The U.S. 75th Ranger Regiment, Green Berets and other U.S. special operations ground forces will receive the conventional Army’s Next Generation Squad Weapons (NGSW).
“We are an enthusiastic supporter of the Army’s 6.8mm Next Generation Squad Weapons,” Col. Joel Babbitt, of Program Executive Officer Special Operations Forces Warrior, told Military.com recently. “We expect there will be Next Generation Squad Weapons in our formations as soon as we can receive them via fielding.”
The US Army is in the final stages of evaluating NGSW prototypes. They are being developed by General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems Inc., Textron Systems and Sig Sauer Inc.
The weapons’ purpose is to replace the 5.56mm M4A1 carbine and the M249 squad automatic weapon in infantry and other close-combat units.
If there’s no issues and delays, the Army modernization officials will choose both weapon replacements, hopefully from the same company, by Q1 of 2022, and then they will already be delivered to troops a year later.
PEO SOF Warrior is working with the Army to become part of the NGSW fielding plan at some point over the five-year, future-year defense plan, Babbitt said.
The US Special Operations Forces Command hasn’t always approved of conventional Army weapons programs. An example is the XM25 Counter-Defilade Target Engagement System, which was known as the Punisher.
During an operational assessment, elements of 75th Ranger Regiment refused to take XM25 with them for a raid on a fortified enemy compound in Afghanistan, according to unnamed sources.
The Rangers found the XM25 too heavy and were also concerned that the limited basic load of 25mm rounds was not enough to justify taking an M4A1 carbine out of the mission.
It appears, however, that the NGSW has involved special operations forces in all evaluations.
“Our operators have been in from the beginning on the soldier touch points, and we have been working very closely with [Program Executive Office] Soldier all along,” Babbitt said. “Our operators … are providing feedback to help make the weapons better.”
The NGSW’s auto rifle variant is so promising that PEO SOF Warrior may not go forward with a separate effort to develop a light machine gun chambered for 6.5mm Creedmoor, he added.
“We have currently put our 6.5mm Creedmoor lightweight machine gun on hold pending the results of the Next Generation Squad Weapon,” Babbitt said.
The Next Generation Squad Weapons (NGSW) Program is an iterative, prototyping effort, using Middle Tier Acquisition Authority, to develop squad-level lethality to combat proliferating threats, informed by Soldiers to be operationally relevant.
The NGSW prototyping effort consists of the Rifle (NGSW-R) and Automatic Rifle (NGSW-AR) with a common 6.8mm cartridge and Fire Control (NGSW-FC) between the two systems.
The first prototype test is supposed to have ran in spring 2020, but there is no information on the matter, and it will serve as a “diagnostic test” to inform the vendors on their current performance and feed another design iteration. The second prototype test, beginning in January 2021, will inform a selection team on the performance of these systems.
Though the specifics are competition sensitive, the NGSW-R, NGSW-AR, NGSW-FC, and the 6.8mm ammunition will be compatible with all the currently fielded enablers, while providing an open Adaptive Soldier Architecture (ASA) to integrate with developing enabler programs.
The three contractors selected in 2019 — Sig Sauer, General Dynamics-OTS and Textron Systems — are expected to deliver 38 prototype rifles and 28 prototype automatic rifles along with 660,000 rounds of ammunition for testing and soldier evaluations next year, according to budget documents.
In total, over the next five years, the Army plans to buy a mix of more than 120,000 new light machine guns and rifles.
In total, the procurement numbers show that only around a quarter of the 485,000 active-duty soldiers might get a chance to carry the weapon.
At the same time, the service is developing an advanced fire control system for the new 6.8mm rifle and automatic rifle. It’s intended to go far beyond optics currently used by soldiers on their light carbines and rifles.
The Army wants the unit to include a variable-powered optic for short and long range shooting, an integrated range finder, ballistic calculator and digital display capable of providing an adjusted aim point, according to budget documents.
And procurement for those fire control systems give a hint at how quickly the inventory of NGSW will accumulate. They want to buy nearly 4,000 next fiscal year, doubling that number for 2023 and 2024 until by fiscal year 2025 they’ve purchased a total of 121,773.
Army officials are asking for $111 million to continue prototyping the NGSW in the Fiscal Year 2021 budget request. The initial funding that the program received back in Fiscal Year 2020 was for $35.8, so for 2021 the Army is asking more than twice the amount, since it appears to be a promising program.
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