New military rifles

New military rifles DEFAULT

The Army’s SAW and M4 replacement is headed to troops by 2022

The gun that will replace both the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon and the M16/M4 rifle/carbine weapons — and add a new, widely distributed caliber to the U.S. military inventory for the first time in decades — is less than two years away.

The Next Generation Squad Weapon finished its first prototype test event in September. The three previously selected offerings came from Sig Sauer, Textron Systems and General Dynamics Ordnance.

Brig. Gen. David Hodne, Infantry School commandant and Soldier Lethality Cross Functional Team director, along with Brig. Gen. Anthony Potts, head of Program Executive Office Soldier, gave updates to Army Times ahead of the Association of the U.S. Army Annual Meeting and Exposition.

Concurrently, the Army in April has also selected two companies, L3 Technologies and Vortex Optics, to compete for the fire control for the weapons system.

Sig Sauer’s design looks much like a conventional assault rifle while GD is using a bullpup design, which shortens the length by building the magazine feed into the weapon stock. Textron has built its weapon around the cartridge, which is unique to them, a cased telescope item that has the projectile inside of the casing to reduce weight.

Back in April, each of the companies provided 15 rifles, 15 automatic rifles and 180,000 cartridges using the government-developed 6.8mm projectile.

The 6.8mm projectile was chosen after decades of testing and evaluation showed that 5.56mm lethality at mid-ranges on the battlefield was inadequate and existing 7.62mm could be outperformed by the 6.8mm round and save weight for the soldier.

The new caliber also gives the soldier both a rifle and automatic rifle firing the same round, both effective past the 600m mark of existing light calibers.

Following the September testing, the companies will have six months until their next prototype test, scheduled to begin in February.

During the annual Maneuver Warfighter Conference at Fort Benning in Georgia, Maj. Wyatt Ottmar, project officer over NGSW for the Soldier Lethality CFT, laid out some of the recent developments and next steps for the weapons system.

Ottmar noted that Sig Sauer provided a combined steel lower and brass upper ammunition cartridge to reduce weight. A contract is expected to be awarded to one of the three companies this coming fiscal year with fielding to start in the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2022, or sometime between August and October 2022, to Infantry, Stryker and Armor Brigade Combat Teams.

Ultimately, the weapon will be fielded to all close combat forces, including special operations forces, infantry, combat engineers and scouts.

The fire control is expected to field six months ahead of the weapon, Potts said. That will allow the NGSW producer to better integrate the optic with the weapon.

About Todd South

Todd South has written about crime, courts, government and the military for multiple publications since 2004 and was named a 2014 Pulitzer finalist for a co-written project on witness intimidation. Todd is a Marine veteran of the Iraq War.



5 rifles that almost replaced the M4/M16…and one that did

With the Army’s Next Generation Squad Weapon Project, the days of the M4 Carbine and M249 SAW may be numbered. The prototypes from General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems Inc., Textron Systems, and Sig Sauer are vying to replace both 5.56mm weapon systems in infantry and close-combat units. All three NGSW candidates utilize a 6.8mm round, though their designs and mechanics vary greatly. While the NGSW Project is a departure from the M4/M16 family, it is certainly not the first time that the Army or military in general has attempted to find a new rifle.

5 rifles that almost replaced the M4/M16…and one that did
5 rifles that almost replaced the M4/M16…and one that did

1. Special Purpose Individual Weapon

The Special Purpose Individual Weapon was an Army program that began in 1951 to develop a flechette-firing rifle. I know what you’re thinking: the M16 wasn’t even adopted until 1964. So how can the SPIW have been a potential replacement for the M16?

Well, Project SALVO was the Army’s first attempt to create the SPIW with the intent of arming soldiers with a weapon that fired small projectiles in large volumes at a high rate of fire, hence its name. Though flechette rounds were tested, the conclusion of Project SALVO was to adopt the Armalite AR-15 as the M16 rifle. However, research and development of the SPIW continued with Project NIBLICK. Now trying to replace the newly adopted M16, the Project NIBLICK also aimed to develop a grenade launcher to complement the flechette-firing rifle. AAI, Springfield Armory, Winchester Arms, and Harrington Richardson all submitted their own unique entries for the SPIW. T

hough none of the submissions were deemed to be effective combat weapons, the grenade launcher from the AAI design was further developed and was eventually as the M203 40mm grenade launcher.

