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US Army Releases Draft Next Generation Squad Weapons Requirement

Earlier today, Project Manager Soldier Weapons, issued a DRAFT Prototype Opportunity Notice (PON) for Next Generation Squad Weapons (NGSW) in order to seek Industry questions and comments to assist in shaping the NGSW program strategy to rapidly develop and deliver prototype weapons and ammunition. Their intent is to engage Industry early in order to provide the best materiel solution for the NGSW program. Additionally, the Government intends to hold an Industry Day to provide program overview, clarification, and address questions.

While related to the ongoing Next Generation Squad Automatic Rifle Prototype Opportunity, the new NSGW program consists of two weapons, the Next Generation Squad Weapon-Rifle (NGSW-R) and the Next Generation Squad Weapon-Automatic Rifle (NGSW-AR). The NGSW-R is the planned replacement for the M4/M4A1 Carbine and the NGSW-AR is the planned replacement for the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW) in the Automatic Rifleman Role in Brigade Combat Teams (BCT).

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The current NSGAR PON is funded and includes AAI Textron System, FN America (with two entries), General Dynamics-OTS Inc, PCP Tactical, LLC, and SIG SAUER Inc. I expect it will continue through the end of the contract as the government has learned much from that effort and it shows in this latest notice.

Additionally, offerors must develop two different ammunition cartridges utilizing government specified 6.8mm projectiles.

* General Purpose (GP) per Drawing titled “6.8MM GENERAL PURPOSE (GP)”. The GP cartridge provides all-purpose solutions for combat, limited training, and basic qualification.
* Surrogate per Drawing 13072652. The surrogate cartridge is designed to mimic the behavior of combat projectiles from a weapon design standpoint. Surrogate projectiles may not be completely representative of the final combat ammunition configuration which are expected to vary during development. Surrogates are intended to be a close replacement shape of the final combat rounds.

This is not the 6.8 SPC cartridge evaluated by SOCOM in the mid-00s and available commercially. The only thing this has in common, is caliber. The Army desires increased range and lethality with lighter weight. However, specifics remain classified and only available to companies actually participating in the program.

The Army plans to award three companies OTAs and for each prototype OTA include 50 NGSW-R weapons, 50 NGSW-AR weapons, 850,000 rounds of ammunition, spare parts, test barrels, tools/gauges/accessories, and engineering support as defined in the Statement of Work.

The Army has also issued some basic parameters they are seeking.
The NGSW-R and the NGSW-AR prototypes shall:
a. allow for ambidextrous operation and controls;
b. include a removable flash hider, suppressor, and a tool for removal after firing or for maintenance;
?c. include a tactical carrying sling with quick release attachments;
d. include selection positions for Safe, Semi-Automatic Firing, and Automatic Firing modes;
e. be resistant to corrosion, abrasion, impact and chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defense (CBRNE) contaminants, decontaminants, battlefield-chemicals, electromagnetic pulse and cyber-attacks;
f. reduce visual detection via a neutral non-reflective, non-black color not lighter than Light Coyote 481 and not darker than Coyote 499;
g. function in all environments and weather conditions, including marine, high ?humidity, rain, and desert conditions; ?h. be compatible with combat clothing (including body armor and Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment), CBRNE, wet weather, and cold weather gear;
i. provide interchangeable magazines between both weapons if NGSW-AR utilizes a ?magazine; and
j. include MIL-STD-1913 equivalent rails capable of mounting Rifle Combat Optic, ?Close Combat Optic, Aiming Laser, Family of Weapon Sights–Individual, Squad-Fire Control and other legacy enablers.

Interestingly, unlike the current NSGAR PON, there is no fire control component associated with this latest effort. I feel this is a much better strategy which will allow industry to develop a best of class fire control system once the ammunition and weapon are worked out.

According to the Draft Notice, the period of performance for each prototype Other Transactional Authority is estimated to be up to 27 months, but I expect they will be conducted concurrently. Following successful completion of this OTA, the Government intends to award a follow-on production contract. The follow-on production contract is anticipated to be a Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) based contract without further competition but the Government reserves the right to award a follow-on production OTA without further competition.

Also, there won’t be any vaporware when the Army opens this PON up. Offerors will be required to submit prototypes of both weapons along with their proposal.

