A confidential source has revealed to TFB the current contestants that have passed the most recent phase of the Next Generation Squad Automatic Rifle Competition (NGSAR). This phase is less of an actual competition between small arms prototypes but more of a theoretical feasibility of design concepts before any trials progression ensues. Results from this recent Prototype Opportunity Notice (PON) showed that out of ten industry contestants, only six were advanced to the next stage of the competition. These six companies are in order of most successful: Aircraft Armaments, Inc. Textron (AAI Textron), PCP Tactical (a division of PCP Ammunition), Sig Sauer, General Dynamics Ordnance & Tactical Systems (GT-OTS), and two entries from FN America (labeled as Lightweight and Adaptive).
This table shows the 6 contestants organized by Concept, which measures the ability of the manufacturer to meet the Army’s requirements, while Feasibility is how viable it would actually be to produce the awardee’s weapon system.
As we read through the competitors and put some of their work/background in context as to what they might be submitting, keep in mind the core requirements of the PON as outlined in March of this year. Two of the requirements that should stand out are that the weapon has to have a 20 percent saving in weight when compared to conventual brass ammunition, have a suppressor with significantly less sound signature (140 db or less), and drastically less flash signature (80 percent less than unsuppressed M249).
From the initial PON draft notice, Page 8-
AAI Textron’s 5.56x45mm NATO LSAT has received the lion’s share of publicity when it comes to covering the NGSAR competition, the company being selected as a testbed demonstrator for the program. Thus it would appear natural that the development efforts at the company have greatly helped it along in this PON application process. But let’s take a look at some of the other contestants as well.
PCP Tactical, LLC is a division or at least a subsidiary of PCP Ammunition, based out of Vero Beach, Florida. Their SBIR profile page lists at least 3 awarded contracts with SOCOM. Two of these involve research and development testing on polymer cased match grade ammunition specifically for the .50 BMG M107 and MK-15 precision rifles, while a third involves work on sub-sonic polymer cased ammunition, also for SOCOM. Readers of TFB might remember the PCP Ammunition that Alex C fired in his FAL and blowing out the magazine in 2015.
A note about PCP is that the company would appear to have the ammunition side of development down, but what about the system to shoot it? A fantasy explanation is that they are partnering with a firearms manufacturer to fire it. About an hour down the road in Titusville is Knight’s Armament with the 5.56x45mm NATO LAMG that is starting to hit full-scale production. This isn’t at all substantiated, but just a guess on my part.
Sig Sauer comes as an interesting entry because this will be the first time the U.S. based handgun, airgun, and rifle company has put forth an effort into developing a light machine gun. My guess is that they are going to work one of their signatory rifle products, the 5.56x45mm MCX and turn it into a squad automatic weapon. In Sig’s case the ammunition side of development might actually be feasible due to the companies extensive investment in the ammo side of the house.
General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems has been working on a .338 Norma Magnum lightweight machine gun (LWMMG) for some time now and also has an ammunition and propellant production division that could help with the requirement to produce lightweight ammunition. Whether their .338 Norma Magnum machine gun is what is being submitted we don’t know. It is certainly a very large round for a squad level light machine gun.
Last on the list we have FN America with two entries, a Lightweight and Adaptive. The Adaptive is almost certainly their HAMR-16, which was seen very recently at a PEO Soldier demonstration in March of this year. We actually reached out to FN America as a result of that post and the company stated that the HAMR-16 was not to be resurrected (paraphrasing). On the other side of the spectrum, there is the Lightweight entry. This could possibly mean a “lightweight” variant of their M240, M249 (which the NGSAR is supposed to replace), MK48, or MK46 machine guns. The MK46 and MK48 are essentially lightweight or 7.62x51mm NATO variants of the M249, and there already is a lightweight variant of the M240 which is the “Lima” version with a titanium receiver. FN America was the only company to have a Yellow rating when it comes to meeting the NGSAR operational requirements. This might have to do with the ammunition, because out of the rest FN America doesn’t have a dedicated ammunition division. FN Herstal does, but that is the European component that isn’t participating in NGSAR.