Protonex Technology Corp

US Army Issues Next Generation Squad Automatic Rifle Prototype Opportunity Notice

The U.S. Army Contracting Command – New Jersey (ACC-NJ), on behalf of Project Manager Soldier Weapons, is seeking proposals in regards to a Prototype Opportunity Notice (PON) for Next Generation Squad Automatic Rifle (NGSAR). The NGSAR is the first variant of the Next Generation Squad Weapons. The NGSAR will address operational needs identified in various capability based assessments and numerous after action reports. The NGSAR is the planned replacement for the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW) in Brigade Combat Teams (BCT). It will combine the firepower and range of a machine gun with the precision and ergonomics of a rifle, yielding capability improvements in accuracy, range, and lethality. The weapon will be lightweight and fire lightweight ammunition, improving Soldier mobility, survivability, and firing accuracy. Soldiers will employ the NGSAR against close and extended range targets in all terrains and conditions. The NGSAR support concept will be consistent and comparable to the M249 SAW involving the Army two-level field and sustainment maintenance system.


NSGAR promises to be the most significant change to small arms technology since the 1960s. In one program, they hope to replace both the M4 carbine and M249 SAW. Hopefully, this won’t prove to be another Individual Carbine program where industry spends millions of Dollars and offers significant improvement but institutional momentum gets in the way of progress. Fortunately, the Chief of Staff of the Army supports this initiative, but the program schedule will take it out long past his tenure. Hopefully, it will remain an Army priority.

Acquisition Methodology
The US government is trying to speed up the way it procures material for the Department of Defense. This program’s means of acquisition is a lot more like how the military procured the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle than how they purchased Modular Handgun System.

The Army’s schedule for NSGAR is also very aggressive. Lots of time and money has been spent on the Lightweight Small Arms Technology development effort which has been used to inform this effort. It’s gotten them this far, but the fact that they are moving forward with NSGAR tells me that at least someone realizes it’s still not yet ready for prime time. That means we are going to see a lot of new ideas with NSGAR.


The purpose of this PON is to award up to five Prototype OTAs with the goal of developing, within 12 months, a system demonstrator representative to include a functional prototype weapon, 2,000 rounds ammunition(s), fire control (day and night), bipod, suppressor, enablers (optional), spare part(s) to support firing 2,000 rounds, special tools, and operator manuals capable of firing and demonstrating the proposed capabilities to meet the lethality requirements. The goal is to develop system demonstrator representative of a Technology Readiness Level (TRL) 6 and Manufacturing Readiness Level (MRL) 6.

A system Demonstrator refers to a functional prototype weapon, 2,000 rounds ammunition(s), fire control (day and night), bipod, suppressor, enablers (optional), spare part(s) to support firing 2,000 rounds, special tools, and operator manuals capable of firing and demonstrating the proposed capabilities to meet the lethality requirements.

Following these efforts, a full and open competitive PON for a follow-on system integration prototype project may be announced. Participation in this system demonstrator PON is not required for participation in the follow-on system integration prototype project.

This Future Follow-On System Integration Prototype Project may be initiated with a new competitive PON requiring a system demonstrator (minimum TRL 6, MRL 6) bid sample and proposal. The combined evaluation of bid sample test results and proposal may result in the award of up to three independent OTAs. The OTAs may include decision points (e.g. Critical Design Review (CDR), Test Readiness Review (TRR), Product Qualification Test (PQT), and other critical tests) to continue or discontinue the OTA throughout the acquisition cycle. The system integration prototype project may include a full system integration, ensure a producible product that is safe, interoperable, affordable and sustainable through modeling, simulation, user evaluation and testing with a goal of delivering production representative systems achieving a TRL 8 and MRL 8. OTA deliverables may include 350+ weapons with fire control and other enablers, over 1,500,000 rounds of ammunition, spares, special tools, and manuals. Successful completion of the system integration prototype project may qualify Awardees for continuation into a follow-on production and deployment (P&D) effort without further competition.

Although the government states that a vendor need not participate in this go around to bid on the next, past experience has show that participants in the initial effort glean a great of feedback, giving them an obvious advantage.

After that, the government may pursue a Future Follow-On P&D Effort(s), awarding up to two independent follow-on production OTAs or up to two independent Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) based contracts with a period of performance up to ten years. The P&D effort may include low rate initial production, operational test and evaluation, full rate production, fielding, and sustainment capability. Deliverables may include over 15,000 weapons with fire control and other enablers, over 30,000,000 rounds of ammunition with planned transition to Government run production (pending intellectual property if required), spares, special tool, manuals, and depot support.

