At one point or another in recent military history, a major world power has attempted to produce a suitable "combination assault weapon" pairing the capabilities of an assault rifle with the firepower of a "smart" grenade launcher. For the French this became the PAPOP (PolyArme POlyProjectiles) initiative which met the same end as all the others - cancellation. The product was headed by GIAT Industries (now Nexter) and included an assault rifle section from Belgian-based FN Herstal, grenades from Euroimpact, and a targeting system from Sfim ODS. Work was accomplished during the mid-1990s and ended with just two very distinct prototypes.
The initial prototype, PAPOP 1, used an FN Herstal 5.56x45mm NATO assault weapon in bullpup arrangement (the feed and action set aft of the pistol grip/trigger group). The 35mm grenade launcher portion, with its onboard targeting computer system and power supply, was a large component seated over the rifle. The pistol grip handle support structure was completely enclosed around the hand as was a frontal section serving as the forend. The shoulder stock was integral and fixed housing the magazine feed and action. When combined, the grenade launcher tube sat over the assault rifle barrel and housed three ready-to-fire programmable grenades while the assault rifle fed from 30-round 5.56mm magazines.
The combination weapon has always been intended to provide additional ranged firepower for the standard infantryman. The grenade-launching aspect of the system allowed for riflemen to don the cap of a grenadier and provide their own support fire against target areas or engage dug-in foes under cover. With the programmable nature of the grenades, detonation could occur in-air ("air burst") over or near a target area or person. In theory, no enemy could find satisfactory cover from the reach of a PAPOP-equipped rifleman. For standard threats, the 5.56mm assault rifle portion was brought into play.
Despite the work put into PAPOP 1, it was found that the original design was too cumbersome and heavy for basic use in-the-field - the same problem facing other combination weapons. This forced a redesign of the weapon by GIAT engineers to produce the PAPOP 2 prototype. This offering featured a more traditional-looking assault rifle portion with a more contained grenade launcher unit seated over the rifle section. The 30-round 5.56mm magazine of the original was cut down to 25 rounds in the redesign and the three-round grenade capability of the launcher was now reduced to two. However, overall weight was decreased from eight kilograms to six and overall length was also notably curtailed, producing a more compact system with better transportability and easier management in the confines of urban environments.
Nevertheless, the PAPOP product did not materialize into an adopted serial production form for the French Army. It joined the likes of such systems as the American Heckler & Koch XM29 OICW (Objective Individual Combat Weapon) and the Cold War-era Soviet "80.002" gun/grenade system which were other abandoned combination weapon system initiatives appearing before or after the PAPOP.
Since 2010, S&T Daewoo of South Korea has been developing their K11 combination assault weapon system with similar promising potential - its in-the-field use and possible export sales will determine its shelf-life as a next generation frontline weapon system.
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