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US Army Selects Three Companies To Vie For Next Generation Squad Weapons to Replace M249 and M4

Last night, the Army announced the three companies which will proceed to Phase 2 of the Next Generation Squad Weapons Program. This solicitation is a Prototype Project Opportunity Notice (PPON), a Other Transaction Agreement under Section 804 Authority.

The PPON called for each vendor to develop two weapon variants under the NGSW program and 6.8 millimeter ammunition common to both weapons. This is NOT the 6.8 SPC cartridge evaluated by USSOCOM in the early 00s, but rather more akin to 270 WSM.

The three companies selected are:
W15QKN-19-9-1024 – General Dynamics-OTS Inc. – Williston, VT
W15QKN-19-9-1025 – AAI Corporation Textron Systems – Hunt Valley, MD
W15QKN-19-9-1022 – Sig Sauer Inc. – Newington, NH

Although the Army has tried over the years to find a replacement for the M-16 family of weapons, which the M4A1 Carbine is the latest iteration of, none have been successful. Each and every time, the Army has found that the candidate weapons did not result in a great enough improvement in lethality to replace the status quo. This time, the Army called a new effect on target, driving the development of both cartridge and weapon.

Specifically, the Army is seeking a Next Generation Squad Weapon-Rifle (NGSW-R) and 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 the Close Combat Force.

According to the solicitation, the duration for each prototype OTA is estimated to be up to eight years. The first 27 months will be for prototyping the NGSW-R, NGSW-AR, and ammunition. Following this prototyping effort, there may be additional iterative prototyping efforts for the NGSW-R, NGSW-AR, and ammunition. These iterative prototyping efforts will each have separate durations and will occur within the eight year duration.
Furthermore, in accordance with 10 U.S.C. 2371b(f), and upon a determination that the prototype project (or any subsequent iterative prototyping efforts) was successfully completed under the competitively awarded OTA(s), a follow-on production contract(s) or OTA(s) may be awarded without the use of competitive procedures.

Because of the duration of the OTA, and that prototype OTA will undergo two prototype test events including Soldier Touch Points, they are asking for a lot more weapons and ammunition than in the current NGSAR PON. Deliverables for each prototype OTA include 53 NGSW-R weapons, 43 NGSW-AR weapons, 845,000 rounds of ammunition, spare parts, test barrels, tools/gauges/accessories, engineering support, and iterative prototyping efforts as defined in the Statement of Work.
The follow-on production award(s) is planned to be an Indefinite Delivery / Indefinite Quantity Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) based contract with Firm Fixed Price Delivery Orders up to ten years or a fixed amount OTA up to ten years. The production award(s) may include 250,000 total weapons system(s) (NGSW-R, NGSW-AR, or both), 150,000,000 rounds of ammunition, spare parts, tools/gauges/accessories, and engineering support. The value of this follow-on production award(s) is estimated to be $10M in the first year and estimated $150M per year at the higher production rates.

GD comes in partnered with True Velocity ammunition and their polymer case design. However, the ammunition for this program features an entirely new case and is called the True Velocity Composite Munition.

Additionally, we hear that GD submitted a bullpup carbine, which several sources have claimed is what the Marine Corps hopes to get from NGSW. Considering the 6.8mm requirement, rumors that they are using the Desert Tech MDR seem like a good bet. Update: it’s not the MDR, but rather a new bullpup design.

AAI Textron is seen by many as the government solution as their weapon and Case Telescoping technology has been funded for years under the Lightweight Small Arms Technology program.

It is the most radical departure of the three from currently fielded weapons. This is a video of their technology demonstrator shown at a recent industry meeting.

During SOFIC, SIG SAUER exhibited their Next Gen solution. They are producing the weapons and ammunition themselves.

Despite the ammo case’s three component construction this looks to be the lowest risk design.

This program is moving along very quickly considering vendors just delivered prototypes to the government at the end of May.

For additional information on the actual requirements, check out this story we posted in January.

98 Responses to “US Army Selects Three Companies To Vie For Next Generation Squad Weapons to Replace M249 and M4”

  1. Yawnz says:

    So let’s create even more logistics issues by adopting a new round in addition to the new weapon.

    • SSD says:

      Yep, and only for about 10% of the force. Granted, it’s the close combat force, but even within Brigade Combat Teams, there will be old and new mixed.

      • Joglee says:

        Which will be a logistical nightmare to keep enough ammunition on hand for everyone in the BCT.

        Not to mention you can’t share ammo within a BCT.

        • Dave says:

          It wouldn’t be that much more difficult logistically, it would generate a couple new DODICs, when you consider the variation in ammo an ABCT moves around two more isn’t that bad.

