After a 65-year history with the M16/M4 rifle and the 5.56mm rifle cartridge, the US Army selected Sig Sauer’s XM5 rifle and XM250 Automatic Rifle as the next weapons for troops beginning in late 2023 is a true game-changer.
At the annual Special Operations Forces Industry Conference (SOFIC) held in Tampa this week, the New Hampshire-based gunmaker was on hand and talking about the evolution of the Army’s new weapon.
Sig Sauer President and CEO Ron Cohen spoke to the media on Wednesday and reiterated that the first weapons won’t be in soldiers’ hands until late next year.
“Fundamentally, they want to start deployment of the first unit around spring or summer of next year,” Cohen said to National Defense. “This will reshape all infantry warfare in a way that hasn’t changed since the early 1960s.”
Late last month, I wrote in these digital pages that the Army awarded a 10-year, $20.4 million contract to replace the venerable M4 rifle and the ammunition.
The XM5 and XM250 will use the new 6.8mm ammunition that Army officials say will increase its combat troops’ accuracy, range, and lethality. The Army has been searching for a replacement for the 5.56mm round that has been in use since the Vietnam war.
Brigadier General Larry Burris, the Soldier Lethality Cross-Functional Team director, said of the XM5/XM250, “This is revolutionary.” Each XM5/XM250 will be equipped with Sig Sauer’s suppressors, which will reduce harmful gas backflow, sound signature, and flash
“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,” he said.
The new XM5 and XM250 will at least initially replace the M4 in infantry, scout, combat engineer, and special operations units. While the M4 will continue to be used by the rest of the Army. The weapons will also be available for the other armed services to adopt as well as eventually be available for foreign military sales to the US allies.
“Both weapons provide significant capability improvements in accuracy, range, and overall lethality. They are lightweight, fire more lethal ammunition, mitigate recoil, provide improved barrel performance, and include integrated muzzle sound and flash reduction,” the Army said in a released statement when the contract was announced.
New Improved Optics Will Accompany Weapons
Both of the Army’s new weapons will feature the XM157 Fire Control optic, which is being made under a contract awarded to Vortex Optics subsidiary Sheltered Wings in January. According to Army officials, that contract will be worth $2.7 billion over the next 10 years, as they produce 250,000 optical units.
“The NGSW-FC system is a ruggedized fire control that increases accuracy and lethality for the Close Combat Force. It integrates a number of advanced technologies, including a variable magnification optic, backup etched reticle, laser rangefinder, ballistic calculator, atmospheric sensor suite, compass, Intra-Soldier Wireless, visible and infrared aiming lasers, and a digital display overlay,” the Army’s Cross-Functional Team-Soldier Lethality wrote in a press release.
Sig Sauer’s New 6.8mm Ammunition Far More Lethal And Increases Range
The new ammunition is why the weapons won’t be fielded until late 2023. The ammunition uses a hybrid-metallic casing of brass and steel, reducing its overall weight.
The Army will have enough ammunition to begin field-testing the weapons next year but is building a new facility at the Lake City Army Ammunition Plant in Missouri that should start producing ammunition in 2025 or 2026.
Steve Rose, executive vice president at Sig Sauer, said the ammunition is the key to the new weapons. “The ammunition is the technology. It is the leap forward in capability,” he said. “The guns, although it’s great to talk about them, they’re simply the vehicle to deliver the technology and enable the ammunition to shine.”
The 6.8mm ammunition will travel supersonically longer than the current 5.56mm ammunition, which will provide the troops with a more accurate and lethal round as well as a more controllable round than the current 7.62mm in the automatic weapons. According to Army officials, the 6.8mm round is optimal for close combat between 500 and 600 meters.
American combat soldiers will now have weapons to effectively engage enemy combatants that fire the 7.62mm ammunition at effective ranges that they can not do now. The M4 is an excellent weapon in close-quarters combat, especially in building clearing operations, due to its compact design. But at longer ranges, US troops were outgunned. The XM5 can now fill the gaps that were left by the M4.
Once these Sig Sauer weapons begin being fielded, the Army will be more accurate and lethal in close combat situations. It isn’t a slight improvement but a revolutionary one that will flip the balance of the battlefield in favor of US troops.
Steve Balestrieri is a 1945 National Security Columnist. He has served as a US Army Special Forces NCO and Warrant Officer before injuries forced his early separation. In addition to writing for 19fortyfive.com and another military news organization, he has covered the NFL for PatsFans.com for over 10 years. His work was regularly featured in the Millbury-Sutton Chronicle and Grafton News newspapers in Massachusetts.
Dan in spokane
May 21, 2022 at 1:09 am
The XM 250 seems like an objective improvement over the m249 and I really look forward to seeing how it develops… The XM5 I have serious doubts about. Unless it can punch through level IV body armor out to 300m or so we just have our Joe’s a bigger, heavier, harder recoiling weapon that 75% percent of the service don’t have the skill, training or range time to properly utilize the advantages it offers.
May 21, 2022 at 10:12 am
Thanks a lot Buddy…you mentioned everything I was going to say before I had the chance, though I have to admit yours sounded better than mine
Ashli Babbitt deserved that bullet
May 21, 2022 at 3:31 pm
.277 Fury has has a longer range and the same energy as 7.62 NATO. Level IV body armor isn’t a problem at all.
May 21, 2022 at 8:33 am
“true game changer”
“reshape all infantry warfare”
“this is revolutionary”
“leap forward in capability”
“It isn’t a slight improvement but a revolutionary one that will flip the balance of the battlefield in favor of US troops.”
Ain’t objective journalism great?
May 21, 2022 at 10:14 am
The xm250 is a General’s wet dream of ‘leaving his mark’ on the military. It is directly analogous to the Navy’s LCD and WILL result in unnecessary combat deaths.
Fact: the most significant challenge to combat troops is sufficient ammunition load-out, and a larger round means fewer rounds carried. And lots, LOTS of US troops have died because they ran out of ammunition and couldn’t be resupplied.
Fact: the military already has solutions to defeating body armor, longer ranges, etc, from the .308, to the .50, to mortars, artillery, 250 / 500 / 1000 / 2000 / 5000 bombs, all the way up to thermonuclear weapons.
May 22, 2022 at 7:44 am
Revolutionary. This is a huge step back to the Main Battle Rifle. With the suppressor on it is as long as a M14. And 80,000 PS chamber pressure? Your barrel life will be measured in months. Watch people shoot this. The recoil is substantial. I don’t know if you have noticed. But under Mark (Cross Dresser) Milley, the Army is going woke. And the cupcakes cannot handle this recoil.
May 23, 2022 at 5:33 am
Most certainly M14 2.0. Sig’s new ammo is going to become prohibitively expensive and the firearm’s design is far from revolutionary
July 30, 2022 at 1:29 am
This is all about the coming war with China. We are outgunned at the infantry level in both range and ability to pen their body armor. It’s a real shame this will not be issued in sufficient levels before the war starts.