Industry Challenges
Teams must be formed which include Weapon, Ammunition, and Electronics manufacturers. Due to the fast pace of this program, if they aren’t already working together on a strategy, they, and the government will miss out. Additionally, as I’ve critiqued in the past, the insistence on classifying program data has served as a bar to entry for many potential solution providers who cannot access program data.

To participate, offerors must meet at least one of the following conditions:
(A) There is at least one nontraditional defense contractor or nonprofit research institution participating to a significant extent in the prototype project.
(B) All significant participants in the transaction other than the Federal Government are small businesses or nontraditional defense contractors.
(C) At least one third of the total cost of the prototype project is to be paid out of funds provided by sources other than other than the Federal Government.

That means, all of the large, traditional defense contractors who were anticipate will be paying quite a bit out-of-pocket to participate.

NSGAR prototype candidates should be 35” overall length including a suppressor which must offer 140 dB performance. NSGAR will feature Safe, Semi-Automatic and Automatic modes, with 400m dispersion.

Although the desired rate of fire is 60 rpm, this initial go around is to define trade space. That rate of fire is going to be a challenge with a box fed weapon, although rumor has it the government prefers a magazine over beltfed.


The ammunition must be “20% less than an equal brass case weight volume of the entire cartridge.”

Fire Control
Fire control is a critical component of this program. It’s inclusion alone will keep many firearms manufacturers from participating due to the costs and unique technical expertise required to produce these components. Likewise, Electronics manufacturers will lack the know how to produce firearms.

The system demonstrator is encouraged to include additional capabilities such as: advanced fire control (direct view optic with variable magnification, laser range finder, ballistic calculator, environmental data, disturbed reticle, etc.), powered/intelligent rail (including data transfer), ammunition capacity (belt or box fed), and other enablers which enhance military utility.

Offerors have until April 9th to make their submission. PON proposals will be evaluated on Concept, Feasibility and Price with all three
having equal weight.

Read all of the details here.

Some of this information is derived from the NSGAR Industry Comments.

28 Responses to “US Army Issues Next Generation Squad Automatic Rifle Prototype Opportunity Notice”

  1. Jon Demler says:

    Awesome to see! I’m not trying to M249-bash but… The SAW is a light machinegun, it would be nice to have something that would be easier to haul / use as a member of a Fire Team.

    • Will Rodriguez says:

      While I empathize with your desire to have a lighter weight weapon the fire team needs a light machinegun. It’s integral to creating fire superiority which is necessary for fire and maneuver.

      Going light for the sake of lightness is a mistake which the BAR, M14* and M16* (*in the automatic rifleman role) have historically proven. The M27 will also bear this out in our next fight where the enemy doesn’t primarily rely on hit and run/IED’s.

      • Joglee says:

        Why does the Army have such a hard on for a mag fed IAR?

        • Will Rodriguez says:

          Don’t think the Army is looking for a mag fed solution. SSD seems to say they have their options open.

          My comment was directed at Jon who clarified below he wants a lighter light machinegun, not an IAR in that role like the Marines went.

      • Jon Demler says:

        Indeed. I’m saying that having a light as in actual lightweight machinegun would be nice and lightening the load that the Automatic Rifleman is expected to carry on their person would also be nice.

        I’m sure as everyone is stating that this is just a dream.

  2. AbnMedOps says:

    Call me a nay-sayer, but I’m expecting absolutely nothing but yet another long, drawn-out, ultimately cancelled program, with at least one program name-change, all fizzling out with nothing significantly new fielded.

  3. Joglee says:

    Hopefully KAC throws in with their 5.56 and 7.62 LMGs.

    Hopefully LSAT doesn’t get chosen, that would be a terrible mistake, yes it’s lighter but it’s also bulkier by a significant margin seeing as their 6.5 round has a diameter of .504″…yes a hair over half a inch in diameter per round, which is larger than 7.62 brass’ diameter.

  4. Strike-Hold says:

    >The ammunition must be “20% less than an equal brass case weight volume of the entire cartridge.”<

    I don't even know what that means….