I find this overall strategy sound as it allows for the concurrent development of ammunition, carbine and automatic weapon with all three ready at about the same time. The Army hasn’t seen such a potential sweeping change to weapons systems since the fielding of the M1 Abrams Tank and M2/3 Bradley Fighting Vehicle in the 1980s. Then too, the Army simultaneously replaced major weapon system, ammunition and fire control. While there were certainly unforeseen challenges all across DOTMLPF solution space, that sweeping change made the Army both more lethal, and more efficient. Hopefully, the Army’s leadership fully comprehends the changes they are working to unleash.

Data rights are going to be a big deal for this program. The government wants to not only select a weapon but then also have full rights to the Technical Data Package, even owning it outright. Unfortunately, that isn’t how companies make money. It costs a great deal for industry to develop technologies. They make it up by actually manufacturing the technology over time. Hopefully, the government and developer of the best system will be able to work out an agreement favorable for both parties.

The DRAFT NGSW PON is subject to change based on feedback received. The Government requests that all questions and comments are provided to ACC-NJ by December 7, 2018.

For full details, visit www.fbo.gov.

28 Responses to “US Army Releases Draft Next Generation Squad Weapons Requirement”

  1. Kirk says:

    So… New cartridge, new ballistics, and I see no mention anywhere of how they’re integrating the whole thing into tactics or operational art.

    Why do they keep doing this, instead of working from tactics and operational intent to weapon characteristics and then design? This 6.8mm notional cartridge is going to have a set of characteristics that come with it that will imply a huge change to how we fight and supply, so… Where’s the accounting for that, in this list of requirements?

    There are tradeoffs to be made, and numbers to be looked at; if you increase your weight per round, you wind up carrying fewer rounds–Implying that you’d better be upping the lethal/suppressive effect right along that, or making fairly significant changes to how you train and fight. That’s just one example of how squeezing the balloon has unintended side-effects…

    We ain’t doing this right, at all. This looks like just another iteration of “Let’s come up with a list of cool shit we want to do, throw it up on the board, and see what happens…”. Which is how we wound up taking the M14 up against the AK-47, and finding out the hard way that the old US small arms paradigm that dated back to WWI didn’t really work that well, in the real world…

  2. mark says:

    Upgrading M4A1’s to fully product improved M4A2’s, and then replacing the M249/M240 with a lightweight 6.5-6.8 LMG seems like it would have been the logical option to pursue.

    Developing a .270 Weatherby Magnum equivalent BAR that weighs less then 12lbs seems like the fully expanded brain option.

    • Kirk says:

      So… Replace the current MG fleet with a lighter weight 6mm. What are the second-, third-, and fourth-order effects on tactics and operations? What is the theoretical framework we’re working towards, and how does this support it?

      My objection to all of this stuff isn’t the idea of a lighter, longer-ranged MG family to support operations, but the whole “Yeah, let’s just do it…” mentality.

      What we have works, roughly, for what we’re doing right now. If you are going to make a wholesale change to things like the MG base of fire toolset, you need to have a clear objective in mind of what deficiencies you’re trying to address, and have a good idea of the tactical trade-offs you’re going to get when you do what you do. Without a good theoretical base, it’s difficult to even think about all the ramifications, let alone work your way through them.

      The M240 has a set of characteristics, in terms of weight, range, downrange impact, and the like. Those characteristics influence what we can actually do, tactically and operationally, so it behooves us to start thinking past the whole “Well, wouldn’t it be cool, if…?” bare-bones concept of a lighter cartridge with more range. What are the impacts on logistics, if we’re using more MG fire in the mix? Is it possible that there’s a mis-match between the range fan of the MG and that of the individual weapon and/or other infantry weapons suite?

      I don’t see them articulating this crap, at all. I dare anyone to go out and ask a low-level practitioner, say a newly-minted platoon leader or squad leader, and ask them “OK, spell it out for me… How are your weapons supposed to work together, tactically? What are the interactions between range and effect they can deliver, and how do you use those…?”. My bet is that you’re going to get a look of confusion from the vast majority, who’ve never considered the interaction between MG and mortar fires such that you want to use them systematically in order to use the fire of the first to pin the enemy where the mortars can best kill them, nor are they going to be more than dimly aware of how the whole panoply of fires is supposed to integrate for effective use.

