Tactical Tailor

The Time Is Now For Next Generation Squad Weapons

Over four years ago, then Army Chief of Staff GEN Mark Milley told Congress that the US Army needed a new family of squad weapons which would provide overmatch for their small arms. The resulting program, Next Generation Squad Weapons is ready to deliver on that requirement. Base on events earlier this week in Ukraine, this program must move forward, with all speed.

Any day now, the US Army may announce the winner to provide replacements for up to 120,000 of the M4 carbines and M249 Squad automatic weapons currently wielded by close combat forces. The Marine Corps is monitoring the program to consider making similar changes. This program doesn’t just concern weapons, but also the ammunition a Soldier fires. The Army specified a performance spec based around a government provided 6.8mm projectile which is similar to 270 WSM.

The contest is now down to two very different candidates. One is a low risk option; SIG SAUER’s weapons consist of a rifle and belt-fed machine gun which fire a hybrid-cased cartridge. Alternatively, True Velocity’s option* is a bullpup design with box-fed rifle and automatic rifle firing a composite-cased cartridge.

Both SIG and TV are ready to move forward, having announced commercial variants of both their ammunition and weapons. At this point, we are approaching COTS.

It’s time to stop the delays and announce the winner. The Army has already selected a Fire Control solution from Vortex Optics as well as let a contract to Winchester which operates the Lake City Army Ammunition Plant and will produce whichever type of 6.8mm cartridge is selected. The pieces are falling into place.

Procured using an Other Transaction Agreement, there is a lot of flexibility on how this moves forward, but it must. At this point, the ball is truly in the Army’s court. Even after the award, there’s still a lot work to be done but the sooner it begins the better. Not only does moving forward with this program get us on the way to achieving small arms overmatch, but it sends a serious message to Russia that US forces are equipping themselves with weapons to defeat their ground forces in combat, regardless of their personal armor. This may give Russia pause in their stated goal to restore the former republics of the USSR to Russian control. It will assuredly weigh on the psyche of their troops. Either is a psychological win.

*The US Army novated General Dynmanics’ NGSW OTA to Lone Star Future Weapons whixh is owned by True Velocity in June.

60 Responses to “The Time Is Now For Next Generation Squad Weapons”

  1. No1_Important says:

    I guess we’ll see if history repeats itself or wether big Army learned their lesson from the Vietnam war where a new revolutionary weapon made of “plastic” was dumped onto the battlefield with little training. Rather this time the ammunition might be plastic and the weapon using it will have a entirely new manual of arms over legacy weapons.

    Because of my biases I would choose the SIG Sauer offerings, then decide wether or not to filed the true velocity ammunition in the weapons down the road after being proven as reliable as conventional ammunition.

    • Lcon says:

      I think Sig will take it. Primarily as it’s manual of arms is so close to the M4A1 which will remain in service along side NGSW. Both weapon sets were tailored specifically to their team approaches of the bid, from the ammunition to the rifles. With the length and size demands Sig chose a 13 inch barrel demanding a hot load and tough bolt and chamber. TV chose a 19 inch barrel demanding a bullpup.

      That said we already have some degree of polymer cased ammo working into the system primarily replacing existing ammunition types. The marines are using.50bmg polymer cased ammo on M2s the Mg338 is supposedly packing polymer cased .338 Norma. It seems to be that in the not so distant future the conventional ammo types 9mm, 5.56,7.62 ecta ecta will in the long term slowly shift to polymer cases.

  2. Joe_K says:

    Russia: Wanting Russian places to be Russia again.
    The West: Autistic screeching.

    Remember, the same people who said Trump was literally Hitler, are trying to tell you we need to fight a war against Putin’s Russia. Never trust the News, the Brass, a Communist, a Banker, or a Carnie. Rules to live by.
    The Commies have had it in on Russia since the Tsar got cozy with Lincoln during the American Civil War.

    • SSD says:

      Most of those places don’t want to be Russia again. That’s the issue. You can believe in curbing Russian aggression and not want to go to war with them. We seemed to have kept them contained during the Cold War. Remember, Hitler just wanted to make Germany, Germany again when he annexed the Sudetenland.

