact and potentially far lighter. For further information see Australian Minister for Defence Press Release in 2005.
Development of the weapon ceased following the successful demonstration of the technology and the completion of the CTD program.
The Land 125 Soldier Combat System Project 2008Edit
The future Austeyr will also almost certainly host internal circuitry to link its bearer to a diverse range of rapidly developing sighting systems as well as a host of non weapon battlefield electronic equipment without their hands leaving the rifle.Thales Australia is working with Kord Defence Pty Ltd to develop a Rifle Input Control (RIC), which is a push button controller attached to the front grip of the rifle, enabling the bearer to operate a range of electronic devices by pressing single or multiple buttons, called chords:
"Under this upgrade, the working system of the Austeyr will be kept stable, but it will be open architecture to facilitate the attachment of a range of current and future accessories. It will also look at improving the man-machine interface," Mr Perkins said.
"Thales Australia through a joint research and development project with Kord Defence is taking a simple analogue system and turning it into a digital system. The Austeyr will effectively become a digital platform."