      Extending MG range is nice, and all, but precisely how the hell do these geniuses plan on using it? If, at the end of the day, all we’re going to do is do the same-old, same-old with newer and more expensive equipment, what the hell is the point?

      The Germans, during the inter-war years, chose to substitute an uber-MG team for their squads, using their MG teams as maneuver elements where we used riflemen. In order to do this, they developed the MG34/42 family of guns, and supported them lavishly, building tactics and operational plans around the capabilities and characteristics of those guns. Similarly, the Swiss chose to develop the StG-57 rifle as an integral part of their long-range precision individual weapon fire plan, basically choosing to make every rifleman an LMG gunner. This was integrated deeply into their tactics and operational plans for the defense of Switzerland, and it reflected in nearly everything they did.

      Where is the equivalent work that our forces are doing, to achieve the same integration? From where I sit, it sure looks like this is yet another iteration of the “New, Shiny” process which we’ve used to flub these things for the last several generations. Most of our successful examples, like the M16, only happened by sheer accident, not solidly thought-out theoretical intent and design. Are we going to keep right on doing this, instead of trying to actually implement some forethought and intelligence into the process?

      I mean, seriously, all this is nice, but… What the hell are they trying to do with it all, down at the squad and fireteam level? Please show the work, because I’m not seeing it, at all.

      • Lose_Game says:

        Bro, you’re thinking way too deeply into this. If the Army had any sense they’d update their M4s, replace the 249s with Stoners, and call it a day. They would also have adopted the RBAV, EPC, and multicam in the mid-late-2000s. This is from the Army that has brought you program after program of failed future weapons with poorly defined objectives. Maybe I’m completely wrong and it’ll work out great, I dunno. But it seems like most Army “future weapon” programs are overly optimistic and fail to deliver the results they hope for. Don’t try too hard to make sense of it.

        Also, I’m surprised that you didn’t somehow manage to fit a reference to MG42 tripods in there.

        • Kirk says:

          I’m holding myself back, on that tripod issue. Because, you know it’s ‘effing truth…

          The gun is only as good as the platform it’s on; if the platform of choice is the human shoulder and a bipod or improvised support, you’re only going to get about half of the capability of the weapon out of that equation. You want better, longer-ranged fires, and to be more effective? Repeatedly effective? You need a tripod or other support system that’s more easily and quickly adaptable to the terrain you’re on. Whether that’s a Lafette, or a damn modified PackBot, I don’t give a fuck, but the fact remains that you’re not going to deliver effective fires out to 1800m off of the average gunner’s shoulder and a bipod.

          You want to get better MG fires, address the shortcomings in training, doctrine and supporting gear. You’ll get better results a lot more quickly than by playing around with the calibers and guns.

          Of course, the post-military career prospects with General Dynamics or whoever else is supplying this crap won’t be as sweet, but there you are. You want results that are actually usable right now in the field, look at the three things I’m talking about. The rest is purest feather-bedding–The time to have “fixed” that caliber issue was back in the 1950s, when we set ourselves out on this course of action with the 7.62mm NATO trials. That’s done and gone; the logistics and “installed base” fucking fleet has sailed, and we’re not going to easily or cheaply recover the damages from that piss-poor set of decisions.

          • Hodge175 says:

            Like a 3.5 powered optic on a 7.62mm belt feed machine gun, I have good gunner but you can’t hit what you can’t see. Oh and yes the thermals that eat AA’s might be good at shooting people with warm blood in them. But not so much on pop up plastic e type targets at night.

            So yea a 6.8mm round is the answer to the problems.

            • Kirk says:

              The other thing I love is the stuff like “NGSW-AR” refers to a prototype 6.8 millimeter automatic rifle with bi-pod, sling [author’s emphasis], flash hider, suppressor, cleaning kit, flash hider/suppressor removal tool, and quantities of magazines/drums/belts/other required to provide a minimum of 210 stowed rounds.”

              Minimum of 210 stowed rounds…? Remind me how we oh-so-carefully thought out the requirements there, again…? The Army arrived at a 210 round basic load because…?

