SOF Week

NGSW Signifies an Evolution in Soldier Lethality

WASHINGTON –- The future Soldier will soon be significantly more lethal.

The Army recently announced that the Next Generation Squad Weapon, the XM5 rifle and XM250 light machine gun will replace the M4/M16 rifle and the 249 light machine gun, with some Soldiers expected to receive the weapons by the fourth quarter of 2023. New Hampshire-based weapons manufacturer Sig Sauer was awarded the contract.

The new weapon system will use the 6.8 mm family of ammunition instead of the 5.56 mm ammunition the M4/M16 utilized. The 6.8 mm has proven to outperform most modern 5.56mm and 7.62mm ammunition against a full array of targets.

“We should know that this is the first time in our lifetime – this is the first time in 65 years the Army will field a new weapon system of this nature, a rifle, an automatic rifle, a fire control system, and a new caliber family of ammunition,” said Brig. Gen. Larry Burris, the Soldier Lethality Cross-Functional Team director. “This is revolutionary.”

Army units that engage in close-quarters combat will be the first to receive the weapons including those with 11B infantrymen, 19D cavalry scouts,12B combat engineers, 68W medics, and 13F forward observers.

According to Brig. Gen. William M. Boruff, the program executive officer in the Joint Program Executive Office, the course of action to support readiness with the new ammunition is going to be carried out through a combined effort of the industrial base at Sig Sauer and the Lake City Ammunition Plant.

“Now, consider preparing a new weapon fielding starting with absolutely zero inventory and the industrial base being established. It’s daunting,” Boruff said.

Despite starting from the ground up the Lake City Army Ammunition Plant has actively began producing rounds during the prototyping process and will continue to provide ammunition in the future.

In 1964, before the Army entered the Vietnam conflict, the M16A1 rile was introduced into the service’s weapons rotation. It was a significant improvement on the M14 rifle, and it became the standard service rifle for Soldiers.

“The Next Generation Squad Weapon and ammunition will provide an immense increase in the capability for the close-combat force,” said Brig. William Boruff, program executive officer for armaments and ammunition.

In 2017, the Small Arms Ammunition Configuration Study identified capability gaps, and in 2018, the Next Generation Squad Weapon program was established to counter and defeat emerging protected and unprotected threats.

“We are here to establish overmatch against near-peer adversaries, and that is more urgent and relevant today than any time in recent history,” Burris said. “We are one giant step closer to achieving overmatch against global adversaries and threats that emerge on the battlefield of today and tomorrow.”

During the prototyping phase, the NGSW outperformed the M4 and M249 at all ranges, and leaders said that the maximum effective ranges will be validated during another testing phase.

Burris said that with the help of industry partners, the Army accelerated through an acquisition process that normally takes eight to 10 years to complete in only 27 months.

More than 20,000 hours of user feedback from about 1,000 Soldiers were collected during 18 Soldier touch points and more than 100 technical tests have shaped the design of the NGSW system. The Army will continue to improve on the weapon systems by combining new technology while decreasing size, weight, power and cost.

“This is a process driven by data and shaped by the user, the Soldier who will ultimately benefit on the battlefield,” Burris said. “The Soldier has never seen this full suite of capabilities in one integrated system.”

“We committed to kitting the Soldier and the squad as an integrated combat platform in order to introduce and enhance capabilities holistically. We are committed to creating an architecture that facilitates technology growth and capability integration across those platforms,” Burris added.

The XM5, which weighs about two pounds heavier than the M4, and the XM250, which is about four pounds lighter, are still in their prototype phase and may change slightly by the time it is out for mass production. The XM5 weighs 8.38 pounds and 9.84 with the suppressor. The XM250 weighs 13 pounds with a bipod and 14.5 with the suppressor.

Currently the XM5 basic combat load is seven, 20-round magazines, which weighs 9.8 pounds. For the XM250 the basic combat load is four 100-round pouches, at 27.1 pounds. For comparison: the M4 carbine combat load, which is seven 30-round magazines, weighs 7.4 pounds, and the M249 light machine gun combat load, which is three 200-round pouches, weighs 20.8 pounds.

The overall length of the weapons with suppressors attached are 36 inches long for the XM5 and 41.87 inches long for the XM250. The barrel of the XM5 is 15.3 inches long and the XM250 is 17.5 inches long. The barrel on the XM250 is also not considered a quick-change barrel like the M249.

“We are facilitating the rapid acquisitions of increased capabilities to enhance the ability of the Soldier and the squad to fight, win, and survive on the modern battlefield,” Burris said.

By SSG Michael Reinsch, Army News Service

42 Responses to “NGSW Signifies an Evolution in Soldier Lethality”

  1. xdarrows says:

    If they can’t hit what they’re aiming at, because the Army doesn’t care about Marksmanship, does it matter?

  2. No1_Important says:

    Looks like big ARMY is still waiting on optics for the M250 and forgot to tell Joe there, you turn the gun sideways to use the offset irons not your head…

  3. Skeptical says:

    I still think a system designed around 6ARC is a better fit

    • SSD says:

      6 ARC is really 6 Grendel with all of the issues associated. It’s too much cartridge for an AR15 platform and has magazine issues.