    • J says:

      1938 Third Reich: Wanting German places to be German again.
      The West: Yeah that’s cool with us. Nothing to see here.

      But yeah sure we should all should definitely larp in the dimension where we join with the Russians to fight the Chinese!

      • James says:

        Man, I honestly see both sides. There’s truth in what Joe says , but there’s a definite parallel in the history. I can totally understand Russia seeing Georgia, Syria, Ukraine, and more recently Khazakstan and Belarusia as falling in the same OTPOR/color revolution model whether it’s entirely US originated or through the various western influence. That’s something I feel is largely left out or hidden- that whole 4th gen style culture war aspect of it all. To them both intellectually and realistically it doesn’t matter whether it’s Nato full on setting up shop or gov’ts flipping because of culture shifts (grassroots or astroturf). Honestly I’m much more concerned about secession here than there, and this whole discussion kinda backs that up.

      • Yawnz says:

        Yeah, because all of Czechoslovakia and Poland wanted to be German again, right? Also, “German again” in what context, the prior few decades before WW1 or the centuries beforehand when they weren’t German at all?

    • Adam says:

      Imagine believing any of this has anything to do with Russia’s burning desire for Ukraine and not exclusively for Putin’s domestic politician and economic posture. Ukraine is just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

      • SSD says:

        A confrontation over Ukraine was going to happen eventually. You can make the argument both ways over whether or not they should have been allowed to join NATO, but the Russian desire to reabsorb Ukraine hasn’t gone away and won’t until they accomplish their stated goal.

        • Joe_K says:

          The corrupt Ukrainian government may not want to, but there’s not a majority opinion amongst regular Ukrainian people about joining Russia again. Ukraine is more Russian than it is anything else. There was absolutely nothing wrong with Germany wanting its old territory back. If we lost a war and Florida and Louisiana were taken from us, would we not attempt to regain it again?

          • Welcome to troll town, what “war” occurred that caused modern Ukraine to be come independent from Russia/USSR?

            • James says:

              The most recent iteration was called Maidan, which more or less turned into the ongoing civil war. Before that … The Cold War, marked by proxy conflicts all over the globe.. Hard to remember that all of this started with the election of a pro Russian president. There’s plenty of blame to go around here.

              • That’s a lot of words to say no war occurred, for everyone else curious, a lazy search includes:

                On 21 January 1990, over 300,000 Ukrainians organized a human chain for Ukrainian independence between Kyiv and Lviv. Ukraine officially declared itself an independent country on 24 August 1991, when the communist Supreme Soviet (parliament) of Ukraine proclaimed that Ukraine would no longer follow the laws of USSR and only the laws of the Ukrainian SSR, de facto declaring Ukraine’s independence from the Soviet Union. On 1 December, voters approved a referendum formalizing independence from the Soviet Union. Over 90% of Ukrainian citizens voted for independence, with majorities in every region, including 56% in Crimea.

                • James says:

                  What you’re missing there is that Russia was also one of the first three republics that agreed to dissolve the USSR. You don’t really seem to grasp that war is way beyond fire and steel. There’s tons of relatively recent work on it, from guys like Lind, Poole, and Killcullen or you can read the Chinese white paper, sub to the Modern War Institue’s youtube channel. There’s a reason all of that exists- because ” there was no war!” You can call it edging, influence operations, operations other than war , or whatever, but its all war. The Soviets were a particularly early adopter, I’m betting ole Vlad even learned about it in school- Yuri Bezmenov gave a particularly good explanation back in the 90’s.

                  • Just take the L dude, apparently you study hard to get things wrong. You can’t even separate the cause of independence from later conflict. The war isn’t cold now, so have fun cheering that on or whatever….

                    • Paul J says:

                      So true.

                      In any case, changing your government without your approval isn’t something people want.

          • Mike says:

            The Sudetenland wasn’t part of Germany, it was part of Austria-Hungary. So… there was absolutely something wrong with Germany taking land that was never Germany’s. But hey, if you want to offer support for Nazi aggression, be my guest.