              Oh, yeah; that’s what fits in the fucking ammo pouches, plus one mag in the gun. Totally arbitrary, just like most of this crap is. No actual research and/or thought put into it; “That’s how we’ve always done it…”.

              What. The. Fuck. Nobody is trying to work out what the optimal basic load is, which would presumably be different with a different caliber round, which might be more lethal, meaning shorter firefights and being able to reduce the load beneath 210 rounds carried…

              I mean, if it made logical sense to go by round count, what’s the scientific basis for that? Wouldn’t it be better to go by weight/stowed rounds ratio? Because, surely we aren’t going to abandon the idea of mission-tailoring, are we?

              This whole thing is a goat-fuck, TBH. The more I read in this, the more I see holes in the whole paradigm–Why, for another example, are we looking at a “government-supplied 6.8mm projectile”, instead of leaving that up to the manufacturer? Why freeze the projectile design, and work out from that, when the arguments are still quite lively about which of the 6mm projectiles are more effective?

  3. mark says:

    Well, a lightweight machine gun and lightweight ammo would be desirable regardless of tactics.

    If you can replace a 17lb 5.56 LMG and a 25lb 7.62 GPMG with a 15lb 6.5 Creedmoor equivalent LMG, that fires 15g cartridges instead of 12g(5.56)+24g(7.62) cartridges, thats going to great for the guys who actually have to carry these things.

    There’s really no downside there – you have better ballistics with weapons that are easier to carry.

    That sort of configuration (M4A2+6.5LMG) would work with our existing tactics/configuration, and also open up new possibilities. For example, by having a 6.5 LMG at the Squad level, you could replace the now redundant M240 team with a HE team employing Carl Gustav’s or Airbursting 60mm mortars.

    The problem here with the NGSAR, at least from my reading of the published goals and some of the NDIA slides, is that its a weapon divorced from reality – both the physical limitations of modern weapon design, as well as the most probable opponents we’re actually likely to fight will small arms.

    • Kirk says:

      Mike, it’s just that “desirable” thing that keeps kicking us in the ass; sure, it’d be nice if I could carry a hundred thousand rounds, and be able kill enemy soldiers out at a thousand meters, but… That’s not ‘effing likely, given the constraints of modern materials science and raw physics.

      The problem I keep seeing turn up again and again with our small arms development is that they keep going for this pie-in-the-sky BS like the SPIW program or OICW; neither of which was actually, y’know, practically possible. So, instead of having the SPIW, we fell into the “interim solution” of the M16, which is now holding what has to be the record for “longest interim solution ever”.

      The way to do this is to clearly articulate and lay out what the hell it is we’re doing right now, identify the shortcomings, and then work forward to realistic solutions. In the MG realm, I’m not even sure we have a good, solid framework for how we actually use the damn things, vs. what’s in the hoary old manual. We sure as hell don’t train to use the full potential of the systems we have now, so why the need to replace them with some uber- MG that we’ll also not use to its full potential?

      Someone please explain the point of all that, and why we’re spending borrowed money on it all, vs. using what we have more effectively?

      TBH, what I’d like to know is why they’re not exploring putting the guns we already have on better platforms, and ohbytheway, training the troops better on more realistic ranges. The qual course for the M240 is still the same flat-ass WWI-esque defensive-fires standard, when we a.) haven’t had to defend against a human-wave attack since… Oh, I think, what, Vietnam? And, b.) should be testing a qual standard that looks like what we’ve been actually doing with the damn guns, which is support mobile light infantry operations on the move in high mountain terrain…

      Tell me what the hell you think you’re doing with your guns, first, then show me that there are actually issues with the capabilities vs. us simply not using the guns to their full potential, and then I’d agree that we need to replace them with this new shiny shit. What’s actually going to happen, here, though? One, they’re never going to get out of development, and two, more than likely, if they do, they’re just going to do more of the same with a different gun and caliber, while obtaining only marginally better results.

      Our MG problems stem mostly from doctrine and training issues, not the guns themselves. Fix the first two, and then maybe we’ll see about changing the guns to be more effective under a real tactical and operational framework that we build the tools for, rather than adapting our tactics and operations to what new toys we buy.

      • AbnMedOps says:

        Yeah, but…”The American Army does not feel any obligation to read their own doctrine…”. And so very much flows from that.