  4. Bryan says:

    They’ll be lethal, if they ever get to the engagement area with a SAW-weight rifle.

    • Yawnz says:

      The 249 doesn’t weight less than 10 pounds loaded.

      • Bryan says:

        Xm5 plus suppressor = 9.84 lbs + 1 mag = 11.24 + optic 2.5 lbs + sling 1lb = 13.74
        M249=17 lbs empty

        9.8 lbs gets you 140 rds, which is right back to an M14 load.

        • Yawnz says:

          So I’m still right, nevermind that the M14 didn’t come with a suppressor or an optic. Even then, you’re still assuming that the military is going to issue those with the rifle as standard.

          • SSD says:

            This isn’t an M14 and it’s not an M4. It’s something else. You’ve got to go through the stages of grief and come to grips with the fact that the future has arrived.

  5. This is a waste of money. Most engagements will still take place within 300 yards. Why are we adopting a rifle designed to engage targets at 600 yards? Our military is supposedly preparing for an era of great power competition. Why are we adopting a non-NATO standard cartridge? We will have to work with our NATO allies but will not be able to use the same ammunition.

    • Yawnz says:

      Because in Afghanistan, weapons chambered in 7.62 x 54R (i.e. the PKM) were used as effective standoff weapons.

      I could care less about NATO, they’ve outlived their usefulness. My main concern is inter-service logistics. Why is the Army adopting both a new weapon and round while the other services aren’t? Far as I’m concerned, this should be a category of equipment that should be adopted by every branch of the military.

      • SSD says:

        The other services are monitoring the program.

        • Tom says:

          If the other branches have any sense they’ll go for the True Velocity submission.

          • Lcon says:

            True Velocity lost. They offered an interesting ammunition concept that seems like it might filter to some legacy weapons. But the weapons weren’t there strong point. Sig offered a proper Squad automatic weapon in the right weight point and a rifle that is a step up from M4 without trading off ergonomics. The other services if they do and likely they will adopt 6.8 will follow the Army. Primarily as the Army has already done the paperwork. It would be a huge hassle for the Marines to try and rerun the same competition then have to justify and spend their own budget to create the industry base to support TV’s ammunition in the same caliber and role as the Army’s. Congress would roast generals alive.

      • Bob says:

        If anything the current conflict in Ukraine is demonstrating exactly why NATO is useful.

      • Bob says:

        If you’re being shot at with a PKM, why aren’t you shooting back with an M240?

        • SSD says:

          Because Squads don’t have M240s.

          • Gingergrunt says:

            I guess I’m just wondering why the solution wasn’t to develop lightweight MGs and DMRs and add them at the squad level, rather than issue every person an M5.

      • The 6.8×51 will not give our Soldiers overmatch on the battlefield just less ammunition and a heavier load. The enemy will just attack us with a 12.7mm machine gun instead of a 7.62×54 machine gun. A 40mm missile like the Raytheon pike missile with airburst might help but it will be tactics, combined arms or multi-domain effects, and working closely with our allies that will give us overmatch.

        • Lcon says:

          Questionable logic. The PK series is 17 pounds of weapon without belts. The lightest fifty caliber Mg I know of is 33 pounds empty and it wasn’t adopted because it was just impractical at best. Second lightest is 55 pounds empty. Out side of those it’s a Anti Material rifle at about 30 pounds empty. So well a Fifty will out range it won’t maneuver very well. It’s basically a mounted gun. The 6.8x51mm was chosen by the army to allow the combination of both range and manouver to allow for tactics and combined arms. The biggest aspect of the program isn’t the guns or ammo but the XM157 sight. It’s not just a 1-8 LPVO but it’s got a range finder ballistic computer and it can send data. Meaning it can send imagery and other data up the chain to the other guys with the bigger guns. That’s the Overmatch. You fire a 12.7 to pin down the 6.8. 6.8 calls in a 155.

  6. SGT Rock says:

    Hmm… seems like a huge mistake in going backwards to 20 round mags, unless it’s a DMR. I thought we learned that lesson from combat experiences during Viet Nam.

    • Lcon says:

      The 6.8 does fit 25 round magazines it’s just that those are a bit big for magazine pouches.

  7. Mike says:

    Good review of the XM5 by “Garand Thumb”:

    https://youtu.be/GEf3ZlUkOCg

    (I hope it’s OK to post a link).

    Based on previous video (Task & Purpose, for example) it seemed the weapon had a lot of recoil impulse; this reviewer says recoil is relatively light, and he doesn’t seem all that affected by it.

    • Cuvie says:

      GT seems to be shooting full brass cased ammo with lighter loads in a lot of those shots where he’s shooting rapidly because you can see some of the cartridges don’t have the steel caps on the ends like the military ammunition.

      Ammo availability at the time the video was filmed was very limited so he was probably shooting whatever he could get.

      • Mike says:

        Good point; he acknowledges that he wasn’t able to get military ammo. I guess that also means that the weapon cycles with lower-pressure ammo, though. He didn’t mention any misfeeds.