5 rifles that almost replaced the M4/M16…and one that did

2. Advanced Combat Rifle

Started in 1986, the Advanced Combat Rifle program aimed to replace the M16 with a more accurate rifle. AAI, Colt, HK, Steyr, Ares Inc., and McDonnell Douglas Helicopter Systems all received development contracts, but only the first four companies advanced to the weapon testing phase. The AAI entry utilized a flechette round which, despite the addition of a sound suppressor, created a louder muzzle blast than the M16.

The HK entry was the innovative caseless ammunition G11 which many people will remember from the video game Call of Duty: Black Ops. Steyr submitted a flechette-firing bullpup design that bore a superficial resemblance to the AUG. Colt’s ACR prototype was the most conventional, as it was a highly modified version of the existing M16 design with the addition of a new sight, a hydraulic buffer, and a collapsing buttstock. The Colt ACR also utilized an experimental “duplex round”, a single cartridge with two small bullets in it, to increase the rifle’s volume of fire. However, the “duplex rounds” resulted in decreased accuracy at long range, defeating the purpose of the ACR. In the end, none of the ACR prototypes met or even approached the 100% improvement over the M16 that the program aimed for.

5 rifles that almost replaced the M4/M16…and one that did

3. Objective Individual Combat Weapon/XM29

In the aftermath of the ACR program, the Army started the Objective Individual Combat Weapon program. The central idea of the OICW program was to develop an infantry rifle that allowed the user to engage targets behind hard cover with the use of airburst munitions. This idea was refined to combine the airburst, low-velocity cannon with an assault rifle.

The kinetic rounds of the rifle could engage a target directly and, if the target retreated behind cover, the airburst munition could be employed instead. By the early 2000s, contract winner Heckler Koch had resigned the XM29, which featured a 20mm High Explosive Air Bursting launcher and a short-barrel 5.56x45mm NATO rifle. However, the 20mm HEAB was found to be inadequately lethal and the short barrel of the rifle did not generate enough muzzle velocity to be as effective as a standard infantry rifle. The XM29 was also too large and heavy to be carried by a rifleman on the frontlines. The XM29 was shelved in 2004.

5 rifles that almost replaced the M4/M16…and one that did

4. XM8

Designed by Heckler Koch, the XM8 was an offshoot of the shelved XM29. The grenade launcher part of the project went on to be developed into the XM25 Counter Defilade Target Engagement System. The XM8 was a configurable weapon system that allowed the user to set it up as an infantry rifle, a short-barreled personal defense weapon, and even a bipod-equipped support weapon.

The XM8 also featured an integrated sight and IR laser aiming module/illuminator. Over 200 developmental prototypes were delivered to the military. However, testing yielded numerous complaints including the short battery life of the integrated sight and IR module, ergonomic issues, heavy weight, and a hand guard that would melt after firing too many rounds. Following this first phase of testing, the military requested funding for a large field test, which Congress denied. The project was put on hold in April 2005 and formally canceled on October 31 later that year.

5 rifles that almost replaced the M4/M16…and one that did

5. Individual Carbine

The Individual Carbine competition began in 2010 and sought to replace the M4 carbine in the US Army. The Army solicited manufacturers to submit rifles that provided accurate and reliable firepower, could be fired semi or fully-automatic, possessed integrated Picatinny rails, and was fully ambidextrous. Though the competition did not specify a caliber, any submissions not chambered in 5.56x45mm NATO or 7.62x54mm NATO had to be supplied with ammunition by the manufacturer.

Submissions for the competition included Robinson Armament Co.’s XCR, LWRC’s M6A4, Remington’s ACR (not to be confused with the ACR program), FN Herstal’s FN SCAR, Colt’s CM901, Beretta’s ARX-160, Adcor Defense’s A-556, and HK’s HK416, among others. Over the course of testing, some companies backed out after the Army announced that the winner would have to turn over technical data rights to the Army; others dropped out for financial reasons. By Phase II testing, only FN, HK, Remington, Adcor Defense, Beretta, and Colt remained in the running.

Though Phase II was completed, Phase III was halted in 2013 by questions regarding the program’s cost and necessity. With M4A1 carbines set to be purchased through 2018, the Army began to rethink carbine acquisition. On June 13, 2013, the Individual Carbine competition was formally cancelled on the grounds that none of the submissions met the minimum scores to continue to the next phase of the evaluation.