      • Pete says:

        Kirk, you’re spot on as usual with this subject. All I’d add is that from this dumb grunt’s perspective the only reason to change to a middle ground six point something cartridge is to replace both 5.56 and 7.62. I don’t see that being done. I don’t see that being worth being done. I don’t see that as really anything that is needed. What is needed is a replacement of the M249 with something lighter and handier which is still beltfed and ideally which can take existing 100rd nut sacks of belted 5.56 which are easy for the gunner to carry in quantity in pouches on kit as well as in the gun when slung. The KAC LMG looks awesome in this respect. Of course, we’re not looking at it. Sigh.

        As far as the M240 is concerned, it has the same problem it has always had. It is heavy and awkward. It is a GREAT gun which is reliable and lasts forever, but for 99% of gunners it needs to be shot off of bi-pod or tri-pod because of the stock/cheekweld interface. And it just weighs too damn much. But we insist on having one gun for what is really two needs. The existing M240, not even the M240L, but the old standard lightly modified FN MAG M240, is perfect for use off of vehicle mounts or fixed emplacements. Dismounted infantry should carry something lighter and handier though. The Barrett M240LW and, especially the M240LWS seem like the ideal solutions for this. Unlike reverting to the M60E6 (with all of the attendant issues with the M60 design you’ve mentioned before, Kirk), this would allow for parts and manual of arms compatibility with the existing stockpile. This would be a HUGE improvement for gunners across the realm of dismounted MG teams in the US military… but we’re not looking at these either. SIGH.

        As far as the whole integration of fires to fix and finish that you talk about though, I have to say that in my experience, that is absolutely something that any competent Weapons Squad Leader in the US Army thinks about. Maybe not the gunners and AG’s, but any Weasel worth his salt does.

        • Kirk says:

          Pete, the point I’m getting at is not that the guys don’t know their trade and craft, but that the system does a really shitty job of laying it all out and articulating it–Which is why they keep throwing up these half-ass “solutions” like the M192 tripod.

          If you can’t translate from “User-level, experience generated” knowledge to crap that the LT can throw up on a PowerPoint for the boss during a training meeting, you’ve got a problem. A lot of us understand the how/why of the weapons mix through experience and being the guy down on the pointy end of things when the shit hits the fan, but the problem is with those mid-grade staff officers who hack off on things like the ROE taking away organic indirect, and restricting mortar fires to “things we have direct observation on”–Which is ‘effing nuts: That’s the whole goddamn point of the mortar, to reach out and kill something we can’t directly observe, on the defense and offense. But, because they lack the common language and articulation, they think that negotiating away that tool with the JAG is no big deal…

          I also really doubt that the two-caliber mix is something we want to get rid of; were it I that was doing the re-design, I’d instead be tweaking the individual weapon somewhat, and then up-gunning the MG to a different cartridge entirely–The 7.62mm NATO suffers from the fact that it started out as a compromise cartridge that was supposed to “do it all”, and as such, the vestigial individual weapon-oriented biases it was built with make it a less-than-optimal MG cartridge. Put me in charge, and something like the interwar-years Swedish MG cartridge would be the standard issue, with a slightly tweaked individual weapon round. In short, I don’t think it’s really possible to create a “do-it-all” cartridge solution, and still be able to do what you need to. The simple physics of it all militate against it–What a soldier can control on full-auto with his individual weapon ain’t got enough “ooomph” to do what we need out at 1800m in an MG application.

    • Pat says:

      Mark, there are a lot of potential downsides that you’re ignoring or not aware of here. The same points that were brought up with the 7.62 interim service rifle program apply here. There have been many vocal objectors to that path whose points I shamelessly steal.

      In your scenario, you might be replacing a 17lb 5.56 LMG with a 15lb 6.5 L/MMG, but you’re going to either nearly double your ammo weight and bulk if you keep the same number of rounds, OR you half the number of MG rounds you’re carrying in order to keep the same weight and bulk as 5.56.

      Additionally, the new gun will likely cost significantly more than the M240/M249, and the ammo will definitely cost considerably more. That will result in greatly reduced live fire training for any given training budget. Right now, it’s left to be established that 5.56 and 7.62 are actually holding us back compared to the ability to properly and efficiently employ those systems. The money would potentially be much better spent with better and more training.

