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Weapons Lab: Small Arms Development at USALWL

ABOVE: As part of the development of under barrel grenade launchers, LWL fabricated this mount for Colt’s XM148 grenade launcher to allow it to be fitted to the M1 carbine. (U.S. Army)

After the end of the Second World War, the United States military, the Army especially, saw its mission as one of countering potential Soviet aggression. If this were to come, the most likely battlefield would be in Northern Europe. With the Soviet Union’s acquisition of nuclear weapons the two world powers settled into the Cold War. Though a major land war between the two in Europe would have been catastrophic, other fronts presented more potential. By supporting insurgencies around the world the Soviet Union could needle the United States without risking nuclear war.

It was in response to these threats that the U.S. Army created the Limited War Laboratory (USALWL or just LWL) in 1962 at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland. Other U.S. Army development activities were largely focused on the potential for open warfare with the Soviets. Insurgents on the other had presented an almost completely different adversary, against which the full conventional power of the U.S. military could not always be directed.

The LWL was directed to develop and provide new and improved weapons and equipment to U.S. forces who might find themselves engaged with these forces. At the time, the U.S. was steadily increasing its involvement in Southeast Asia, for instance. A number of insurgencies threatened U.S.-friendly governments in the region. As time went on, the LWL would become very much involved in development equipment for U.S. forces in Vietnam, where counter-insurgency was the name of the game. Its projects dealt not just with weapons, but also various pieces of equipment designed to help with or improve communications, …read more

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