5 rifles that almost replaced the M4/M16…and one that did

6. M27 Infantry Assault Rifle

The Marines pride themselves on their ingenuity. Their ability to improvise, adapt, and overcome us part of what makes them such a lethal fighting force. The Corps demonstrated this ability with their acquisition and fielding of the M27 Infantry Assault Rifle. In 2006, the Marine Corps issued contracts to manufacturers to replace the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon with a more mobile Infantry Assault Rifle. Submissions included IAR variants of the FN SCAR and HK416 as well as the Colt IAR6940. In 2009, the HK416 won the competition and began a five-month final testing period before it was formally designated as the M27 IAR in the summer of 2010.

In May 2011, General James Amos ordered the replacement of the M249 SAW by the M27 IAR and limited fielding began. Though the 30round magazine-fed M27 could not provide the sustained suppressive fire that the belt-fed M249 SAW could, the M27’s increased accuracy and reliability offset the rate of fire. In early 2017, Commandant of the Marine Corps General Robert Neller announced that he wanted to equip every 0311 Marine rifleman with the M27 IAR. To meet this demand, the Corps issued a request for 11,000 M27 IARs from HK. Chris Woodburn, deputy of the Maneuver Branch, Fires and Maneuver Integration at Marine Corps Combat Development Command, said, “The new order will replace all M4s in every infantry squad with an M27, except for the squad leader.”

The change would also include Marine infantry training battalions. The deal was finalized in 2018, with the Marines purchasing just over 14,000 M27 IARs. In 2019, the Marine Corps reported that the last of the M27s would be delivered and issued to every infantryman from platoon commander and below by mid-2021. While the M27 will replace the M4 as the standard-issue rifle for the Marine Corps infantry, non-infantry Marines will continue to field the M4 for the foreseeable future. Still, it could be argued that the Marine Corps succeeded in replacing the M4 in a short period of time where the Army failed over a period of decades of programs and competitions. If anything, the NGSW goal of replacing the M4 and M249 with a single weapon system appears to have been lifted from the Marine Corps acquisition and fielding of the M27 IAR.

Only time will tell if the Army will succeed in replacing the M4 through the NGSW Project, or if it be the latest in a long line of failed attempts.

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We got our hands on Sig Sauer’s Next Generation Squad Weapon prototypes. Here’s what they’re like

On a blazing hot Wednesday in May, I traveled to the SIG Sauer Academy in New Hampshire for what I can only describe as a treat: to join the ranks of the hundreds of soldiers and Marines involved in testing the Army’s Next Generation Squad Weapon prototypes by laying my hands on the firearms maker’s two offerings for the service. SIG is currently facing off against General Dynamics-OTS and Textron Systems for the privilege of replacing both the M4 carbine and M249 Squad Automatic Weapon in Army arsenals, and I wasn’t about to pass up an opportunity to get my mitts on what might very well be the U.S. military’s next weapons of choice for the next several decades as it reorients from the Global War on Terror to near-peer adversaries.

During my trip to the SIG Sauer Academy, I managed to get my hands on a variety of weapons systems, including the company’s two NGSW prototypes, a suppressed variant of the M17 that the Army recently adopted under its Modular Handgun System program, and the MCX Rattler, which is currently in use and under consideration by special operations forces units around the world.

My conclusion? These guns slap — and with any luck, they may end up finding their way into your arsenal sooner rather than later should SIG clinch the Army’s NGSW contact in November of this year.

We got our hands on Sig Sauer’s Next Generation Squad Weapon prototypes. Here’s what they’re like

The two SIG NGSW prototypes will look familiar to longtime observers of the company’s work over the last decade. The company’s NGSW-Rifle submission, known as the MCX Spear, is based on the SIG MCX platform and, according to officials, partially derived from the company’s submission for the Army’s Compact Semi-Automatic Sniper System (CSASS) program back in 2015 that was won by Heckler & Koch. The company’s NGSW-Automatic Rifle submission, known as the LMG-6.8, resembles a smaller version of the MMG 338 medium machine gun that was procured by U.S. Special Operations Command last year as part of an evaluation.