  5. Hodge175 says:

    I am so confused by this and like others have said I don’t see this going anywhere. So are they looking for a M27 style rifle. It reads that they are looking to replace both the M4 and the M249 with this program or did I read that wrong.

    Also I don’t see why any company would waste R&D money on this project, with the Army’s track record on individual weapons projects, this has been going on for over a decade, HK failed FN failed and how many other companies have lost so much money on these programs.

    I really do not see why we cannot adopt something like the KAC assault machine gun and bee done with it. The SAW needs replaced but I am not sure the Army even knows what they want.

    • SSD says:

      You read it right. It needs to be lighter. While I didn’t get into it on here, they have discussed some very high chamber pressures in order to get increased range and projectile speed.

      What they’re asking for, doesn’t exist.

      • Will Rodriguez says:

        Asking for what doesn’t exist as well as combining two weapons with fundamentally different roles (individual weapon and squad auto weapon) into one program is asking for failure.

      • Joglee says:

        Yep, 80,000 PSI chamber pressure and given specs for Proof Loads you would be looking to see chamber pressures in excess of 100,000 PSI.

      • bloke_from_ohio says:

        “what they are asking for does not exists.”

        This statement is the crux behind pretty much every acquisition boondoggle in our nation’s history. We suck at creating good requirements for most of the systems that we buy. Most end users would be baffled if they ever spent any time reading the requirements documents that are at fault for the stuff we buy.

        I might add to Eric’s assessment that the case for making the thing they are asking for that does not exist actually exist is probably not well fleshed out. It certainly is probably not documented. While we half ass, at best, the “what” question in acquisitions, we never really bother to answer the “why” question. And when we do bother to make the case, it is almost always either a dumb reason or the rational is way over classified. As such the American public never understands the ROI they are getting from the latest and greatest obnoxiously named acronym soup weapons program.

        But to make such a case would require an actual cognizant strategy to inform what exactly we need or want our forces to be able to do and why, but that does not really happen either. As such we have no way to actually prioritize anything outside personal agendas of whatever commander or policy maker can be the loudest at a meeting. And those agenda’s usually boil down to needing a force (and subsequently equipment) that can do everything, all the time, in all the places.

        But, that is what we do I guess…

  6. Kirk says:

    Right off the bat, all I see is a list of desirable technology features, some reasonable, some not.

    The thing that’s missing is an articulation of why those features need to be there, and how the weapon is going to integrate into tactics, operations, and logistics. You don’t have a good idea for how you’re going to use the weapon, how can you ask industry to produce something to meet your needs?

    The Marines decided they wanted a (relatively…) lightweight, magazine-fed weapon in this role, and did a pretty good job of defining the whole background basis for it. Without arguing for or against that being right, where’s the equivalent here for this program? Is the Army going to change how it does squad automatic fire support, or does it want more of the same with the M249 as the template?

    Frankly, reading this makes me think that they really haven’t thought this through, and the incoherency noted by some here is kinda blatant.

    Honestly, I think we need to do a fairly thorough re-examination of how we’re really fighting, and then do some honest clean-sheet design work on the squad and the weapons suite it carries. The reality is that I don’t think we can really reconcile what we need to do with the individual weapon and the support weapon, so we’re going to inevitably wind up with a two-cartridge, two-platform solution. Trying to shoehorn everything into a one-size-fits-all-missions probably ain’t going to work, given the track record of such things.

    Not to mention, there’s probably some arguments to be made for asking the question of whether or not we could be doing some of what we’re now doing with the M249 with another system entirely, like a Carl Gustav with the airburst fuse technology from the XM-25. Would it make more sense to carry a weapon like that, and its heavier ammo, knowing that it was more effective for some suppression missions?

    The other question is, should we be looking at re-structuring the squad and platoon? Would it make more sense to have a platoon with three to four maneuver fire teams carrying individual weapons, and a set of fire support teams carrying 7.62mm-equivalent medium MGs and some Carl Gustav direct-fire support weapons, along with light mortars? Not to mention, a dedicated ELINT and drone element with the PL?

    War is getting ready to change in a major way, akin to the pre-WWI era. At some point in the near- to mid-term future, the infantry squad and platoon are going to have to start taking on some very sophisticated characteristics, or they’re simply not going to be survivable on the battlefield. ELINT capabilities akin to what we’re packing into fighter aircraft and ships will likely become increasingly required, as well as communications. RPV/automated drones are going to be something that will have to be dealt with, as well, likely in both senses of the word–The platoon is going to have to have integrated countermeasures, and be able to deploy their own assets.

