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Local innovator proposes new battle rifle for Army

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Frank Soto

Australian company SOTO Consulting Engineers is proposing an innovative new battle rifle for the Australian Defence Force (ADF) that increases hit rate and hit effectiveness compared to currently fielded small arms in Australia, the UK, and the USA.

The Hyper-Burst Battle Rifle (HBR) would be the first front-line service weapon designed and manufactured in Australia since the Owen gun, a submachine gun used extensively during World War II and into the 1960s. It was famed for its reliability in harsh conditions.

The HBR is based on the concept of automating the battlefield technique of ‘double tap’ firing. Rather than the soldier pulling the trigger in quick succession to improve hit and kill probability, the HBR automatically fires three rounds, such as an armour piercing cartridge, immediately followed by a duplexed pair of bullets inside a second cartridge. As a result, the HBR theoretically has a cyclic rate of fire about 2000 rounds per minute with the trigger resetting automatically, ensuring ammunition is not wasted after each hyper-burst.

The three rounds a fired with a single pull of the trigger, exiting the barrel before the firer feels recoil. Tests show that the hyper‑burst technique improves a soldier’s ability to hit against fleeting and moving targets, even when under duress. The HBR claims, under actual battlefield conditions, twice the probability of hit, three times greater armour-piercing capability and more than twice the wounding potential, compared to the M16 family or the F88 AUG Steyr and its derivatives. In the F90 form, the Steyr continues to be the standard-issue rifle for the Australian Army.

An HBR fires the full-power 6.8mm rifle cartridges of the US Army’s Next Generation Squad Weapon, rather than the much less potent intermediate calibre 5.56mm cartridges used by the M16 since 1964. Other ammunition options, such as an amour piercing cartridge followed by a single tracer bullet, are easily harnessed and often employed for longer ranges. The new close combat assault rifle is well advanced, with concept design completed and the design registration and patents for the rifle’s unique features are underway.

Other envisaged benefits of the HBR include:

  • Lightweight construction using advanced polymers and metals
  • Superb recoil suppression courtesy of the patented counter-recoil action
  • Fully ambidextrous use, ergonomic placement of user controls, and downwards ejection of expended cases
  • Flexible design, greater accuracy, and improved power can support integrated ancillary devices, computers, and data networking. Slew-to-Cue software is being developed for the HBR in parallel with prototypes of the gun.
  • Supports multiple ammunition types within a single hyper‑burst that takes less than 1/30th of a second
  • Durability due to robust engineering and computer optimised structural design.

MAJ (Ret) Iain Adams, consultant to the SOTO design team, said: “A significant feature of the battle rifle is its local production potential. This leads to supporting the Commonwealth Government’s objectives and a local Sovereign Industrial Capability Priority.”

Australia has not designed any small arms from scratch since World War II. Instead, the current service rifle is the Steyr F88 design licensed to produce the F90, which is simply a lightened version of the F88 with ancillary rails.

Port Moresby area, Papua, New Guinea. 1944-01-20. An Owen gunner of the 21st Infantry Brigade moving carefully through thick jungle undergrowth. Australian War Memorial: 063101

SOTO has been encouraged by fellow Wollongong man Mr Evelyn Owen, designer of the Owen gun.  The Owen gun is a weapon that achieved near-legendary status, being the only entirely Australian-designed and constructed service submachine gun (SMG) of World War II. At the time, Evelyn Owen was unable to interest the Australian Army in his design. The Army felt that as the Thompson SMG was imported and used by the British and Americans, it must be used. However, the Owen gun was eventually accepted following intense media scrutiny.

At that time, Wardell was General Manager of Lysaght’s Port Kembla. After initiating a grassroots and media campaign to convince the Army of the Owen gun’s utility and value, he advanced the concept to the production phase, even then demonstrating Sovereign Industrial Capability over imports.

After finally securing Army approval, the Owen gun was manufactured at the Lysaght’s Works facilities in Port Kembla and Newcastle, NSW.  These plants are now owned by Australia-based steel producers One Steel and BlueScope.

SOTO is seeking funding via the Defence Innovation Hub and has sought support from the Centre for Defence Industry Capability (CDIC) and Army Headquarters to progress the design and testing of the HBR.

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