  3. mudd says:

    “Not only does moving forward with this program get us on the way to achieving small arms overmatch, but it sends a serious message to Russia that US forces are equipping themselves with weapons to defeat their ground forces in combat, regardless of their personal armor. This may give Russia pause in their stated goal to restore the former republics of the USSR to Russian control. It will assuredly weigh on the psyche of their troops. Either is a psychological win.”

    what kind of feeble minded tool wrote this?

    In an International Relations vein, you have NATO and defacto NATO-light heavily encroaching upon the sphere of influence of RU. A country whose mindset is so deeply embedded with the idea of buffer space (Napolean, Operation Barborassa, etc.) it is unreasonable to expect them to sit on their hands and not work in their interest. Suggesting small arms programs, of no import in the schema of operational factors, will shape strategic reasoning is laughable.

    We will see how the overly tech dependent, battery powered, under trained, warfighters fare without a robust expeditionary logistics train. A contest against peer-ish oposition and enjoying the EW/cyber smiting and less dependable enablers than they have enjoyed while hunting rock farmers in CENTCOM for the last 20 years.

    • SSD says:

      I wrote it. Your defeatist mentality is precisely why this is important. You’ve turned Russian troops into supermen and they aren’t.

      Russian troops have been fielded Ratnik body armor which they’ve been told will stop NATO small arms. They won’t stop 6.8.

    • Philip says:

      We can’t fare any worse than the Russians already would. They lack any semblance of functional logistical infrastructure… they would be unable to sustain “domestic” operations and support frontline mobilizations if it came down to it. The fact that it took several months to amass the forces sitting just outside of Ukraine right now is telling in itself.

      Russia is sorely lacking in the C2/ISR realm, possesses little domestic capability to manufacture and support drones or carry out EW (aside from gov’t hacker rings and troll farms), and still relies heavily on decrepit, aging Soviet-era legacy junk that wasn’t even that great when it was considered state of the art. The bulk of their forces are unmotivated conscripts toting dated and poorly maintained equipment.

      Calling Russia “near-peer” is almost an insult to the term.

      They are prideful and dedicated, sure…but they are also poor and behind the curve, simply desperate to prove their relevance on the 21st century stage.

      • SSD says:

        Oh, they’re really good at EW. They are really, really good at several things and are much more ruthless than western militaries. They just aren’t good at everything, especially sustained operations due to the logistics shortcomings you mentioned.

        They aren’t supermen and they aren’t pushovers. They do require your respect as a foe and if you don’t give it, they’ll make you pay for it.

    • Yawnz says:

      “Heavily encroaching” in what way? Because former Soviet nations would rather be NATO? Pure warmonger rhetoric.

  4. Uribe Gutierrez says:

    Was this a real post ?? Did the Russia cyber attack hit SSD ??

    Russia wasn’t this smart, were they ? They wouldn’t have planned their Ukraine invasion during a significant mid-stream change to our most basic / most important reason to be military ? I mean, we are not talking about inserting a new SAPI plate into an existing vest, or blending a new camo pattern into the mix, or offering up some APEL list approved items a service member can take into theater. When the breakdown happens, our service members become rifle-men, and their recruiter guaranteed trained specialty goes away in that moment in order to pull triggers and be lethal. Was Putin really that smart to pick this time to do this invasion? Really? Did he know the logistics trail of swapping ammo and front-end training would make us less ready ? In predictable U.S. military fielding, I am sure the E-3 guarding the main gate here in U.S. will be the 1st to be issued the new next gen weapon…while the 82nd ABN dude in free-NATO land still has his M4…you know, to waive at the Russian psyche.

    • SSD says:

      I see the Russian bots have shown up in “gaslight” mode.

      • Joe_K says:

        Or, alternatively, some of us GWOT vets aren’t keen on getting involved in more foreign wars. Especially ones where we have not been attacked. Most of us are burnt out on the Russian scare. Russian nuclear threat, Russian collusion, Russian hackers, Russian bots, Russian hypersonic middles. It’s old, it’s dumb, it’s gay.