Both systems are chambered in 6.8×51 in line with Army requirements for the NGSW program, and both versions were suppressed during our test-fire using SIG Sauer cans specially designed to reduce toxic emissions. According to the Army’s fiscal year 2021 budget request, the final NGSW-R and NGSW-AR builds will ensure “increased lethality against a broad spectrum of targets beyond current/legacy weapon capabilities; increased range, accuracy, and probability of hit; reduced engagement time; suppressed flash/sound signature; [and] improved controllability and mobility.”

The short-stroke, gas-piston MCX Spear I fired at the SIGSauer Academy featured a 13-inch barrel and both standard and left-side non-reciprocating charging handles so service members don’t have to remove their hands from the pistol grip to charge the weapon. The MCX Spear also features a fully collapsible, side-folding buttstock, a free-floating reinforced M-LOK handguard, and AR-style ergonomics and controls that is already familiar to U.S. service members.

According to SIG officials, these features have been consistently refined during months of “unprecedented access” to feedback from service members through hands-on touchpoints with soldiers and Marines, as SIG Sauer CEO Ron Cohen put it when the company delivered its NGSW prototypes to the Army in March.

We got our hands on Sig Sauer’s Next Generation Squad Weapon prototypes. Here’s what they’re like

While the Army’s long-term goal is to field lighter and more lethal weapons to soldiers over the next several decades, the MCX Spear was noticeably heavier than the standard-issue M4 carbine at somewhere around 8-9 pounds. According to SIG officials, this is due to both the weapon’s comparable size to SIG’s 716 or an AR-10 and the added weight of both the suppressor affixed to the end of the barrel and the Tango6T scope the Army recently selected as its optic of choice for its Squad Designated Marksman Rifle, Direct View Optic, and Squad-Variable Powered Scope programs of record

The MCX Spear also came with a hefty dose of recoil, which SIG officials explained was on par with a weapon system chambered in 7.62x51mm. Working in conjunction with the SIG’s hybrid 6.8mm cartridge, the rifle is designed to be more effective at ranges and against targets that the standard M4 might fail to reach. Indeed, I finished working through the Spear’s 20-round magazine only to find myself immediately bruised from the rifle digging into my side.

We got our hands on Sig Sauer’s Next Generation Squad Weapon prototypes. Here’s what they’re like

The LMG-6.8, on the other hand, handled like something out of an action film. An air-cooled, open bolt-fired fully automatic machine gun with a side opening feed tray cover, the LMG-6.8 both weighs far less than the M249 SAW it’s supposed to replace and offers significantly less recoil thanks to SIG’s recoil mitigation tech — the kick was all but negligible when fired from a prone position.

The LMG-6.8 has ambidextrous AR-style ergonomics, quick detach magazines, increased M1913 rail space, and a quick-detach SIG-developed suppressor. The feed tray is a side-opening design which not only makes it easier to manipulate but allows for additional top-mounted attachments with minimal interference. Like the MCX Spear, the machine gun comes with left-side charging handles and standard controls for convenience of use.

And reader, it was a blast to fire, especially on full auto.

We got our hands on Sig Sauer’s Next Generation Squad Weapon prototypes. Here’s what they’re like

A win for SIG Sauer in the NGSW competition would prove a major victory for a company whose military and defense products have only gained momentum in the U.S. armed forces in the last five years.

Since the SIG P320 won the Modular Handgun System contract in 2017, the company has won contracts for SOCOM’s Suppressed Upper Receiver Group (SURG); supplied SOCOM with its MCX Rattler and MG 338 designs for testing as potential personal defense weapons and medium machine guns, respectively; supplied precision. 300 Winchester Magnum ammo for the Army’s bolt-action M2010 Enhanced Sniper rifle and the Navy’s Mk248 Sniper Ammunition program; and furnished both the Army and SOCOM with a variety of next-generation optics for widespread adoption.

“We are the only company that makes the ammunition and the weapons so we were able to harness the engineers on the weapons side with the engineers on the ammunition side,” as Cohen, the SIGSauer CEO, put it in a recent release from the company. “We are the picture of readiness. We are the singular small arms company in this competition, and SIG has the engineering resources, manufacturing resources, asset base and commitment to do this.”