      I’m all for building a better mouse trap, don’t get me wrong. However, the associated costs (not just monetary) make me wonder if this is the right way forward at this time.

      • mark says:

        “In your scenario, you might be replacing a 17lb 5.56 LMG with a 15lb 6.5 L/MMG, but you’re going to either nearly double your ammo weight and bulk if you keep the same number of rounds, OR you half the number of MG rounds you’re carrying in order to keep the same weight and bulk as 5.56.”

        Pat, this would be true if we were using a conventional brass cased 6.5 creedmoor/.260 Remington. At 21g each, plus 4g per machine gun link, they are substantially heavier then 5.56(12g) + 5.56 link (2g).

        However, with LSAT (the weapons developed by Textron) it seems (at least from the publicly released specs) that it would actually be viable to replace the M249 with a 6.5 LSAT LMG.

        6.5 LSAT cartridge weighs 15g, and then, wildcard, it also uses plastic links, which weigh around 1.5g. So at 16.5g per linked round of 6.5, you are actually pretty close to the 14g per linked round of brass case/steel link 5.56.

        The tragedy of this situation is that this promising technology is now being re-directed to create a far more powerful 6.8 cartridge designed for long range armor penetration. And that this 6.8 magnum is being planned to be used not just in machineguns, but also in rifles.

  4. Joe says:

    I think this is about more than the “SHOW ME WHAT YOU GOT” proposal/cancellation cycle we’re used to seeing.

    The in-house projectile and ownership of the design are the important parts.

    This seems to be driven be driven by an engineering requirement: “How do we defeat an enemy target with our level of technology and resources?”

    I’m reading “We expect head-to-toe plate-level protection in the near future” as well.

    I also get a “we might need to farm out manufacture across the industrial base in case of a 2 front war in Eastern Europe and the South China Sea” vibe, but I’m a pessimist.

  5. Ed says:

    Kirk, Pat and Mark,

    I really like your heads are at. I feel similar frustrations on various topics since my time in service especially the training piece vice the reality of combat and REAL situations. I think everything y’all laid out is spot on and it should be our higher-ups thinking of these issues, at the very least the TOP Service NCO’s giving their same knowledge to senior commanders. It is very frustrating when the totality of supply, training, gear and implementation on the battlefield is not in sync. Brothers, thank you for your insight today and keep fighting the good fight!

    V/r

  6. balais says:

    This has echoes from the 6mm SAW thingamajig from way back when.

    Oh….and this: John Petersen!

    • Kirk says:

      ‘S funny, ain’t it, how we keep circling back to the same issues, time and time again, researching, developing, and then… Doing that which is most expedient.

      Happened back in the ’30s with the whole .276 Pedersen debacle, which kept us from fielding a semi-auto until just before WWII, kept us from adopting the .280 British when we were offered it, and then the same syndrome hit again in the early ’70s with the 6mm SAW.

      It’s deja vu, all over again.

      Me? I fully expect that the eedjits are gonna try for a third iteration of the SPIW/OICW concept sometime shortly, ‘cos it’s just that dead sexy for the big guys in the industry: Think about the profits to be made, with a proprietary “smart shell” for every rifleman!! Man, it’d be money hand over fist… And, the post-retirement jobs?

      Meanwhile, things we could really use like better training ranges, support gear, and training time/ammo? LOL; ain’t nobody got time for dat!!

      • Nick says:

        Kirk,

        As a guy on the outside of this looking in, I think that your points are dead-on, per-usual. I fear also that we are suffering from a number of doctrinal issues that have been teased-out every time this subject rears its ugly head, and it really distills down to a number of hard-to-swallow points:

        I: Best is the enemy of good enough:

        As Americans, we strive to be exceptional and develop “best” options for every possible percentile of a solution, more often than not at the expense of fielding largely-or even wholly adequate solutions more efficiently, wasting less taxpayer dollars and resources than our drawn-out, seemingly endless quest to develop the next uber-solution which is akin to squeezing blood from a stone in the current environment. How much more efficiency, weight, or lethality can we squeeze out of legacy systems that are “good enough” on a stand-alone basis when compared dollar-for-dollar to proposed solutions? Well, it seems like a whole lot more considering the decades of path-dependancy that we have run in terms of the training and the logistical footprint of legacy systems. Are we going to be able to change everything overnight without creating some sort of capability gap? I’ll leave that question open for whatever answer you feel is applicable.