        Maybe we could find ways to ally ourselves with Russia, own up to our own past foreign policy mistakes, and work towards a better future instead of being afraid and then spending billions of dollars to make our fears go away.

        • “Maybe we could find ways to ally ourselves with Russia” What the fuck is this shit? Russia invading because they want to reform the motherland isn’t exactly the same as the more abstract GWOT. Maybe we could have saved money/lives too allying with Nazi Germany, doesn’t mean it would be a good idea.

          No countries should be invading other countries with intent on territory expansion, this is not rocket science. We are only at this point because it seemed like no one cared what happened with Crimea.

          • James says:

            That’s a hard argument on allying with Germany, and one a fair number of WW2 generals made after the war. How many lives would be worth it ? The 20million Ukrainian farmers Stalin starved to death? The 80+million Chinese who had their livers eaten in town square? Of course none of that really matters now. I mean it’s not like we’re funding Nazis in Ukraine against a resurgent Russia- oh wait, well damn. Slow your roll and quit going all jingoistic. Russia has legit security concerns, and internal politics just like we do, not that anything any of us say matters. The War Party needs another war, and anyone who disagrees is a Russian bot.

            • I can’t even tell if you just suggested nations should have let Nazi Germany take over countries to save lives or what…

              Fuckn’ “legit security concerns” nonsense, No nation is actively planning to invade Russia to capture territory, end of story. Russia just thinks Ukrainian civil war is taking too long and would rather speed things up with their own invasion to help the “right” outcome.

              No sane person wants this war is the stupidest part about all of this. Every nation has plenty of their own problems, but Russia apparently thinks its already huge land mass is not enough, holding on to archaic memories of the old USSR “glory times”.

              Calling Ukrainian nationalists Nazis is pretty hilarious as if Russia is coming in to free all the supposedly repressed. Guess I’m a Nazi too since I don’t think Russia should be allowed to just invade countries when it feels like it. People trying to make words not mean anything anymore…I swear, you gonna give me a CRT speech next?

              • James says:

                Seriously. Man, go look up the AZOB battalion, then start doing some research from there. CRT is the furthest thing from my mind and in my honest opinion is exactly the kind of thing that grows out of earlier iterations. We’re not talking about Nazi because some lefty said so. Hell, go see if you can find any video on Forgotten Weapons recent attempt to get a book on the war in Ukraine published- you likely can’t because nobody would publish a book by a Nazi( I would love to have that book though). Think the closest you’ll get is his apology video” Ian’s really long day”

                • Oh I am already aware of AZOB, this is a dumb internet argument at this point, just letting other people know if someone brings up
                  -Russia ““legit security concerns”
                  -Calls Ukrainian nationalists Nazis

                  Then they are a Russian tool. It is hard to be anymore fascist than Russia invading Ukraine right this moment, conversation over.

        • SSD says:

          Putin approves this message.

          • Mike says:

            Putin wrote that message. Joe_K picked it up from a social media post that’s the product of a Russian information op.

    • Adam says:

      The Marines from 2/1 in Afghan all had suppressed HK M27s. We all know whoever deploys gets the latest kit.

  5. ray forest says:

    I love the idea but I believe in this case, in the words of the late Don Rumsfeld, you go to war with the army you have not the army you want. No need to rush it at this point. There is no way it makes it into production and is trained and fielded in time for this one. Not even close. I’ve watched the briefs on that optic and I’ve got my doubts about how much the average E2 is going to get out of it IF we bothered to train him to standard AS IF there were even time alotted to that. That optic has alot of promise but TRADOC is going to have to significantly rewrite BRM in BCT if they want new soldiers to fully use its capabilites. I know this isn’t slated to be issued to everyone in the beginning but I have alot of doubts about our ability to get it such a tech jump right. The Army still hasn’t completely embraced 3-22.9 6 years later. Nor are our NCO’s fully wrapped around its contents. With so much on the line and so much money out in question, I want it done right and done once.

    • SSD says:

      So you’d prefer to never modernize anything? Just in case?