The Army selected SIG, General Dynamics-OTS, and Textron Systems in September 2020 to develop prototypes of the NGSW’s carbine and automatic rifle variants chambered in 6.8 mm. The following April, the service also awarded agreements worth roughly $8.7 million each to L3 Harris Technology and Vortex Optics to build fire control prototypes for testing as part of the NGSW program.

According to the Army’s fiscal year 2022 budget request released last week, the Army is requesting $97 million to procure and field 339 NGSW-AR weapons, 3,725 NGSW-R weapons, and 8,093 NGSW-Fire Control systems across the service’s close combat force. The service plans on eventually procuring and fielding 107,711 NGSW-R weapons, 13,205 NGSW-AR weapons, and 120,916 NGSW-FC systems in total.

The Army plans on finally down-selecting a final vendor to supply the service with its two NGSW systems in November 2021, with delivery scheduled for May 2022, according to budget documents. No word yet on which lucky units might be the first to get their hands on them — yet.

Jared Keller
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Sig Sauer Delivers Final Next-Generation Squad Weapon Prototypes to Army

Sig Sauer Inc. announced Tuesday that it has delivered its final prototype weapons to the Army as it competes for the chance to replace the M4A1 carbine and M249 squad automatic weapon in infantry units.

Sig is competing against Textron Systems and the team of General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems Inc. in the Army's Next Generation Squad Weapon, or NGSW, effort, designed to begin arming close-combat units with a rifle and automatic rifle chambered for a specially designed 6.8mm projectile. Fielding is set to begin sometime in fiscal 2022.

Soldiers and Marines have been participating in soldier touchpoint evaluations, which give feedback to the three competitors that they can use to make improvements on their prototypes.

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"Throughout the program, we have been given unprecedented access to the soldiers and Marines who will ultimately field these weapons," Ron Cohen, president and CEO of Sig Sauer, said in a news release. "These soldier touchpoint events have led to rapid advancements over the current weapons systems and resulted in our delivery of the most innovative Next Generation Squad Weapons system to the U.S. Army."

Sig designed its 6.8x51 hybrid cartridge to handle higher pressures to provide increased velocity and improved terminal performance on enemy soldiers, according to the release. The lightweight belt-fed automatic rifle is 40% lighter than the current M249 and reduces the recoil on the shooter to increase accuracy, it adds.

Sig's NGSW rifle prototype is a version of the gunmaker's AR-style MCX platform and features ambidextrous ergonomics that are familiar to all soldiers and Marines to help ease the transition to a new weapon system, Sig officials said in the release. Sig also submitted its proprietary suppressor to reduce the sound signature of both weapons.

"We are immensely proud that our entire NGSW submission has been designed, engineered, and manufactured as one integrated system by one single American company at our U.S. facilities," Cohen said in the release. "Each component has been exhaustively tested with the others to ensure peak operational performance and endurance for the rigors of the battlefield."

The Army plans to select a single firm to make both the weapons and ammunition in the first quarter of fiscal 2022 and to begin fielding them to close-combat units in the fourth quarter of the same fiscal year.

The Army selected Sig in 2017 to make the M17 and M18 9mm Modular Handgun Systems that will ultimately replace the M9 9mm pistol across all of the services.

"We have a proven and successful track record of delivering multi-branch, service-wide, successful weapons programs to the U.S. Army, and we stand ready," Cohen said in the release. "As a leader in the firearms manufacturing industry, we understand the challenge of bringing a system like this to reality. We designed our NGSW system to be production-ready and with every component coming from SIG, it presents minimal fielding risk to the U.S. Army."

-- Matthew Cox can be reached at [email protected]

Related: 5 Army Weapons Soldiers Might Actually Get Their Hands on Soon

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Rifles new military

Newest sniper rifle for soldiers, Marines takes on ‘final hurdle’ before fielding

A folding stock, removable suppression system, three caliber options and that sweet, sweet smell of spent rounds — special operators and 82nd Airborne Division paratroopers are testing the Army’s newest sniper rifle.

Troops recently tested the Modular Precision Sniper Rifle, or MK-22, at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, according to an Army release.

It also replaces all bolt-action sniper rifles for the Marines.

The MK-22 replaces the Army’s existing M107 sniper rifle and the M2010 Enhanced Sniper Rifle. Army Times first reported on U.S. Special Operations Command’s decision to go with the weapon in 2019.

Army and Marine snipers followed suit. The recent tests are the “final hurdle” before fielding, the Army release stated.