        II: If we are allowed to pick only one option, do we want a “better archer” or do we want a “better arrow”?:

        Again, it’s all about doctrine. I’ve witnessed incredible feats of ingenuity and strength from people who don’t have the resources, been told they aren’t smart enough, or that their equipment won’t rate for the requirements, but somehow they accomplish what others think is “too hard” or “impossible” given the odds against them-invariably, their training and willingness to persevere was a contributing factor to their success – they are the “archers”. I’ve also been in environments with people who had the “best” tech, but didn’t have a firm foundation of the underlying principles and training behind using the technology to fall back on if their equipment failed; these guys had all the right “arrows”, but relied on them to effect the outcome – I would rather bet my life on the “better archer” in real life, especially when things go pear shaped. Both fortunately and unfortunately, in America we don’t have to pick one or the other most of the time. I do think that eventually we will not be so lucky, and if we become too path-dependent on “better arrows”, we will find ourselves learning very quickly that in contested environments-especially against near-peer adversaries, whoever has the “better archer” makes all the difference.

        III: How does this affect our ability to fight and win from a holistic perspective?:

        A very wise mentor once told me that the difference of a degree in variance from a bearing was all dependent on the distance walked from our point of origin towards our destination without confirmation of our bearings. So too is our path of outcomes when we propose a major change that will affect so many different parameters down the chain of consequences as Kirk, Pat, and Mark have mentioned. I believe that we need to thoroughly over-think this decision, as it has the capability to change every facet of how we fight and win conflicts, and also the physical and emotional toll that winning (or losing) takes on our combatants? I wonder how many more injuries we would see if we switched to a 6xmm projectile and kept the same combat load irrespective of the aggregate weight of the new rounds. How about how our logistical footprint would change if for some reason the barrels of our new ‘wonder weapon” required a different composition of metals to retain an adequate barrel life comparable to our current 5.56 or 7.62 platforms- some of which the United States did not have in adequate stockpiles to ensure prolonged production of said barrels in an all-out war? How would this change the dollars and cents equations that are a very real factor when factoring in our ability to fight and win conflicts? Does anyone think that this rationale focuses too much on minutiae?

        IV: What happens when we need to fight a substantially different/evolving threat – can we pivot hard enough/fast enough?:

        This ties back points I, II, and III: once we have committed to the supply chain and the new platform and are path-dependent, what happens when invariably our requirements change because our enemies are rarely exactly what we envision them to be in our tabletop games, and they generally don’t want to die easily. They will use any and every ability they have to adapt and overcome, that’s a reality of unconstrained human nature. This is a massive doctrinal issue for us, and there will be setbacks, but without the “better archers”, we will lose if constrained by an inability to pivot hard and fast to find, fix, and finish our enemy, while exploiting and analyzing their tactics, and then distributing our successes to create violently positive outcomes. This ties into point III well, as every outcome does affect the larger ecosystem and environment.

        V: If we are stuck eating the “shit sandwich”, how many times do we want to “chew for taste” before realizing that taste doesn’t matter, and we better eat that sandwich for nutritional value alone, or find something to make the taste more palatable, so-to-speak:

        Let’s say that everything gets implemented, and things go wrong: our magical 6xmm “wonder weapon” turns out to be a total turd, and we are stuck with it, having at that point committed an until number of billions of dollars into the infrastructure required to support our new, shiny idea dreamed up by the good-idea fairy. How long will we “chew for taste” in that we will whine and moan- or even worse, totally deny the fact that we developed a 1st generation turd- instead of acknowledging the problem and fixing it very quickly through any and every avenue available to us. This ties into all of the aforementioned points, and fortunately I am confident that there are enough smart, innovative, and persistent Americans who will realize that the faster we adapt and overcome with a “flawed” solution that is here to stay, the more lethal and effective we will be. All of this will take relentless adaptation and a different mindset than what we hold currently on a wide-scale basis, in my opinion.

        In any case, I wonder what will be said at AUSA next week related to this particular topic… the only only guarantee is that there will be a number of differing opinions, and I’ll gladly buy the first round to begin that conversation if it leads to any solution that allows us to accomplish our mission that much better.