      • James says:

        Kinda like the discussion I had with Ash Hess. His, hence sorta the Army’s,argument at the time was Red Dots should be the basic level of training, and we shouldn’t even worry about Irons despite them forcing people to focus on basics- that he simply couldn’t get people up to proficiency quickly enough on irons. No doubt FCU’s will get that first round hit( super important with reduced loads and extended ranges ) but it’s going to add some training to use it . Would love to see 9-hole style speed runs putting one against an acss 8x used by minimally trained people. Fairly sure the acss would be simpler and faster out to 800.

      • Seamus says:

        SSD, I think you are getting a little off base here.

        Ray Forest seems to be saying that if Russia vs Ukraine kicks off in the near future (which seems very likely at the moment) the NGSW will not be fielded in time. That is a factually correct statement.

        Moreover, the very last line in the paragraph he says, “I want it done right and done once.” That is clearly him agreeing to modernize just to do so intelligently and not in fits and starts. We have all been down this road of rapid changes and programs that are either canceled (XM8, ICC, ICSR, EFV) or were a disaster (UCP, GCV, OMFV, FCS, XM2001, XM1203).

        Having some healthy skepticism is completely reasonable when Big Army has a track record of rushing non-camouflage “camouflage” uniforms into service. So it is entirely reasonable to treat ALL decisions regarding billion dollar government contracts coming from people sitting in swivel chairs inside the puzzle palace on the Potomac as highly suspect.

        Additionally Ray has a few good points that some great updates to several ATPs and FMs that have not been fully implemented. The Army’s is objectively a massive bureaucratic beast and IMHO it is taking far too long to pivot toward INDOPACOM, Great Power Competition and LSCO. Add in the fact that the DOD and Army are perpetually distracted with a hundred tiny politically motivated initiatives unrelated to LSCO and it is a recipe for inaction and half measures.

        All-in-all I agree with your article. It is high time for the Army to poop or get off the pot on NGSW. 4 years to field a rifle and ammo is far too long and the wait (expense) better be worth it. But something tells me even if this new rifle is all it is hoped to be, the installation, facilities and ranges (SDZs) are not ready for this new round and we likely don’t have a new update to BRM or FM 3-22.9 waiting in the wings.

        SSD, Thanks for the many great articles and discussion points. Keep them coming.

        • SSD says:

          I’m still getting the “don’t modernize” vibe here guys. You’re never going to get a perfect solution right out of the chute. Every system is changed as it goes through OT&E and then throughout its life cycle.

          Here is the reality of NGSW. Is it perfect? No. But we aren’t going to get another opportunity like this for decades. We either adopt a 6.8-based solution and work on it, or we get nothing new, for a long time.

          The M4A1 is a pretty damned good gun but it took 30 years to get here after we initially adopted the M16. However, we are getting to the limits of that cartridge and weapon combination. A new 6.8 caliber offers a lot of new room for development.

      • Ray Forest says:

        Totally the opposite. I just don’t see the need to rush it if its not gonna make it this go around. Your post seemed to advocate go with it now, give us a choice now. They haven’t decided not out of laziness but because these things take time to get right and its not quite right yet. Im quite certain we will move heaven and earth to field the choice even without handling the training concerns I have. I don’t think we can pull off the training in the way that is necessary. 10% of the force will be trained to standard on that optic. 90% will not be for years and years. Of course Im ready to see somthing better, as long as its better.

  6. Ex11A says:

    Modernize at a faster rate, but do not send troops into battle as the Beta test of these new weapons. M855A1 penetrates a whole lot of things. I would much rather go into battle with an M4 and 855A1 than any of these untested weapons and ammo.

    it is unfortunate how many commenters are Russia appeasers or sympathizers just because Fox News told them that’s what’s cool now. What about when Putin comes after Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania since they used to be part of his “Russian Empire”? Are you going to let them be taken over to appease Putin? What about Poland?

    • SSD says:

      I don’t disagree with you, but I didn’t realize we were at war with Russia. By selecting a NGSW soliciting now, it can be ready when we are.

      As I mentioned before, should we never field new systems, just in case?

  7. mudd says:

    You know what people who plan operations, battles and campaigns think about new firearms.. they don’t.