  2. ThatBlueFalcon says:

    I’m waiting for the cancellation notice, personally.

    • SSD says:

      They’ll see this through. For once, the Army Leadership is committed to a Small Arms program.

      • Bill Brandin says:

        I agree, they definitely seem to be committed this time.

      • Joglee says:

        Yep and it’s going to be a logistical nightmare and may end up being a terrible idea to only purchase enough for 15% of the force.

    • Vic Delea says:

      I dunno. They’ve had too many useless cancellations before and I think it’s beginning to wear thin. They completed the MHS and I think Big Army is going to go ahead with this one too.

  3. GoBlin says:

    Reasonable asquiring, they said. New level of cooperation, they said. No corruption, they said.

  4. P.T .Mc Cain says:

    And Colt is nowhere to be seen…how the mighty have fallen.

    • Bill Brandin says:

      Look how far SIG has come in a short time. This is what happens when a company relies on name recognition instead of innovation.

    • Rick Batemann says:

      And FN submits the MK48 like it’s something new! Plus it’s a bit hefty to lug around compared to SIG’s much lighter LMG submission that I got to play with at SOFIC 19. It was, to say the least, very impressive. Among other things it’s completely ambidextrous and the optic mount doesn’t go on the top cover like an afterthought.

    • Roy says:

      I noticed that as well.

      But why not FN?

      • Rick Batemann says:

        FN only submitted its MK48, nothing new there. Plus it’s a little hefty to lug around compared to the SIG LMG submission. I got to play with one one at SOFIC 19. It was, to say the least, very impressive. It handles well, it’s completely ambidextrous and the optics mount isn’t attached to the top cover like an afterthought.

      • Vic Delea says:

        FN had nothing new to offer. Just rehashing their MK48. SIG did it better and smarter.

    • Joglee says:

      Neither is FN, HK, or any of the major gun companies outside of Sig.

    • Vic Delea says:

      One King falls and another one rises. All hail the new King, SIG!

  5. G.O.A.T. says:

    Bullpup? Ummmmm, No

    • R.E. Factor says:

      Bullpups have their advantages which can’t be overlooked. Yes the triggers typically suck. However the compact size while still having a 16 inch barrel is pretty great. As is the overall balance of the weapon compared to very front heavy AR’s.

      • Marcus says:

        Joe has enough issues shooting today’s issued weapons. That’s before we get to retraining.

        There are other differences with the bullpup that make it less than ideal for the average soldier or Marine. Besides the trigger, mag changes require more manipulation. With respect to length, the sight radius is often different than an M4 and it therefore becomes less than ideal for the average ground pounder at varying differences. That’s before we get to the basic differences/complexities in design.

        Others have tried and failed at adoption for very good reasons.

        Respectfully, I remain unconvinced.

        • R.E. Factor says:

          The retraining argument is weak. The US military has switched from different firearms in the past. It only take a few years to really transition. The hardest will be those that have been in the longest. With a force that rotates in new Solders constantly it wont take as long or be as hard as you think.

          Mag changes do not require more manipulation. For the Desert Tech and the Tavor rifles the mag release is similarly placed to the AR with the bolt release being conveniently placed so as you load your mag your thumb hits the release. The biggest change for people is bringing that mag behind your trigger hand vs in front with the AR. That just takes some training and practice. Not a big deal.

          I don’t understand your argument for sight radius and varying distances. Maybe its still too early in the morning for me.

          Israel has adopted a bull pup and seems happy with it unless there are reports they don’t like it that I have not heard or read. The Brits and the Aussie’s have a bullpup.

          Bonus: It looks cool.

          • Marcus says:

            Have some coffee.

            Ultimately, it’s a solution in search of a problem that nobody has. I fail to see any real advantage. The ergonomics are simply awkward compared to the M4, the internals are more complex (when people are looking for more modularity) and the basic design on most makes them less accurate (including weight displacement and sight radius, that is the distance between the sights which some (like DTI) have tried to fix).

            I get all the time I need for training and retraining to be effective, said nobody ever.

            • Rob says:

              Why do you keep saying sight radius like it is a meaningful argument when optics are issued even in boot camp?

          • El Guapo says:

            Brits, Aussies, and Izzy’s all use bullpups for their regular forces, yet all their SOF use M4 type weapons- France just replaced their bullpup with another M4 type weapon (HK 416). That might be a clue.

