Dakalo Nekhumbe, Phindile Mashaba and Marumo Talane, who work at Denel Land Systems (DLS), took the challenge to redesign an infantry soldier’s most trusted ally -- the machine gun -- making it lighter and easier to handle without compromising its firepower and reliability.
The three are products of the Denel Engineering Academy.
The machine gun, the DMG-5, made its debut under the glare of the global defence media, industry and general public at the recent Africa Aerospace and Defence trade and exhibition show held at Waterkloof Air Force Base, Pretoria.
The DMG-5 is among the lightest machine guns in the world. It can fire both 7.62mm and 5.56mm calibre ammunition and can be enhanced with optional tactical attachments such as optical sights, night vision equipment, torches or laser pointers. The grip can be adjusted to suit the personal requirements of the operator. The weapon is effective at a range of up to 1 500 metres and has a firing rate of up to 900 rounds per minute.
DLS CEO Stephan Burger said the young engineers were given a simple, yet challenging brief - modernise the weapon, decrease its weight and retain its reputation as one of the most trusted elements in the infantry’s arsenal.
“Within these guidelines, they were given the freedom and flexibility to come up with an innovative and effective final product. The challenges were set and met with great enthusiasm and professionalism,” said Burger.
The engineers were committed to the company’s Infantry Weapons Department, where they worked under the guidance of experienced engineers and veteran designers.
Burger said soldiers on the move rely on the sustained firepower offered by a machine gun. However, such weapons can also be heavy to carry during long foot patrols, where each soldier also has to transport sufficient ammunition, water, food rations, equipment and sleeping gear.
“Every kilogram of weight you can reduce on the weight of the weapon enables the soldier to carry more rations or water. The weapon that emerged from the engineering team represents a major leap forward in weapons design.
“A weight reduction of almost 20% has been achieved. The DMG-5 tips the scales at a mere 8.3kg compared to the 10.3kg of the standard SS77. The new design is the result of creativity and innovation from a young team who tackled the challenge from fresh new angles,” said Burger.
Among the major design changes introduced is a new barrel design, new cocking handles, new flash hiders, lightweight trigger housing and a co-ax handgrip.
With each change in design, Burger said, grams were shaved off the weight of the weapon without compromising stability and durability.
“The result is a well-balanced, lightweight weapon, which is ideally suited for modern soldiers, who need to operate in both rural and urban battle environments.
“The young engineers stayed with the project from design and modelling to testing and the production processes. They were also on hand when the new DMG-5 was first unveiled to the public at the AAD2016 in September,” Burger said.
He said the result represents a major breakthrough for Denel, which will definitely contribute to the company’s reputation as one of the leading global innovators in design and advanced manufacturing.