    The weapon they’re looking at procuring with this iteration of our small arms development process is going to have to integrate into this environment. Likely, you’re going to have to be able to use the squad support weapon in some mode as a drone killer, and that’s a question we should be factoring in.

    As well, the question of support systems for this family of weapons needs to be addressed. You can’t attain sufficient long-range accuracy off of PFC Smith’s shoulder and a bipod, so we either need to have some kind of Steadicam affair, a decent all-terrain tripod that’s light enough to carry, or be able to integrate the weapon into something like a multi-purpose PackBot that can give us the solid firing base to attain the full potential of the ballistics.

    And, a lot of this is just left out of the whole tender–If we’re going to use this weapon solely as a shoulder-fired, bipod-supported creature, then why the hell would you bother paying the logistical tax to give it capabilities outside the envelope of what you can realistically expect from that mode of operation? The calculation needs to be made–Do we build in excess capability, and pay the long-term logistical price of adding that essentially ineffective additional capability, when we could build something cheaper and lighter, that’s adequate within the capability envelope of a soldier’s semi-supported shooting?

    As I’ve said many times before–Figure out how you’re going to use the damn things, and then start talking about what you’re going to design, build, and procure. From where I’m sitting, this looks like yet another iteration of our tendency to buy first, and then figure out how the hell we’re going to use it.

    • Seamus says:

      Or…we could just not do anything and just wait until my iPhone App can do all of this stuff ten times better for virtually no money.

      Military wastes billions on projects that if they only waited 10 years for they could have got for free.

      • Kirk says:

        LOL… You really think the civilians are going to develop any of the stuff the military needs, absent some event like the secession of California…? Which, I would point out, would likely see Apple on the opposite side of the Federal government?

        There’s no damn need for a lot of what the military needs, in the civilian market. Thus, no motivation for them to develop it.

  7. Gd442 says:

    HK IAR case closed…I was told by an HK rep that stuck with me about the IAR. “The SAW keeps people’s heads down…a IAR blows people’s heads off”

    • Joglee says:


    • Kirk says:

      Like I’ve been saying… Figure out what you want to do with the damn weapon first, then design to meet the requirements.

      The M249 is a tool for area suppressive fires, inappropriate for high-speed foot-borne tactics. The M27 is a tool for precision fires, light enough to carry along with highly mobile light infantry. Which do you want to be, and how do you mean to fight?

      There are cases to be made for either approach. I have my doubts about the one the Marines are taking, especially when dealing with peer enemies or cases where you’re dealing with mass assaults, but that’s something that’s yet to be proven out in the real world. They may be able to make it work.

      Given that the Army takes a different tactical approach to things than the Marines, the M27 or another IAR concept won’t really work out, unless we change how the hell we do things.

      IMHO, we’re about to undergo another “revolution in military affairs” that’s going to greatly affect all this discussion, and we may want to wait and see with regards to what small arms we really need. The possibility exists that we’re going to have an equal or greater need for an anti-drone capability than anti-personnel, and that’s going to be something which should play into what small arms we procure.

      Put enough small ground-based drones into the picture, and we’re probably going to see the current paradigm of assault rifle/SAW wind up relegated mostly to police and security work (as did the SMG…), while the combat infantry moves towards what amounts to a light anti-material rifle with an anti-personnnel capability. How far off this is remains to be seen, but I’m reasonably sure we’re going to see deep penetration into the squad-level space for these systems before the mid-century mark–And, maybe sooner, depending on any unexpected breakthroughs in technology.

      At some point, someone out there is going to be really effective at weaponizing all these drones and RPVs. What that’s going to look like, I don’t know, but it’s sure as hell going to make life rough down at the pointy end.

    • Will Rodriguez says:

      That’s HK snake oil I mean salesmanship. Get hit in the head with a round from a SAW and the damage is the same. BTW, if there wasn’t a need for a 5.56 machinegun why is HK developing the MG4?

      With the Corps move to adopting the M27 across the force (while keeping a stockpile of SAWs) it appears the theory that adopting the M27 as a replacement for the SAW was a backdoor route to getting every Marine a 416.

