The M56 Smartgun is a man-portable heavy machine gun with automatic targeting capabilities employed by the United States Colonial Marine Corps. The M56A2 model in particular saw regular use in engagements with the Xenomorph and Predator species.
The M56 Smart Gun is an improved version of the USCMC Shockrifle, capable of holding higher quantities of ammunition and an increased fire rate. When a target is designated by the tracking system, the harness automatically guides the operator and gun to the target. Switching targets is as simple as pointing the gun's barrel at a new target. The gun can fire in a three round burst or in fully automatic. A small power cell, located on the underside and connected by electrical cables, powers the unit. When detached, the gun is useless.
Using electrical pulse action, the M56 fires 600 10x28mm caseless high-explosive rounds at a rate of 1200 rpm. Despite the fact that the weapon weighs nearly 40 pounds, it can be easily carried and operated by a single Marine with the assistance of a servo-controlled harness. It is called a "smart gun" because the weapon's fire is guided by an infrared tracking system on top of the gun's barrel linked to a head-mounted goggle system, guided by a targeting processor in the harness.
The machine gun is mounted on an articulator arm which in turn is connected to an operator's combat harness. The combat harness is a composite micromesh ballistic armor with extra padding to prevent chafing from the cumbersome kit. The harness features a PRC 489/4 communications receiver/transmitter and the tracking/targeting processor. The gun itself is slaved by coaxial cable to the tracking/targeting processor, which uses an infrared tracking system. This processor in turn has a universal connector in which the Head Mounted Sight (HMS) is connected, allowing the operator to "see" what the tracking system is reading. The backplate can be opened in order to access the processor if field repairs are necessary. A "black box" line replacement unit (LRU) is also sealed in the backplate and can be used to replace a damaged processor in the field.
The articulator arm attaches at the hip and is controlled via servo-motors in the mechanism. The tracker controls this motion, tracking targets via a 256x256 element Platinum-Silicide focal plane array. The system is cooled by a cryogenic gas-cooler which keeps the device at an optimal 77K on the Stirling principle. This tracking signal is projected in a 30° cone in front of the gun's muzzle. When the tracker locks onto a target, it positions the gun's muzzle to fire center of mass on the target. Care must be taken as the tracker has no IFF system, so an operator can easily guide the gun without causing friction in the servos. Some marines have complained that the tracking software has been known to "chase phantoms" while others find the accuracy of the rifle to be unnerving. Experienced operators are capable of working in concert with the weapon to great effect.
AmmuntionEditThe M56 Smart Gun is the primary machine gun of the USCM and makes up the core fire support of a USCM squad. It has replaced the older M38 models and has since been replaced by the M57 Smartgun. The M250 10 mm x 28 ammunition is a 230 grain (14.9 gram) caseless projectile encased in a rectangle block of nitramine. Higher powered than the M309 round for the pulse rifle, the M250 also significantly differs in having a selectable fuse setting. A switch on the hand grip is used to select the ammunition fusing, which is set electronically as the round is loaded into the chamber. The 'Super' setting is optimised against soft targets and will detonate the round on impact, while the 'Delay' setting explodes the shell only after penetrating the target armor.
The M250 ammunition is stored on a roll of continuous plastic non-disintegrating link belt in the ammunition drum, which can be reloaded in the field. The gun motor drives the feed mechanism as well as the rotating breech and automatically loads each round off the belt and into the breech. In the event of a stoppage, the manual cocking handle at the right side of the weapon can be pulled to eject the round and clear the breech. This procedure can also be used to manually charge the mechanism.
Like the M41A Pulse Rifle, the M56 is fired via a pulse-action system which is powered by a DV9 lithium battery units which also supplies power to the tracking and targeting processor. The firing mechanism is a rear grip with a handle that must be depressed to fire the weapon or a forward grip . The M56A1 has a cyclic rate of 1200 rpm. The M56 has three settings on the safety/burst selector: Safe, Burst, and Autofire. Safe ensures that the weapon cannot fire, Burst will fire four rounds, while Autofire will fire the weapon as long as the firing handle is depressed. A fuse selector allows for further options. The fuse selector will select the M250's nitramine igniter. The Super setting will detonate on impact, ideal for soft targets, while the Delay selection is better for armored target as the ammunition will detonate only after it has pierced the target's armor. The gun is constructed with carbon-fiber, light alloys, and plastics with an air-cooled muzzle to prevent overheating. An optional heat-sink attachment is available if overheating becomes an issue.
Gun TeamEditAs per USCMC doctrine, USCM's are organized into rifle squads at the lowest levels of organization. One element of this squad is the Gun Team. The Gun Team is made up of a rifleman with a M41 pulse rifle and a machine-gunner carrying the M56 Smart Gun. The rifleman provides spotting and defense support for the machine-gunner, who in turn provides fire support for the rest of the rifle squad.
The M57 is the ‘sequel’ to the M56 smart gun used for the better part of the last two decades. Unlike the M56m the M57’s gun barrel does not autonomously track targets; instead the gun coordinates multiple guided projectiles. This increases fire rate significantly, reduces operator combat fatigue, and sidesteps lengthy training requirements. It also means that an M57 round can dynamically retarget mid-flight, should the firing M57 determine that the round’s initial target has already been defeated.
M57D ‘Dirty’ SmartgunEdit
The M57D is an utterly vicious weapon that is sanctioned for extreme circumstances only. It fires rounds that shatter into hundreds of radioactive splinters inside their target, causing human survivors of the weapon to develop all manner of debilitating long-term health problems. It can create truly astounding radiation levels in larger targets, forcing these enemies to lose health for extended periods of time. Naturally, the upgraded Smartgunner wears radiation shielded armor as a safety precaution.
- The two live-firing M56 Smartguns used in Aliens were constructed by British movie armorers Bapty & Co. from WWII-vintage German MG42 machine guns dressed up with cosmetic additions, including parts from a Kawasaki motorcycle. The weapon was attached to a steadicam filming harness, transferring most of the gun's considerable weight to the actors' legs while also helping to balance the unwieldy weapon. In the film, the M56 was used by Vasquez and Drake, who had customized their weapons with the words "Adios" (on Vasquez' gun) and "My bitch" (on Drake's) written on the side ahead of the charging handle.
- As well as the standard M56, Vasquez's M56 is featured in the game Aliens: Colonial Marines as a "legendary weapon".
- Aliens/novel (First Appearance)
- Aliens: Newt's Tale
- Alien3 (Assembly Cut, mentioned only)
- Aliens versus Predator (video game) (as the M41)
- Aliens versus Predator 2 (video game)
- Alien versus Predator: Extinction (video game)
- Aliens vs. Predator (video game)
- Aliens: Colonial Marines (video game)