US Army to Replace the M4 & SAW With NGSW System Within 2 Years

Image by GD-OTS.

The US Army is looking at the NGSW system to replace both the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW) and the M16/M4/carbine used by close combat forces with a new weapon within two years.

Known as the Next Generation Squad Weapon, it finished its first prototype test in September. The test included prototypes from Sig Sauer, Textron Systems, and General Dynamics Ordnance.

The M4 Carbine has served with the US for almost 30 years.
The M4 Carbine has served with the US for almost 30 years.

The Army is also working with L3 Technologies and Vortex Optics to develop fire control for the weapon.

Sig Sauer turned in a design that looks much like a traditional assault rifle. General Dynamics is using a bullpup design that results in a shorter length weapon by including the magazine feed in the stock. Textron’s offering contains a unique cartridge – a cased telescope item which reduces weight by having the projectile inside the casing.

40 mm telescoped cased ammunition. Image by Reise Reise CC BY-SA 4.0
40 mm telescoped cased ammunition. Image by Reise Reise CC BY-SA 4.0

In April, the three companies each provided 15 rifles, 15 automatic rifles and 180,000 cartridges which use the mandated 6.8mm projectile.

The government chose the 6.8mm projectile based on decades of testing and evaluation. They found that 5.6mm projectiles performed inadequately at mid-ranges and the current 7.62mm was not as effective as the 6.8mm projectile. The new size also saves weight compared to current caliber ammunition.

6.8 mm cartridge (left) next to a 5.56×45 mm NATO cartridge. Image by The38superdude CC BY-SA 3.0
6.8 mm cartridge (left) next to a 5.56×45 mm NATO cartridge. Image by The38superdude CC BY-SA 3.0

Each company’s rifle and automatic rifle tested will use the same rounds which will make both weapons effective beyond the 600m mark current light caliber weapons are effective to.

The companies have six months from the September testing to prepare for the next prototype test which is scheduled to occur in February.

SIG SAUER NSGW-AR (left) and NSGW-R. Image by SIG SAUER.
SIG SAUER NSGW-AR (left) and NSGW-R. Image by SIG SAUER.

Major Wyatt Ottmar, project officer over NGSW for the Soldier Lethality CFT, noted that the Sig Sauer weapon used ammunition with steel lower and brass upper cartridges. This was done to reduce weight.

A contract for the new weapons is expected to be awarded to one of the three companies in the testing during the next fiscal year. The weapons should then be in the field beginning in the fourth quarter of 2022 meaning between August and October of 2022. They will be provided to Infantry, Stryker, and Armor Brigade Combat Teams.

Textron NGSW-AR (top) and the Textron NGSW-R 6.8 mm rifles. Image by Textron Systems.
Textron NGSW-AR (top) and the Textron NGSW-R 6.8 mm rifles. Image by Textron Systems.

In the end, all close combat teams will switch to the new weapon. Special forces, infantry, combat engineers, and scouts will all be using the new weapon.

The fire control units are expected to be ready six months before the final weapon in order to give the companies a chance to integrate the optic with the gun.

General Dynamics placed the magazine and the bolt-carrier group behind the pistol grip in their bullpup design. This type of rifle has been popular around the world but has never caught on in the US. The design allows the rifle to be more compact without sacrificing barrel length. A spokesperson from GD said they had received good feedback from users.

General Dynamics’ RM277 NGSW-AR and NGSW-R prototypes. Image by GD-OTS.
General Dynamics’ RM277 NGSW-AR and NGSW-R prototypes. Image by GD-OTS.

GD worked with Beretta USA to develop the weapon and Delta P Design to develop the silencer.

Textron’s offering is built around their case-telescoped ammunition. The ammo uses a plastic casing rather than metal to keep weight down.

6.8 TVCM polymer casing round for the General Dynamics RM277. Image by True Velocity
6.8 TVCM polymer casing round for the General Dynamics RM277. Image by True Velocity

Textron worked with Heckler & Koch in developing the weapon and Lewis Machine & Tool Company to develop the silencer.

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Sig Sauer developed the most traditional looking of the three offerings. They are quick to point out that they are the only company of the three that developed the entire weapon in-house. The gun, the silencer, the ammo, the accessories are all designed and developed by Sig Sauer.