              • El Guapo says:

                Yep, forgot the Kiwis that also switched from Bullpup to AR platform (and also that had SOF using them the whole time the rest of the force was using AUGs)

            • DDP says:

              Two things come to mind. Deniability. Lose a weapon or end up in the media and you have none. There would be awkward questions asked about the L85 found/photographed. Generic AR and multicam or going mufti wins, could literally be anyone.

              Plus you also have commonality of parts working with other nations on deployment, a broken firing pin (big issue on early L85s) for example and you’re buggered. Logistics are far easier when you can use someone elses and not are hindered by a proprietary weapon system. Again, AR platform wins

              As for the French, that has as much to do with politics as anything.. They haven’t built the FAMAS since 2002, and always had issues with ammunition due to the FAMAS being designed when they were outside NATO and the standardisation of ammo. Is the 416 a soild rifle? sure. It was the best of the five, with the FN-SCAR coming second. But Germany is also their biggest trade partner.

        • Davy Crockett says:

          Only the small arms that I own should be considered by any branch of the US military.

    • Stals says:

      Agreed. It should be noted that the SAS could use a bullpup but chose to carry an M4 clone. All bullpups have been failures that only continue because the governments that support them are to stupid to change. The French are going away from it. Look at how many refits had to be done to the Brits weapons. The cartridge I get but the weapon I don’t. The M4 is amazing and a new caliber might help it.

    • CAP says:

      I completely agree. Bullpups sucks. But…

      If the goal of this program is really to field a new round that can defeat all known body armor, the new 6.8 round is going to need to be launched out of a longer barrel than 14.5 inches to get the necessary velocity. And if these new weapons are really going to be used only by the close combat force, a bullpup would give them the long barrel the new 6.8 round needs in a more compact, maneuverable package.

      • mark says:

        If the goal is 125gr @ 3,000fps+, barrel length becomes crucial.

        Using Quickload and 6.5 Creedmoor as a reference, running the cases up to the ‘high pressure’ loads that have been discussed in the NGSW program:

        6.5 Creedmoor 123gr @ 62kpsi
        16”- 2795fps
        20”- 2962fps

        6.5C @ 75kpsi
        16″ – 2960 fps
        20″ – 3124 fps

        6.5C @ 100kpsi
        16″ – 3128 fps / 953m/s
        20″ – 3279 fps

        20″ @ 62kpsi = 16″ @ 75kpsi; 20″ @ 75kpsi = 16″ @ 100kpsi

        Bullpup also offers a number of other advantages specific to this program:
        -Rearward balance helps offset the frontal weight of the suppressor + long barrel
        -Bullpup offers better architecture for integrating electronics/batteries for powered rails and electronic triggers

  6. Steak TarTar says:

    Surprised the government is having anything to do with the Desert Tech after the Kingston Family (owns and funds Desert Tech) scammed $500m out of the gov

  7. Jason says:

    270 WSM ballistics for a M4 replacement? The cocaine must be top shelf at TRADOC these days.

  8. R.E. Factor says:

    Bullpups have their advantages which can’t be overlooked. Yes the triggers typically suck. However the compact size while still having a 16 inch barrel is pretty great. As is the overall balance of the weapon compared to very front heavy AR’s.

    • SSD says:

      You are also either a left handed or right handed shooter.

      • cimg says:

        unless its downward ejecting

      • mark says:

        You don’t actually need downward / front ejection.

        You just need a good shell deflector.

        I have the aftermarket Corvus shell deflector on my AUG; there is no problem firing from the left shoulder.

        It’s such an obvious solution that I’m shocked more bullpup developers didn’t figure it out sooner.

      • Sean says:

        Ian and Karl from InRange shot a MDR from both shoulders without issue without re-configuring the rifle to be right or left handed. Even though the brass ejects out the side, it’s still directed forward a bit before it actually leaves the rifle, sort of like the F2000.

  9. Bill Brandon says:

    It says something when former big player like colt Colt doesn’t even enter the competition and a current big player like FN doesn’t make it to phase 2 with their MK48.

    It’s also very interesting that Federal didn’t make the cut with their ammo.

    I like the fact that SIG made phase 2. Normally it takes a company years, if not decades, to get to where they are today. Since they also make their own ammo it’s a perfect combination.

  10. Vincenzo Detta says:

    It looks like FN is fast becoming the Glock of the machine gun world…. ZERO innovation. Seriously, they submitted MK48?? Have they absolutely nothing new to offer?

    You also have Federal’s failure with their ammo submission.

    How far the once mighty have fallen.

  11. Rick Batemann says:

    From what I’ve heard through reliable sources (an 0-6) involved in Phase 1 testing, the troops preferred the SIG entrant. Accuracy was better, the whole thing was ergonomically friendly and very Private proof.