      • Bold says:

        The MG4 was made because the German Bundeswehr finally decided they needed/wanted a SAW just when some other armed forces that had used them for decades started questioning their usefulness…
        Very similar to the situation with their sniper rifles at the start of the 2000s, btw – finally buying accurate, but not high-powered repeating rifles after decades of using scoped G3 rifles when everyone else could see the need for modern semi-auto sniper rifles on one hand and high-powered repeating rifles on the other. Which was exactly the way they went several years later.

        Just because any army does it doesn´t mean it`s a good idea.

        I concur on the Marine Corps thought re getting every Marine a 416 – and I can´t blame them for it. If that’s what it takes to cut through/get around the red tape, so be it.

        • Kirk says:

          The incoherency seems to be international, so I suppose we can take some comfort from that.

          A lot of this problem stems from the fact that we a.) haven’t had a really big conventional war between near-peer competitors for a few decades, and that b.) our experience-research-design-procurement loop for small arms is pretty much dysfunctional as all hell, throughout the West. And, probably in the East, as well. Reality is going to catch up to us, and it’s likely to be ugly.

          You can see this with regards to the whole SAW thing, going back to the 1960s when we started the procurement process for the SAW. They wanted a replacement for the BAR, to be the supplemental squad fire support weapon–What they actually specced out was not a BAR, though. It was basically a down-sized M60, belt-fed, and without much real weight reduction. So, the question is, where did that idea originate…? We got the M249 in the 1980s, carried the things for twenty years, found we still needed to supplement them with real full-house 7.62mm GPMGs, and now we’re looking at basically recapitulating the Soviet solution in totality–An assault rifle individual weapon, an RPK-like support weapon to supplement that, and a full-power 7.62mg still on the squad MTOE.

          Looking at this from a macro-level view, the impression you can’t help but develop is that the powers-that-were, are, and will be…? They don’t have a damn clue what is going on down at the squad level in combat, and don’t really know what they want, because they don’t know the things they need to.

          The whole issue is a series of trade-offs and compromises–Do you want your squad fire support weapon to be capable of rapid maneuver, or do you want it to be capable of laying down lots and lots of suppressive firepower? You likely can’t have both, with today’s attainable and deployable technology, so which way do you want the stool to lean? It’s akin to designing tanks–The three main attributes are armor, firepower, and mobility. Do you intend to fight like the Germans meant to, with the Leopard, and opt for less armor and more firepower/mobility? Or, do you do as the Brits did, and opt for armor and firepower over mobility?

          Again, witness the manner in which “intent to fight” influenced design: The Leopard family is a very different beast from the Chieftan, and the doctrines under which they were supposed to fight were very different.

          With small arms, we could posit a similar set of design factors: Weight, lethality, and range. The weight is important, because if the soldier can’t move the damn thing to keep up with the tempo of operations, your tempo has to slow to what humans can actually do. Lethality and range both tie into weight, because you need to figure out what levels of each factor you need to attain in order to enable your tactical and operational intent–You deploy an MG that can’t effectively address the enemy at the ranges you want to, and you’re going to find your tactics aren’t going to work.

          As well, if you issue a system that creates too much of a logistics burden, say by specifying a cartridge technology based on rare earths like tungsten…? You may be putting yourself into the same situation that the Germans did with their anti-tank weapons in WWII: The Gerlach squeeze-bore guns were great, but that tungsten for their projectiles was needed elsewhere in the logistics chain. Likewise, the limited-production specialized rounds you issue to SF for use in small quantities may be excessively expensive to issue out en masse.

          All of this crap needs to be articulated and thought out before you go to even asking industry for prototypes. The tactical space filled by the gun needs to be determined before designing it, so that your design parameters are realistic and well-thought out–What we seem to do, more often than not, is demand industry design something like the MG4, and then try to shoehorn that into the tactical matrix.

          I’m not sure that the SAW program was really thought out that well, being as we’re now seeing both the Army and the Marines determined to replace them with an uber-assault rifle more akin to the RPK than not.

          Which leads to the question of why the Soviets got the weapons mix in their forces so right that we’re now recapitulating the whole damn thing ourselves, some fifty-sixty years later. After, I might point out, having been in denial about the “way we fight” since the end of WWII. The irony is painful to behold…

  8. Tazman66gt says:

    Fightlite MCR, then let the ammo manufacturers work on the other end of it. MCR can do belt fed or mag, lighter than the 249, but, I’m not a professional, nor do I play one on TV.

Leave a Reply