The rifle can be changed out to fire the standard 7.62mm or .300 Norma Magnum and .338 Norma Magnum.

“The modular nature of the PSR allows it to be tailored to meet mission requirements and is appealing to airborne Snipers who are typically armed with long-barreled precision rifles of a single caliber offering,” Sgt. 1st Class Marcus Love said in the release.

Love works as a test NCO with the Airborne and Special Operations Test Directorate under the Army’s Operational Test Command.

“With a folding stock and removable suppression system, the PSR will provide airborne Snipers a more compact load during airborne infiltration operations without reducing their lethality while providing a precision rifle platform more conducive to their combat environment,” said MK-22 project NCO Sgt. 1st Class Jonathan Copley.

The test team used the mobile weapons boresight collimator after an airborne jump to ensure that the weapon’s zero had not degraded.

That way a sniper can put rounds on target with the first trigger squeeze after hitting the ground from high above.

“The increased engagement range will keep Snipers safer and increase the options for the local commander employing these combat multipliers,” said Sgt. Austin Stevens, a sniper assigned to the 1st Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division.

The rifle is made by the Barrett Firearms Manufacturing company, which calls their weapon the Multi-Role Adaptive Design rifle, or MRAD.

SOCOM has called the PSR the “Advanced Sniper Rifle” in the past.

The search for a new sniper rifle began in 2016 following a SOCOM request, Army Times previously reported.

Originally, the Army was going to buy 536 MRAD rifles.

New plans call for 2,800 rifles for the service over the next five years.

About Todd South

Todd South has written about crime, courts, government and the military for multiple publications since 2004 and was named a 2014 Pulitzer finalist for a co-written project on witness intimidation. Todd is a Marine veteran of the Iraq War.


Next Generation Squad Weapon: 6.8 CT Rifle - Shooting, Field Strip, and Performance - Textron

Goodbye M4 and M16 and Helloooo NGSW-R!

Gone are the days of the M4 and M16. They have served their time, and now the military is putting them to bed. But not so fast. Manufacturing for the new systems hasn’t begun just yet, and my guess is we are still a year or two out until we start seeing the new bad boys in our arms rooms.

The Army expects the first unit to be equipped in Fiscal Year 2022.

To replace the M4 and M16, three weapon and ammunition vendors and two fire control vendors are competing through FY21 in two separate prototyping efforts, with the option to produce and field their offerings based on system performance. Those vying for the job are Sig Sauer, General Dynamics, and Textron Systems, all of which have made prototypes that are pending soldier feedback.

The Next Generation Squad Weapons (NGSW) Program is a future prototyping effort, using Middle Tier Acquisition Authority, to develop and create operationally relevant, squad-level lethality in order to combat increasing threats. The program is informed by soldiers’ feedback.

The prototyping effort consists of the Rifle (NGSW-R) and Automatic Rifle (NGSW-AR) with a standard 6.8mm cartridge and Fire Control (NGSW-FC) between two systems. The effort is to field the Close Combat Force (CCF) with the NGSW-R as the replacement for the M4A1, and the NGSW-AR as the replacement for the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon.

The prototype test began in the third quarter of 2020 and served as a “diagnostic test” to inform the weapon and ammunition vendors of their current performance and feed another design iteration.

The competing systems and companies for the rifle contract.

The second prototype test, which will begin in the second quarter of 2021, will have selected teams report on these systems’ performance.

The NGSW program significantly increases the lethality and probability of a hit on target at the squad level. Due to the nature of the General Purpose ammunition, the 6.8mm projectile outperforms the modern 5.56mm and 7.62mm ammunition. These new weapon systems will give soldiers significant capability improvements in accuracy, range, signature management, and lethality over the M4 and M16.

I have been very disappointed with the knockdown power of the 5.56mm NATO rounds in past gunfights. The round was too small, in my opinion, and lacked the punching power.

Though the specifics are competition-sensitive, the NGSW-R, NGSW-AR, NGSW-FC, and the 6.8mm ammunition will be compatible with all the currently fielded enablers while providing an open Adaptive Soldier Architecture (ASA) to integrate with developing enabler programs.

At the 2020 Maneuver Warfighter Conference back in September 2020, Brig. Gen. David Hodne of the Soldier Lethality Cross-Functional Team provided a detailed update on several high-tech initiatives for infantry soldiers, including the Next Generation Squad Weapon program.

