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RIP, M4 Carbine: How Sig Sauer Won the Big NGSW Gun Contract

Sig Sauer photo of XM5 and XM250 rifles. Image Credit: Industry Handout.
Sig Sauer photo of XM5 and XM250 rifles.

United States Army Awards NGSW Contract to Sig Sauer – Earlier this week, the United States Army announced that it had selected Sig Sauer to produce the Next Generation Squad Weapons (NGSW), which will eventually replace the legacy M4 carbine and M249 light machine gun. Following a rigorous 27-month prototyping and evaluation period, the Army awarded Sig Sauer, Inc. a 10-year firm-fixed-price follow-on production contract to manufacture and deliver two NGSW variants.

The U.S. Army had sought to replace the legacy small arms with a new weapon that could serve as both the main battle rifle and squad automatic weapon – both chambered in the newly developed 6.8x43mm Remington Special Purpose Cartridge (6.8 SPC).

The new ammunition, which was developed by Remington Arms in collaboration with members of the United States Army Marksman Unit and the United States Special Operations Command, will serve as a replacement to the 5.56 NATO cartridge. The 6.9 SPC is based on the .30 Remington cartridge and is essentially “midway” between the 5.56x45mm NATO and the 7.62x51mm NATO in bore diameter. However, it still uses the same diameter bullet as the .270 Winchester hunting cartridge.

In January, the Army awarded Winchester, the largest manufacturer of small-caliber ammunition for the U.S. military, a $20 million in cost-plus and firm-fixed-price contract to produce the 6.8mm ammunition for the NGSW.

Multiple Choices

The Army had been conducting tests of the three previously selected weapons from General Dynamics Ordnance, Sig Sauer, and Textron Systems. Each of the prototypes differed in design, yet all three were chambered for the aforementioned 6.8mm round. The goal of the NGSW was to find a single weapon that could replace the two legacy platforms with an adaptable, modular firearm.

The Sig Sauer design was based on its MCX firearms line. The rifle version has a 13-inch barrel and thus is as compact as the M4 Carbine it will replace, while the machine gun version is equipped with a 16-inch heavy barrel and can also be belt-fed to provide suppressing fire. Both feature folding stock capability to allow for easier storage and transport. The Sig Sauer’s platform is also similar enough to the legacy systems that soldiers wouldn’t need additional training.

“The U.S. Army is taking a bold step toward command of the 21st century battlefield and SIG SAUER is immensely proud to be the selected provider for this historic revolution in infantry weapons,” said Ron Cohen, president and CEO of Sig Sauer, Inc.

“The fielding of the Sig Sauer Next Generation Squad Weapons System will forever change the dynamic of military engagement for Americas warfighters with American innovation and manufacturing,” Cohen continued. “We commend U.S. Army leadership for having the vision to undertake this historic procurement process to deliver a transformational weapon system to our warfighters. This award is the culmination of a successful collaboration between Sig Sauer and the U.S. Army, and we look forward to the continuing partnership.”

End of the Line for the M16 Series

The XM5 rifle will serve as a replacement to the M4, which was introduced in 1994 and is essentially a shorter and lighter variant of the M16A2 assault rifle. The United States Air Force had first adopted the AR-15, later designated the M16, in 1963. The United States Army and United States Marine Corps began to issue the M16 in 1966 to units heading to Vietnam, where it had a rocky start.

However, in 1969, the improved M16A1 replaced the M14 to become the U.S. military’s standard service rifle. It went on to become the longest continuously serving rifle in U.S. military history.

The Army will also “cut out” the SAW – as the XM250 automatic replacement will take on the role that has been served since 1984 by the M249 light machine gun, formerly designated as the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW)

The value of the initial delivery order for the contract is $20.4 million for weapons and ammunition that will undergo testing, the Army also announced. The contract also covers accessories, spare parts, and contractor support. It will also provide other Department of Defense (DoD) services, and potentially, Foreign Military Sales (FMS) countries the opportunity to purchase the newly selected NGSW weapons.

Now a Senior Editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military hardware, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes.

Written By

Expert Biography: A Senior Editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,000 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.