While sniper rifles and their trained snipers specialize in targeting and engagement of personnel, anti-material rifles such as the NTW-20 are primarily charged with penetration - and ultimate disabling - of key structural components on a selected target. This is accomplished through use of various ammunition types and high delivery velocity against the target in question. Such weapon systems have been proven highly-effective in disabling vehicles by way of penetrating the engine block and have seen similar success against such targets as aircraft, concrete structures and long-distance ordnance disposal (the disabling of bombs such as IEDs). Other targets of note - particularly when utilizing the explosive ammunition cartridge - also include dug-in enemy troops such as those teams manning a mortar tube or a machine gun nest. Anti-material rifles have long maintained a presence on the battlefield, their origins going back to World War 1, and were put to good effect with actions across World War 2. Since then, this classification of weapon system has become a normal component of the battlefield to any modernized army.
The NTW-20 is produced by the Mechem Division of Denel. In the West, Denel may be more commonly associated with the Denel Cheetah multi-role aircraft but the firm has made quite a name for itself as a quality multi-role defense industry provider, particularly for the South African National Defense Force (SANDF). The system is a heavy caliber design whose origins go as far back as its announcement in 1993 and it development beginning in 1995 when it was under the Aerotek brand label. A relatively short period of design produced a working prototype within four months and was helped by reuse of components found in the Vektor GA1 automatic cannon system. Additionally, leadership was brought to the project with the involvement of Tony Neophytou, an expert in recoil reduction systems with a history in rotary wing mounted turrets. The NTW-20 makes use of such recoil-retarding elements by way of a muzzle brake (covering some 50% of the reported recoil) as well as a buffered slide in the receiver and a hydraulic damper. Since the assembly is buried within the receiver frame and connected to the butt, the system is allowed to slide back against and into a hydro-pneumatic buffer. This action is akin to that as found on an artillery piece. The barrel itself is set to be free-floating within the body of the gun, allowing the component to recoil separately from the receiver.
The NTW-20 comes in three available heavy calibers firing either the 20x83.5mm (NTW-20), the 14.5x114mm Russian (NTW-14.5) and the large 20x110mm Hispano-Suiza cartridges (NTW-20x110). The cartridges are held in a spring-loaded, three-round detachable box magazine and fed into the firing chamber by way of a hand-operated bolt-action system mounted along the right side of the receiver. The trigger group and pistol grip reside directly under the bolt-lever area. The buttstock is fully-integrated as part of the receiver itself, supplying clean lines to the overall design appearance. There is a bipod fitted to underside of the receiver at forward and an integrated carrying loop built around the scope mount. The bipod is fully-adjustable and detachable and complimented by a monopod fitted at the rear for additional recoil absorbance. A safety catch is manually-operated. As it stands, the NTW-20 fires one of the most powerful cartridges available to a relatively portable anti-materiel rifle. It is noteworthy that the NTW-20 showcases what is believed to be the largest amount of recoil of any known personal weapon, often times detailed as the most recoil an average soldier can control.
One of the key components of the NTW-20 system lies in the ability to convert between the 14.5mm and 20mm caliber versions without much heavy modification or reworking of the base weapon components. To commit to such an action requires only a changing of the barrel, sights, magazine and the bolt itself and this is done without the need for any specialized tools on the part of the operator.
As large as the NTW-20 is, the weapon system has been made to break down for travel. She fits into two "man packs" for she can be broken down into two distinct groups - the receiver itself and the barrel/ammunition. Each container weighs in at 15kg while the rifle as a whole can weigh anywhere between 26- and 29-kg. As such, a typical NTW-20 crew is two personnel.
The Base NTW-20
The 20x82mm model represents the base NTW-20 variant. Aside from the same bolt-action system and a similar 3-round detachable box magazine as found on the NTW-14.5, the 20x82mm model features an overall length of 70.7 inches (1,795mm) with a 39 inch (560mm) fluted barrel. Muzzle velocity is rated at 2,400 feet per second with muzzle energy coming in at about 28,500J. Range is out to 1,500 meters (1,600 yards). 20x82mm ammunition types available include a PRACTICE round, a High-Explosive Incendiary (HEI) round (with or without a tracer) and a Semi-Armor Piercing Incendiary (API) round (also with or without a tracer). The NTW-20 features a circular muzzle brake. Sighting is acquired through a telescopic attachment atop the receiver.
The "lightest" NTW-20 is the 14.5x114mm caliber model (NTW-14.5) which was developed from the base NTW-20. Differences include a folding handle located under the butt, doubling as an adjustable monopod and a simpler barrel removal process. The NTW-14.5 is identified by her longer barrel, which the 14.5 caliber Russian cartridge makes necessary. Another differentiating feature becomes the rectangular muzzle brake. She feeds from a three-round detachable box magazine fitted to the left side of the receiver with the action accomplished by way of the manual bolt-action lever. She weighs in (unloaded) at 64lbs and sports an overall length of 79.3 inches (2,015mm). Her free-floating smooth barrel (not fluted as in the NTW-20) is rifled and measures in at 48 inches in length. Muzzle velocity is rated at about 3,500 feet per second with muzzle energy reportedly 30,675J. Range is out to 2,400 meters (2,600 yards). The 14.5x114mm ammunition consists of the Armor Piercing Incendiary (API) round with or without a tracer. Sighting is acquired through a telescopic attachment atop the receiver.
The 20x110mm caliber (NTW-20x110mm) is more of a different beast than the two comparable NTW-20 and NTW-14.5 models. She provides heavy-duty firepower against targets at distance where the indirect fire of a mortar or grenade launcher cannot offer the needed accuracy. The 20x110mm model uses the same manual bolt-action and a similar three-round box magazine but, when empty, weighs in at 69lbs. She sports an overall length comparable to the 20x82mm model (including the length of the barrel) and her muzzle velocity is between the 14.5x114mm and 20x82mm models at 2,700 feet per second. Her muzzle energy, however, is the greatest at approximately 37,000J. The massive amount of recoil is managed through an efficient muzzle brake as well as a double-acting hydraulic damper and spring buffer. Additional recoil is absorbed through the free-floating 39-inch barrel design. Her range is also intermediate when compared against the other two variants, this measuring out to 1,800 meters (2,000 yards. Sighting is through a 250mm Long Eye Relief 8x56 Lynx Telescopic Sight featuring parallax adjustment with a Bullet Drop Compensator (BDC). It is of note here that the 20x110mm version is not designed for the same caliber-switching action inherent in the 14.5x114mm and 20x82mm models mentioned earlier. There is an optional vehicle mount for the NTW-20 20x110mm and the weapon is designed for ambidextrous firing.
The NTW-20 family was officially selected for SANDF service in 1998. India is the only other reported operator of the NTW-20 as of this writing.