  8. RFfromNOVA says:

    I have been following all of your articles on this. Am I the only one who feels like we’re being conned here? We keep getting told a new lighter more capable weapon system is here. Then we find out the weapon (XM5) is HEAVIER. We were told this new wiz bang ammo was lighter and we find out the combat load is reduced to greater weight (140 rounds down from 210 and 9.8lbs UP from 7.4). And completely agree with previous comments regarding NATO standard ammo. I’m all for forging our own path, but what money has been spent to ensure industry can create the BILLIONS of rounds that will be needed? We’ve been producing 5.56 for 6 decades. Once the shooting starts we’ll be switching back to it pdq without some massive investment I’ve heard nothing about.

    • SSD says:

      The original plan was to field 7.62 weapons. This is a far cry more capable than that. You would have gotten increased weight without the increase in range and energy. Until we develop a plasma rifle, the only way to get what they wanted was to increase weight. And who knows what those batteries will weigh.

      Go read up on why the M1 Garand was .30-06 instead of .270 Pedersen. You make a great argument for failing to modernize.

      As far as the ammo, and your concern over NATO standardization. The same whining happened when 5.56 was adopted by the US. “You just talked us into standardizing 7.62,” they said. But as you point out, it’s the standard. NATO is looking East and seeing what 6.8 promises. They are interested.

      • Bryan says:

        This is great, but they could have spiraled in a Geissele trigger and a free float rail ten years ago. That would have made everyone more “lethal”. Instead of the low-hanging fruit, they went with another program that will takes years to make it out.

        • SSD says:

          Hey, they got that stuff. You’ve just got to go to selection.

          • Bryan says:

            That really helps the majority of people that fight the Army’s wars.

            But hey, forget those guys right? What do the 100,000 soldiers of the Close Combat component need with a more accurate rifle? Everyone should just go to selection.

  9. Vet says:

    Isn’t some of the data in the article wrong? The XM5 barrel is 13” not 15.3” as mentioned?

  10. Chris says:

    Sig was never good at shedding weight of its rifles. Both 516 & mcx are 1 lb heavier than what they need to be. I believe other manufacturers will come up with 7 pound civilian versions quickly.

  11. yahoo says:

    combat arms now has a significant increase in the weight of the primary arm and reduced basic load.

    I don’t predict any better hit probability on a dynamic two-way range, jut reduced suppressive fire and chasing the mover hit probability due to increased recoil and less rounds available.

    How are the Ukrainians doing in SUT with legacy 5.45 & 7.62 x39…

  12. Seamus says:

    PREDICTIONS:

    1) XM5 and XM250 fielding will slowly move beyond the “Close Combat Force” (AKA Rifle PLT) no reason for 98% of the rifle company to have 6.8 ammo and the company supply sergeant and XO be the only ones in the company with M4s. Logistically silly. I foresee at first a complete fielding of these weapons to everyone in the Infantry / Combined Arms Companies and eventually everyone in the Infantry Battalion. But echelons above BN & BDE likely still have M4A1s.

    2) All services will adopt these weapons to some degree just like MHS. Likely not full fleet but some units to some degree.

    3) In about 10 years Big Army will not want to spend the money to replace old M4A1 with new production (legacy) rifles and will want a “modern” M4 sized rifle with same ergonomics and operating system as XM5 (for seamless training and “interoperability”) Hence adoption of MCX Virtus 2.0 with side charging handle etc for the support troops.

    We are replicating the relationship between the M1 Garand and the M1 Carbine.

  13. Bob says:

    This weapon looks like it’ll be pretty bulky for helicopter crewmen, armor crewmen, truck drivers, etc…

    Will there be a carbine version for people who work in cramped spaces?

    • As long as the military asks for it, SIG already has been playing with shorty variants https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OSE1VftyHYo

    • SSD says:

      None of them are close combat forces.

    • Lcon says:

      Not really, With the suppressor removed stock at full extension it’s about an inch and a quarter longer than M4 with its stock at full extension. However unlike M4 XM5’s stock folds. So with Suppressor and folding you basically are still M4 sized package. The XM250 is about 1.12 inches longer with suppressor than M249 (nonpara version). Sig farther is offering the army a Folding stock option but for length the Army thus far only has the fixed. So if you can fit an M4 or an M249 in it you can fit an XM5 or XM250.

  14. GZ says:

    And apart from the facts regarding weight, range, price i see nobody talking about doctrine. The Infantry Rifle Platoon and company will need a way new structure and doctrinal application. We Hungarians use 7.62 machine guns in each fire team and we do not have a weapons Squad.

    US Army infantry units were utilizing 6 SAW`s in 3 squad, and 2 240B for the weapons squad. With the new platform this have to be changed because it is not logical to continue that way. That implies doctrine change in the infantry tactics as well. If a tactical level commander wants to have an effective base of fire, he have to dismantle his squad, create assault elements with less firepower than before, and create a temporary Weapons squad. I am very curious what kind of implications it will have on the tactical level.