In the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Wednesday, top Army officers talked about their plans to modernize the force, and, as part of that, replace both the M249 SAW and the M4 Carbine, the latter of which has been in service since the early 1990s. The replacement effort is called the Next Generation Squad Weapon (NGSW), formerly referred to as the Next Generation Squad Automatic Rifle (NGSAR), and will involve an industry competition to select the weapon that best meets the Army’s requirements for the future. In his testimony, Deputy Chief of Staff, G-8 Lt. General John G. Murray, spoke about the NGSW:
[The SDMR is] Phase 1. Phase 2 is the development of what we’re calling the Next Generation Squad Weapon. First iteration will probably be an automatic rifle to replace the SAW, which is also a 5.56. We’ve been pushed on the M27 which the Marine Corps has adopted, that is also a 5.56 which doesn’t penetrate, so we’re gonna go down the path of Next Generation Squad Weapon, automatic rifle first, to be closely followed I’m hopeful for either a rifle or a carbine that will fire something other than a 5.56 – it probably won’t be a 7.62, it’ll probably be something in-between. Cased telescoping round, probably polymer casing to reduce the weight of it. We have in the S&T community a demonstration weapon right now – it’s too big, it’s too heavy, but we’ve recently opened it up to commercial industry for them to come in with their ideas about how they would get to that, we’ve offered them some money to come in and prototype for us that type of weapon. We believe with that weapon, with a new
ammo, we can achieve probably weights similar to the M4/5.56 ammo, the weapon will probably weigh a little bit more, the ammo will probably weigh a little bit less, and we can get penetration of the most advanced body armor in the world probably well out past the max effective range of the M4, and that’s what we see as a replacement for the M4 in the future, not the SDMR.
Army Acquisition Corps Director Lt. General Paul Ostrowski followed up Lt. General Murray’s comments regarding the NGSW competition, saying that the industry would compete to produce a weapon that would be fielded no later than 2023:
I will just say that, between the S&T effort that we have ongoing with Textron, and the OTA – Other Transactional Authority – that we’re going to offer to other vendors in ’18, the intent is to try to do a fly off between those particular companies by the end of ’21 in order to provide some kind of capability by ’22 or ’23 at the latest.
Lt. General Ostrowski’s testimony confirms that the NGSAR testbed was indeed a Textron rifle as had long been speculated, probably equipped with an experimental fire control and optic system developed at Picatinny. However, while that demonstrator clearly impressed the top brass, it seems that it did not quite meet the desired criteria for weight and bulk, nor was it judged mature enough. Therefore, the Army has decided to open up the NGSW program to competition, to see whether the industry can provide the capability they want in a future infantry weapon system.