The FN Minimi is a Belgium machine gun created by FN Herstal, and is manufactured with licence in Germany, Greece and United States, where it's called M249 SAW.
The Minimi light machine gun was developed by the famous Belgian company FN Herstal, in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Mass production began in 1982 in Belgium, and at about the same time it has been adopted by the US Armed forces as the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW). Since its introduction Minimi has seen widespread service, and numerous variations have been developed. First, the Para (Paratroop) version came out, with shorter barrel and tubular telescoped butt. This gun traded off some of the range and firepower for compactness and maneuverability. Quite recently, an SPW version was developed, which featured a Para-type buttstock, a barrel of intermediate length (between standard and Para models), and a Picatinny-type rail mount, which allows a wide variety of sights and scopes to be mounted. To save weight, the magazine feed option of the standard and para models has been discarded. This version, in a slightly modified form, was adopted by the US Special Forces Command (US SOCOM) as the Mk.46 model 0 light machine gun.
The FN Minimi has an excellent reputation on reliability and firepower, and the latest reports on failures of M249 SAW weapons in Iraq are attributed to the age of the weapons used - most of the current issue M249 in US Army are more than 10 years old and quite worn out.
The FN Minimi / M249 SAW is an air cooled, gas operated, belt fed, automatic weapon. The Minimi is operated using conventional gas action with the gas piston located below the barrel, and the barrel is locked using the traditional rotary bolt. The barrel is quick-detachable, and has a carrying handle attached to it, to help for quick replacement procedure. The M249 has an alternative feed system, which allows to use disintegrating metallic belts as a primary feed option, or M16-type box magazines as a back-up feed option. The belt is feed using the top feed unit, the magazines are inserted through the magazine port, located at the left side of the receiver and angled down. The Flip-up dust cover closes the magazine port when it is not in use, serving also as a belt guide. When magazine is in place, this cover raises up and closes the belt-way to avoid dual feeds and jams. Since the belt feed uses additional power to pull the belt through the gun, the rate of fire with the belt is somewhat slower (~ 750 rpm) than the rate of fire with magazine feed (~ 1000 rpm). The latest SPW and Mk.46 mod.0 versions of the Minimi have no magazine feed module as a weight-saving measure. The belts are fed from special 200 rounds plastic boxes that can be clipped beneath the receiver. All Minimi versions fire from open bolt to ensure optimal barrel cooling between bursts.
The folding bipod is mounded under the gas chamber, and the gun has provisions for tripod or vehicle mountings. The open sights are standard, with the availability of wide variety of optical and night sights for SPW and Mk.46 versions with Picatinny rails.
- Australia: Designated F89 in Australian service;
- Brazil: Used by the Brazilian Army and the 1º Batalhão de Forças Especiais
- Canada: The Canadian Forces C9 is a standard factory Minimi with a steel tubular stock. The C9A1 comes fitted with a Picatinny rail on the feed cover mounting a 3.4x ELCAN C79 telescopic sight and can mount a vertical grip on the underside of the stock for added stability in prone firing. The C9A2 mid-life upgrade introduced a shorter barrel, green furniture, cloth ammo boxes (replacing the plastic drums), a C8-style collapsible stock, folding vertical foregrip and a laser aiming module (LAM). Two C9s are carried by each infantry section.
- East Timor: Timor Leste Defence Force.
- France: The Para version is widely used by the French Army. Replaced the AAT-F1 GPMG.
- Greece: Manufactured under license by EAS, used by the Hellenic Army and special forces. First 10 examples delivered in 1999.
- Ireland: In use with the specialist Irish Army Ranger Wing.
- Italy: The Minimi is made under license by Beretta, which has a partnership with FN, and is employed by the Italian Armed Forces, replacing the MG 42/59 (a variant of the WWII MG-42, which still sees widespread mounted use) in the squad automatic weapon role. The Minimi is being widely employed by Italian forces in all the most recent and current international theaters of operation.
- Japan: Partially replaced the NTK-62 with the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Forces. It is manufactured under license by Sumitomo Heavy Industries.
- Latvia: Standard light machine gun in Latvian inventory.
- Luxembourg: The Para variant is used by the Unité Spéciale de la Police intervention unit of the Grand Ducal Police.
- Malaysia: The Malaysian Army replaced the HK11A1 machine gun with the Minimi. Also used by police special force units.
- Netherlands: The Royal Netherlands Army has brought in the Para version of the Minimi to replace the FN MAG in some infantry roles. The MAG is still being used as a general purpose machine gun, support fire weapon and as a vehicle-mounted weapon.
- New Zealand: The New Zealand Defence Force (Royal New Zealand Navy, Royal New Zealand Air Force and New Zealand Army) all use the Minimi under the designation C9 Minimi. This gun has been used as the army's Light Support Weapon (LSW) since 1988.
- Papua New Guinea: Designated F89.
- Philippines: In use by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). Purchased the FN Minimi in May 2002.
- Slovenia: Minimi Para used by the Military of Slovenia.
- Spain: The Spanish Navy recently acquired 88 Minimi light machine guns (66 5.56x45mm weapons and 22 machine guns chambered in 7.62x51mm NATO).
- Sri Lanka
- Sweden: Known as the Ksp 90 (Kulspruta 90). Para model designated Ksp 90B; both are made by Bofors Carl Gustaf.
- Switzerland: Designated LMg 05 (Leichtes Maschinengewehr 05) or FM 05 (Fusil mitrailleur 05).
- Taiwan: Designated T75.
- United Arab Emirates
- United Kingdom: Uses both the standard and Para variants, known as the L108A1 and the L110A1 respectively. The British Army equips each four-man fireteam (2 per section) with the current variant of the Minimi Para. This weapon augments the L86 LSW in the British Army as a light section support weapon. The LMG is often fitted with a 4x SUSAT (Sight Unit Small Arms Trilux) optical sight. It is also used by the Royal Navy, Royal Marines Commandos and the RAF Regiment.
- United States: United States Armed Forces as the M249 light machine gun.
|/////////////////////////////////////////||Standard model||Para model||Mk.46 mod.0 / SPW model|
|Weight||7.1 kg||7.1 kg||5.75 kg|
|Length||1040 mm||914 / 776 mm||908 / 762 mm|
|Barrel length||465 mm||349 mm||406 mm|
|Feeding||belt or magazines||belt only|
|Rate of fire, cyclic||750 - 1000 rounds per minute||750 - 1000 rounds per minute||750 rounds per minute|
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