The US Army will be holding a second Industry Day for its Next Generation Squad Automatic Rifle program, which seeks to replace the M249 light machine gun with a new longer-ranged, lower signature automatic rifle. The Industry Day will be held at Picatinny Arsenal on December 12th and 13th. The Army is also accepting white papers concerning NGSAR by January 16th, 2018. The updated NGSAR listing is available here.
From the special notice released with Amendment 1 of the NGSAR listing on FBO, we know that the US Army is looking for a completely transformative development in small arms. Though intended as a replacement for the M249, the NGSAR, as stated in the notice, will “combined the firepower and range of a machine gun with the precision and ergonomics of a carbine” to achieve “overmatch” by “suppressing all threats to a range of 1200 meters”, all in a package that is supposed to weigh 12 pounds or less (unloaded), with both optic and “always on” suppressor. At the same time, the NGSAR must fire lightweight ammunition that is 20-50% lighter than comparable conventional ammunition of the same caliber. In other documents included in the solicitation’s amendments, it is revealed that although the NGSAR is primarily intended to replace the M249, it remains to be seen where it will be able to fulfill other roles like DMR, MMG, and carbine. The repeated suggestion that the NGSAR will be “carbine-like” or may be able to fulfill the carbine’s role suggests that the resulting weapon would be magazine-fed, rather than belt-fed like the M249 it would replace.
Such a weapon does not exist currently, but the Army is hoping that industry partners will give it their best shot at the upcoming second Industry Day.
Overall, the NGSAR seems to be on the right track, but it may be too ambitious. The program asks vendors to develop several technologies (e.g., lightweight ammunition, always-on suppressors for automatic weapons), and wrap them up in a single off-the-shelf weapon. The notice explicitly calls for things like manuals, blanks, and dummy ammunition – not the sort of requirements you’d expect from a technology program.