“We’ve recently completed a series of both user acceptance events and technical testing events on the first series of prototypes from the three vendors,” Hodne told Task & Purpose in early October. “Vendors will take the feedback, technical and user, and improve prototypes in what will be the second series of tests to occur in the spring of 2021.”

The new rifle will use 6.8mm rounds, as opposed to the M4 which uses the 5.56mm NATO round.

The 6.8mm Remington Special Purpose Cartridge (6.8 SPC, 6.8 SPC II, or 6.8×43mm) is a rimless bottlenecked intermediate rifle cartridge developed by Remington Arms in collaboration with members of the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit and the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) to replace the 5.56 NATO.

The 6.8mm projectile is dimensionally between the 5.56mm and 7.62mm NATO-standard rifle cartridges but is expected to provide range and accuracy superiority, therefore increasing soldier lethality.

Meet the new rifle that will replace the M16/M4

Read Next: Meet the new rifle that will replace the M16/M4

Unlike SIG Sauer and Textron’s NGSW prototypes, both General Dynamics’ two NGSW prototypes are bullpup designs, with magazines loaded behind the trigger group for a reasonably compact platform. Thanks to General Dynamics’ bullpup design, their rifle benefits from a relatively long barrel length, higher muzzle velocities, and increased range.

So who will win the contract to replace the M4 and M16? The dollar amounts involved will be huge. 

As of right now, the military hasn’t made its selection but I expect it to be made prior to the end of the year.

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New in 2021: Army to pick replacement for SAW and M4 for soldiers, Marines and special operators

The Army in 2021 will select from among the three companies vying to build the Army’s replacement for both the M4 carbine and Squad Automatic Weapon.

The Next Generation Squad Automatic Weapon project has been in the works for the past three years and, if completed and implemented, would mark the first substantial change in conventional small arms that the U.S. military has seen since the mid-20th century when it adopted the M16 service rifle in 5.56mm.

Long the source of debate within the small arms community, the Army and its fellow services embarked upon the most recent attempt to shift away from the small caliber round following battlefield reports from recent wars and an in-depth study of adversary arsenals in recent years.

That led to the evaluation of an “intermediate caliber” round for the next step in squad-level small arms. The goal was a round that could achieve distances beyond the reach of 5.56 mm and remain lethal while maintaining manageable recoil and ammunition weight concerns that machine gun carriers of the 7.62mm face.

Ultimately, the project decided on 6.8 mm, similar in size to the classic .270 caliber used by deer hunters and not far off from a popular intermediate caliber favored by the early 20th century Japanese military and nearly adopted by the British between World War I and World War II.

But the military-designed 6.8 mm has other characteristics and ballistics bona fides not found at the local Walmart ammunition shelves.

And the companies competing for this history-making contract were told to build their rifles around the new round.

Three companies were chosen to advance in the competition nearly two years ago — Sig Sauer, which won over evaluators to replace the 1980s-era Beretta M9 sidearm with the M17 and M18 9 mm pistol variants; General Dynamics and Textron Systems.

Each brings a different take on the new weapon. Sig Sauer has a very familiar AR feel that would retain much of the control, balance and operations that are familiar to shooters who have spent a career carrying the M4 or its older brother, the M16, around dusty battlefields.

The GD variant has looked to the bullpup design to maintain a solid barrel length that’s suppressor capable, another requirement of the weapon beyond its caliber.

And Textron has reinvented the cartridge itself, using its ongoing “cased telescoped” ammunition that tucks the bullet inside the case and uses a novel feed approach to firing the projectile.

Alongside weapons development, two companies have won the right to compete for the fire control, or optics, to mount on this new rifle ― L3 Technologies and Vortex Optics.

The first weapons prototype test wrapped up in September. The next is scheduled for February. By or before October, officials expect to select one of the three companies to build their version of the NGSW. They’ll have about a year to start pumping out up to snuff rifles, because the Army wants to begin fielding before October 2022 to Infantry, Stryker and Armor Brigade Combat Teams.

About Todd South

Todd South has written about crime, courts, government and the military for multiple publications since 2004 and was named a 2014 Pulitzer finalist for a co-written project on witness intimidation. Todd is a Marine veteran of the Iraq War.



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