        • Kirk says:

          I think we have a bit of a cultural problem going on with all this stuff. We seem to have institutionalized shortsighted bad decision-making, and we also have this tendency to pipeline these decisions and entrust them to exactly the wrong people.

          It’s like the damn MRAP–A bunch of us were keeping up on world conflicts, and we all saw the IED and route clearance issues coming up. Attempts were made, and none of the “responsible parties” wanted to get involved, mostly because it would have meant disrupting the various rice bowls they all had set up to feed from.

          We literally went from around 1990 to 2003 doing nothing substantive in this arena. The South African gear was there, available–COTS, even. We did nothing. The FMTV program was running, and when the issues of cab-over design and the necessity for an up-armor package was raised, the people running that program literally told us that they “…weren’t combat vehicles…”. Uh… Hello? Might I introduce you to the Southwest African bush war experience, gentlemen? Could we talk about every other major conflict since WWII, where the Soviets trained proxies in the same techniques they honed against German rear areas on the Eastern Front?

          And, what’s the richest part of that whole cluster-fuck? A lot of the same people that were telling us “Nope, that’s not a real problem…”, and patting us on the head? After the IED campaign really got going, and then the countermeasures started getting money, they all jumped into counter-IED like it was their idea all along. I repeat–A lot of the same ass-clowns who told us not to worry about it made their bones “rapidly responding to the “new” threats of the 2000s…”.

          The other aspect of this that indicates a dysfunctional culture in our military? Take a hard look–Has there been a single one of these guys held accountable for their poor decisions back in the 1990s? Were there Congressional hearings analyzing what the hell went on, that we were “surprised” to be engaged in an IED campaign? Has there been the slightest shamefaced and rueful admission by anyone in the entire fucking hierarchy that they got this shit completely fucking wrong, and that soldiers whose lives they were entrusted with protecting died because of their lazy-ass thinking and narrow-mindedness?

          Nope. And, you can see the same shit going on in small arms. It’s a cultural problem in our system, and I am sad to say that I don’t think it’s going to go away until we suffer abject and total defeat. Some of these stupid motherhumping assholes need to either die, or have their careers ended as a consequence of their manifest failures before this kind of crap gets fixed.

          You can tell from the buzzwords and the half-ass thinking based on unexamined assumptions and “prior art”, if you want to identify whether or not something is going to work out, over the long haul. This program, just like the rest of this epic half-assery going back to the M14, is just more of the same-old, same-old. I dare say that nothing will wind up fielded out of it–But, millions will be spent, and the guys out on the shitty end of the pointed sticks will have nothing to show for it.

  7. Pete says:

    Deja vu all over again… and only three contenders them.

    http://weaponsman.com/?p=11494

    Sounds familiar – “a concept of a Squad Automatic Weapon that was then (barely) filled in the infantry fire team by giving one guy a stamped-steel bipod and permission to set his selector to Crowd Control.”

  8. theDude says:

    I don/t know why but i think that a .22lr minigun would be ideal for fire and maneuver. Imagine carrying 5000 rounds at 25 pounds. Just to keep heads down. Just finished reading Thunder Run and the ammo numbers spent by Abrams and Bradleys was impressive.

  9. KevinLumbra says:

    With these have any commonality in terms of sustainment?

  10. Edward R Randall says:

    The 6.8 will not penetrate body armor. It uses the same lead slug that we got away from when we switched to the M855A1 and M80A1. They will have to spend alot of money to design another new round that won’t perform better than the M80A1. We need a way to use M80A1 and XM1158 armor piercing ammunition in a assault rifle. Our enemies would have to wear extremely heavy armor that would make them ineffective on the battlefield.

    • SSD says:

      Stop. Read the article. This isn’t 6.8 SPC.

      • Edward R Randall says:

        The 6.8 GP is as heavy as the M80A1 and will not penetrate level 4 body armor plates. Why would we even consider an ammunition that is not standard with our allies? We are in an era of great power competition. If we get into a conflict large or small, then we would need common logistic chains with our allies

  11. lorenzo cardinali says:

    I hope they don’t do the bullshit to lessen the shots in the magazine. They must be 30 like m4, not one more, not one less.

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