The point of a LMG is to provide effective fire support to troops. In order to do this it needs to provide 2 things: volume and accuracy of fire. Volume is needed so as to reduce time without fire to maximise freedom of manoeuvre elements. Accuracy is needed to allow the supportive fire to get as close to friendly troops for as long as possible as far as needed in order to effectively suppress an enemy. The Minimi failed in the second part of the equation.
L110 LMG gunner realising the enemy are 300m away
In order to understand why the weapon failed we must first understand what is meant by suppression and what is needed to achieve it. An enemy is only suppressed when they are no longer able to effectively return fire or manoeuvre. It is not enough to get rounds in their general direction. An experienced enemy will know the difference between fire that is random and that which is accurate. NATO did extensive studies many years ago and found that small arms fire is only effective if you can get at least 1 round within 1 meter of a target every 2 seconds. Less than this and you are unlikely to effectively suppress a target. It genuinely grips my shit when I hear troops saying they were putting down suppressive fire by shooting randomly in the direction of an enemy then wondering why they are still taking casualties. Getting lots of rounds down may make you feel better and give a confidence boost, however it is just turning lead into brass if it isn’t close to the enemy. The British Army stipulated that this should be achievable to 600m, and this is what was planned for in small unit doctrine.
The Minimi in British military use was the short barrelled Para model called the L110 LMG. This weapon was initially purchased as an urgent operational requirement (UOR) for Iraq. It was later taken into core on a scale of 2 per infantry section. It actually did a fairly good job in Iraq, particularly against militia forces who had little or no battle experience. However it started showing some issues in Afghanistan when firefights started happening at longer ranges and we were fighting an enemy with experience of being shot at. It was found that the weapon was struggling to keep the enemy’s heads down at more than 100–200m. Lots of volume was being put down but it just wasn’t stopping the Taliban from doing their thing. The GPMGs and even accurate rifle fire were doing a better job.
Terry being told the enemy have L110 LMGs
Some studies were carried out by the Army who found that experienced users struggled to meet the required accuracy for suppression in range conditions past about 200m, much less than the 600m stipulated and assumed in doctrine. In fact it was found to be the least ammunition efficient weapon at company level, requiring more ammunition to be carried and fired to achieve suppression than any other weapon. The 1950s vintage GPMG was found to be considerably more accurate while also providing a heavier hitting round. The decision was therefore made to remove the LMG and reorganise the section. The GPMG was reintroduced at section level to provide offensive capability against light vehicles as well as increased range. There is now 1 GPMG, 1 sharpshooter rifle, 6 SA80 and 2 grenade launchers in each section.
Current section fire support – GPMG & Sharpshooter