    In a fraction of a second afterkeying up a green radio, or leaving a cell phone on, or designation by hobby grade drobe with a thermal.. or fifty other signature raising actions the Ukraine fighters can expect an artillery, rocket, and missile shampoo.

    We haven’t seen what modern high intensity conflict looks like. But pea shooters aren’t part of the equation.

  8. Patrick Sweeney says:

    Perhaps I’ve spent too much time in engineering, but we’re going to select a small arms system, adopt it, and then wring the bugs out of it?

    Would it not be smarter to buy enough of each to equip a Battalion each? then have them use it in regular training as if they were going to be rotated to a hot theater, for six months?

    next step: hand the busted remnants back to the manufactures, with the instructions: “After the next six-month cycle, we’ll buy the winner. Here are our complaints, fix it or lose it.”

    • Seamus says:

      EXACTLY!

      SSD is correct when he says to modernize. But modernization and high expectations are NOT mutually exclusive. Sure some people here are living in the past and flat out don’t want to modernize no matter what. But I don’t think that is most of us.

      But….after 4 years of NGSW spending millions of dollars and millions of rounds spent, this rifle and ammo better be out of the box awesome. The old DOD adage of “Buy now and improve later” is a wasteful strategy.

  9. Nattydreadbushdoc says:

    Reference LARPing, didn’t we join with Russia to defeat Hitler? Probably need to ID who the real threat is and focus on that, hint: it isn’t Russia.

    More gunz is better! Liking SIGs offering

    • SSD says:

      So World War Two is your answer? Interesting. Which country is attempting to annex sovereign nations right now?

      There’s more than one threat. It’s okay to acknowledge that.

      • Nattydreadbushdoc says:

        Not really sure I understand your comment?

        My guess is that we are pretty far apart on the Russia/Ukraine issue. I’m more aligned with Gen. Flynn. Russia has some legitimate security concerns in the region that we failed to address diplomatically and this is the result.

        I’m more concerned about the problems at home, our (southern border for example), and China, than I am about Russia/Ukraine.

        In any case I really enjoy the website; great work!

        Still rooting for SIG in the NGSW. Love the idea of increasing the range lethality of our guys through a new caliber and fire control system.

        • SSD says:

          You don’t deal with “legitimate security concerns” by invading a sovereign nation who has not initiated hostilities in the first place.

          Based on treaties between Ukraine and the West, we have a legitimate security concerns regarding what is happening there.

  10. Jon C. says:

    Good copy EG!

    WOLVERINES!!!

  11. Xerxes036 says:

    The Ukraine is a one party dictatorship with US Government backing Putin is no angel either theres no good guys here and theres certainly nothing to gain with our involvement as far as the NGSW itself I don’t see much of a net gain here. Guess that means I don’t wanna modernize………..;)

  12. bulldog76 says:

    i wonder though being the firearms historian I am if this program will go the way of the 276 Pedersen. We have millions upon millions upon millions of 5.56 in the system from 20 years of war and purely from an economic and logistical point of view, and with us, on the cusp of war with a near-peer, it would seem like choosing a new cartridge let alone a new rifle would seem illogical for the moment anyway.

    • James says:

      I don’t think it’s a problem, nor was it really one then. The Garand used different ammo than the 1919, BAR, and 03. All packaged differently . Those millions ( more likely Billions) of rounds of 5.56 would still be cycled through the system since we’re not talking about an immediate replacement of all 5.56 weapons. You’ll likely see guard units with M4’s and SAWs into the 2040’s and 50’s. It’s not a bad plan,and leaves an escape route should it fail.

      • Ian T says:

        Not just Guard. Basis of Issue Plan lays it out based on type of unit, rather than component, in addition to role of the individual.

        “Close Combat Forces,” with some minor variation, will be getting them no matter Active, Guard, Reserve.

        M4s & M249s will be around for quite some time, across all components.

  13. CAP says:

    Russia gave the world a masterclass in modern combined-arms today. Coordinated cyber attacks, cruise missiles, airstrikes, artillery, massive armored columns, airborne assaults. But yeah what really matters is what rifle round we shoot at them.