  12. cimg says:

    SSD, where is a good resource to learn more about the telescoping rounds?
    What’s the downside, and why aren’t they more available?

    • Yawnz says:

      Most of the ammunition manufacturers aren’t making them as their factories aren’t tooled properly to make them. I’d also wager that, since most manufacturers sell primarily to the civilian market, they haven’t done any sort of analysis to determine if there’s any money to be made in making and marketing the stuff.

  13. Chris says:

    It seems Sig will take the whole pie.

  14. Amer-Rican says:

    The Marines don’t want a BullPup design, they want a BullDOG design.

  15. Patrick Sweeney says:

    I just don’t get this obsession with 270 WSM-like performance. Penetrate all known body armor? How many armor-clad opponents are we dealing with now? And let’s assume we succeed, will we end up with something that performs like the much-maligned M855?

    Great, composite/synthetic-cased ammo. Will the net actually be less combat load, or just more other gear?

    Given the actual training time given, what do we think the end-users will react to a belt-fed that recoils with 270 WSM performance? Especially if the designers do make it lightweight? And what will this round recoil like, in the carbine that will eventually be built for it?

    Color me unimpressed.

    • Yawnz says:

      Yeah man, let’s limit our innovation to simply what we’re facing now. Might as well throw saving money, working out, and eating a healthy diet out of the window too since I’m fine “right now”.

      How would a different casing for the ammo translate into “more gear”?

      End-users aren’t going to have much of a choice now, are they?

      Who said that whatever new weapon that will be designed won’t have recoil compensation?

    • Joglee says:

      Compared to the M4A1 and 5.56 it’s going to be heavier overall.

      The gun will weigh more and the ammo will weigh more. The reduction in weight has always been against a comparable case, so it may be slightly lighter than heavier calibers, but it will be heavier and bulkier than 5.56.

      We’re also going back to 20 round mags that are larger in size than even 7.62 NATO mags.

      • Yawnz says:

        How much heavier though? Especially if we’re going back to 20 rnd mags (nothing in the article even implies this)?

        • Joglee says:

          Well the bullet alone is 125gr. That’s only 60gr less than 5.56 cartridges weigh. You are easily looking at double the weight per cartridge with this new round.

          Looking at every gun submitted all the carbines came with 20 round mags, which makes sense given the size of the new cartridges are .50″ in diameter.

          • Yawnz says:

            That’d be double the weight per bullet, not per cartridge. The US military does not currently use polymer/composite cases, so we would also need to factor in any weight differences between the current brass 5.56 case and the polymer/composite 6.8 case they’re implementing.

            Even then, we’d still need to look at the difference between a fully-loaded 30-rnd 5.56 metal magazine with brass-cased 5.56 ammo vs a fully-loaded 20-rnd 6.8 polymer magazine with polymer/composite-cased 6.8 ammo to get an accurate view of whatever the new weight would be. This would still only be relevant when comparing weight differences between single mags.

            Biggest problem I’m seeing is logistics. It makes no sense to have two branches of the military that effectively do the same thing (Army vs USMC) use two different rounds in their standard-issue weapons. There needs to be a universal adoption program across all branches and all constituent parts of those branches except for the most unique and extreme mission situations.

    • Linz says:

      “Penetrate all known body armor?”

      Thus setting yourself up for systems failure on the next body armour advance.

  16. Patrick Sweeney says:

    You mean like monstrous muzzle brakes that deafen? Good luck doing CQB with those. Oh, let’s put suppressors on them then. And negate the recoil reduction of the brake.

    If the R&D departments of the various companies can come up with something that slices through all known and expected body armor, let’s see it. But if that’s the expected goal, the services might as well ask for phased plasma rifles in the 40 watt range.

    It’s a whole lot easier to up the armor than it is to defeat anything that might be fielded.

    How about we get something that is noticeably better in durability, reliability, and performance, and then actually spend time on things like boring old marksmanship, instead of the intersectionality of hair colors?

    Given the long-term performance, I refuse to believe that the powers-that-be are asking for the sun, the moon and the stars, expecting to get something markedly better but not transformational.

    • Yawnz says:

      Tungsten or DU bullets would do the job just fine. The cost on the other hand is a different story.

      As for the other stuff, well, this is what happens when you have civilian oversight gone ridiculous. Military service is incentivized to those that have little or no love for country while simultaneously these same people are shielded from criticism by those who don’t have to deal with the problems they create. Such is the nature of having a purely volunteer force.

