The US Army’s Next Generation Squad Weapon (NGSW), will soon begin its next round of testing. The US Army is looking to replace the M4 Carbine, M249 SAW, and M240 machine gun as well as the 5.56x45mm and 7.62x51mm rounds with a more lethal cartridge with a longer range. The US Army wants infantry and Special Operations units to field a new weapon starting in 2023.
NGSW: A History
The NGSW program began in 2017 after the military decided through lessons learned from U.S. troops in combat in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and other places that the 5.56 cartridge needed to be replaced as it was too light, especially with the improvements made by our adversaries in body armor protection.
The amount of equipment and associated weight that each operator carries into battle is ever-increasing. Therefore, having an advanced weapons system that is much lighter is a definite consideration.
The requirements for the replacement NGSW Rifle were simple, it had to fire the improved 6.8mm ammunition projectile.
NGSW Automatic Rifle Requirements:
- A maximum length of 35 inches
- A maximum mass of 12 pounds including attachments
- Ability to suppress targets from 3,900 ft (1,200 m), and ability to accurately fire on targets 2,000 ft (610 m) away.
- Able to utilize the Small Arms fire-control system
Two arms manufacturers, True Velocity (acquired LoneStar Future Weapons), and Sig Sauer, Inc., are taking part in the program. Three other weapons designs from Textron Systems, FN-America, and PCP Tactical were dropped from the program between September 2019 and November 2021. The program is expected to cost $10 million in the first year, and $150 million in the next.
The True Velocity/General Dynamics/Beretta option is a partnership between these three companies which has General Dynamics designing the weapon. The design NGSW prototypes are bullpup designs, with the magazines loaded behind the trigger group presents a very compact platform. The General Dynamics’ bullpup design benefits from a relatively long barrel length, higher muzzle velocities, and increased range.
The beauty in this design is the simplicity as the rifle and squad automatic rifle are essentially the same design. The differences are minimal, but the automatic rifle comes with a bipod. Unlike the current light machine guns in the inventory, this weapon will fire magazines. The bullpup design shortens the overall length of the weapon while providing much better balance for the shooter, but it does require retraining for the troops, as bullpups tend to handle differently.
The video below shows troops training with the weapons.
The new 6.8mm TVCM composite-cased cartridge used in the True Velocity bid is being designed and manufactured by Beretta, while Delta P Design is manufacturing the suppressor for their weapon.
True Velocity’s 6.8mm case design’s most impressive feature of its ammo is that much of the Army’s inventory of existing weapons can still be utilized with a simple barrel change. Watch the YouTube video below:
The design by SIG Sauer for the NGSW Rifle is essentially a variant of their existing MCX rifle while the SIG Sauer Lightweight Belt-Fed Machine gun is in their new 6.8x51mm hybrid round. The Army wants the troops to be carrying lighter ammunition, and SIG utilizes a hybrid case where part of the cartridge is a composite material and part brass. Like all SIG Sauer products, they both are extremely well-made.
SIG Sauer’s rifle is a short-stroke, gas piston system that eliminates the need for a receiver extension and buffer tube. The weapon comes with a 13-inch barrel and a fully collapsing butt-stock that folds to the side. The ergonomic controls are very similar to that of the M4 carbine, so very little retraining is required. However, the recoil is similar to that of firing a 7.62mm, and it is heavier than a standard M4.
The SIG LMG is much lighter than the SAW it is replacing. An internal recoil buffer cuts the recoil down to a bare minimum and the weapon is very easy to control. As with contemporary modern machine guns, it is a belt-fed, air-cooled weapon that fires from the open bolt and features a side-loading design. This allows for the weapon to have top-mounted optics with minimal interference when loading the weapon. It also features a quick detachable suppressor and M4-like ergonomic controls.
With pros and cons for each design, the Army has a difficult decision to make. The winner of the competition will get a contract for eight years and like every other weapon competition will present a spirited debate on both sides. The winner is to be announced later this year.
Steve Balestrieri is a 1945 National Security Columnist. He has served as a US Special Forces NCO and Warrant Officer before injuries forced his early separation. In addition to writing for 1945, he covers the NFL for PatsFans.com and his work was regularly featured in the Millbury-Sutton Chronicle and Grafton News newspapers in Massachusetts.