Light weapons are weapons which are used by two or three persons serving as a crew, although some of them may be carried and used by a single person. Light weapons are basically used by militaries around the world and its applications have increased widely among armed groups. They include, inter alia, heavy machine guns, hand-held under-barrel and mounted grenade launchers, portable anti-aircraft guns, portable anti-tank guns, recoilless rifles, portable launchers of anti-tank missile and rocket systems, portable launchers of anti-aircraft missile systems as well as mortars of a caliber of less than 100 millimeters.
The latest generation of light weapons is more destructive, more portable, and generally more competent than older systems, raising concerns about their uncontrolled generation. Light weapons are represented by their durability, cost effectiveness, accessibility and utility. In terms of military and non-military demand, such criteria perfectly match the needs of those who require weapons in the violent political, ethnic and criminal disputes and those who desire weapons for personal protection. Light weapons can be carried by an individual soldier or light vehicle. They can be easily transported or smuggled to areas of conflict, and can be covered in shipments of legitimate cargo. The continued effectiveness of light weapons is dependent on a sufficient supply of ammunition. This is particularly the case for those weapons that are represented by rapid rates of fire.
Increasing instances of terrorist activities and conflicts, rise in the number of illegal activities, need to improve security, increase in urban warfare and implementation of defense modernization programs are some of the primary factors driving the growth of the global light weapons market. Several countries have adopted initiatives to modernize their police force and measures also have been undertaken by various countries to counter illegal mining. The extent light weapons usage has increased throughout societies. With reflected changes in the nature of conflict as well as the security priorities, such weapons are very important. However, the limited defense budget needed to develop such weapons is expected to hinder the market growth. Efforts are being taken by many companies to upgrade their research and development activities to introduce innovations in this field.
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The global light weapons market is segmented on the basis of type, technology, application and region. On the basis of type, the market is segmented into heavy machine guns, light cannons, Rocket-Propelled Grenades (RPG), Recoilless rifles, Man-Portable Air Defense Systems (MANPADS), Man-portable anti-tank systems (MANPAT), grenade launchers, mortars, portable missile launchers and others. On the type of technology, the global light weapons market is segmented into guided and unguided. Guided light weapons are held by at least 60 non-state armed groups.
MANPATS are typically unguided weapons and are a threat to armored vehicles, low-flying aircraft (especially helicopters), and field fortifications. Light anti-tank weapons, anti-aircraft missile, rocket systems and MANPAD are based on guided technologies. The products which come under unguided technology are heavy machine guns, light cannons, recoilless rifles, MANPAT and grenade launchers. MANPADS are typically guided weapons and are a threat to low-flying aircraft, especially helicopters. On the basis of application, the global light weapons market is segmented into defense, homeland security and law enforcement.
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Geographically, the light weapons market can be segmented into North America, Europe, Middle East & Africa, Asia Pacific and Latin America.
Some of the key players operating in the light weapons market are Alliant Techsystems, Inc., Lockheed Martin, Raytheon Company, General Dynamics Corporation, FN Herstal, Heckler & Koch GmbH, Cockerill Maintenance, Ingénierie, BAE Systems, Rheinmetall AG, SAAB AB and Thales Group among others.