  17. El Guapo says:

    So you’re telling me they want to give me a longer, heavier, less controllable weapon that I can carry less ammo for… to defeat a highly unlikely to non existent threat?

    I guess we found the assholes that came up with UCP after all…

    • Joglee says:

      Yes, you may thank General Milley.

    • Yawnz says:

      Not sure if I’d call the threat “highly unlikely” or “non-existent”. Last I checked, the Chinese have standard issue body armor, and while we aren’t at war with China (or any other peer/near-peer country), using that as a rationale for not innovating is illogical.

      Might as well go back and time and tell the caveman to not bother picking up a rock to use as a weapon instead of his fists because he isn’t currently fighting another caveman.

  18. Cropduster says:

    I’m not sure who said it on P&S…

    “Nobody sets out to design a great rifle and ends up with a bullpup. They set out to design a bullpup, and end up with a P.O.S.”
    – can’t remember who

  19. Cropduster says:

    All seems like at attempt at the dragon called “overmatch”.
    Attempting to gain overmatch with a threat that does not really exist yet.
    Anybody remember X-SAPI?

    • Yawnz says:

      According to who does the threat “not exist yet”? Guess the caveman shouldn’t have bothered to pick up a rock and tie it to a stick, because he “didn’t need it yet”.

  20. Cropduster says:

    And where is Knights in all this?
    Just stop already with this hunt for Bigfoot and adopt the KAC LMG.

    • Vic Delea says:

      Nothing new and nothing innovative from KAC. That or they’re fat and happy and just don’t care. I like the drive and determination that SIG has shown.

      • Nick says:

        The KAC LAMG is undoubtedly one of the best suited MG’s submitted, it’s far above the SAW and likely better than the Sig or GD entries as well. I have no clue that they submitted for the rifle though.

  21. Vic Delea says:

    There are two total failures here.

    First is FN’s total collapse with machine guns, nothing new to offer.

    Second, is Federal’s failure to produce viable ammo. It’s very surprising, and disappointing, that an old and renowned ammo manufacturer like Federal couldn’t step up. Looks like SIG is in a great position to fill that void.

  22. IAC says:

    In order to make a larger wound cavity with FMJ ammo, I can see going to a larger caliber.
    But is 6.8mm too large, considering weight & magazine capacity, etc ?
    I can’t see going with the caseless/telescoping ammo at all. It creates a large diameter case, again limiting mag capacity.
    The long R&D on this project seems rather long too.

  23. James says:

    The comments are always great on these articles. Twenty years ago they would have been arguing about how the 5.56 was a failure and we should go back to the m14 or the FAL we promised we’d adopt, and how the .280 British was the better choice.

    No dog in this, but I really don’t see this as a straight up M4/SAW replacement, so much as a bit of a backdoor to an “Armed Troop” arrangement.Sure,they could continue to go with 7.62 and a dog’s breakfast of different rifles and MG’s for this like they’ve done for the last 50 years ,or make some actual headway. We all know that 7.62 is simply outclassed by 6.5 CM and .260rem ,but they’ve spent a lot of time and money on the 6.8 projectiles and it’s likely to perform a bit better from shorter barrels than a hot loaded .260. When you look at this think about guys toting M14’s, M110k’s, and MK48’s- this has the the potential to be a lot lighter and flatter shooting . It’s not so much about matching the weight burden of 5.56 as not being as much of a burden as 7.62 while actually increasing capability over it.

    • DangerMouse says:

      7mm Murray for the win.

      I jest, but he does make good points. However those were before M855A1 and it’s improved penetration and fragmentation.

      I think 6.8 is probably the idea, but I am concerned that the recoil could split times, which is important in a fast moving gunfight with evading targets.

      I only know the Mars Inc rifle submission had recoil reducing properties. They say the Textron CT rifle also has reduced recoil for what it is. Anything else slinging .270WSM is going to kick pretty hard.

  24. Linz says:

    Perhaps the USD might be better spent in teaching & training the US military to effectively use what they have?

    • Kirk says:

      Waaaaaay too simple and sensible.

      I still want to see the articulation for what this is all supposed to accomplish, and how it will integrate into our current tactics/operational intent. Or, how it will integrate into our future intended tactics/operational intent.

      From my perspective, this looks like more of the same ill-thought, ill-conceived gadget-driven BS that got us the M14 and M16, when there were sensible, well-thought out and validated alternatives available. The people we have running these programs are living in their own little delusional worlds, and pay no real attention to the needs of the combat soldier. If they did, we wouldn’t have the M240 as our basic ground MG, and the 40mm HEDP round would have had improved replacements funded and fielded thirty years ago…