SOCOM & the Next Generation Squad Weapon

    U.S. Army Green berets assigned to the 1st Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group prepare to breach and enter a building, as part of Close Quarter Battle (CQB) training, May 5, 2020. Local missions are designed to maintain proficiency. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Thomas Mort)

    The US Army is forging ahead with the evaluation of the prototype Next Generation Squad Weapon rifles and automatic rifles and it has been confirmed that U.S. Special Operations Command is both involved in the program and watching its developments closely.

    SOCOM has been working closely with the Army and have also provided initial special operations forces feedback on the weapons during the early stages of the program. Lt.Col. Jason Bohannon, Program Manager – Next Generation Weapons, told TFB that elements of SOCOM, including 75th Rangers at Fort Benning, have given early soldier feedback on both the NGSW and the NGSW’s fire control unit prototypes.

    During the Special Operations Forces Industry Conference, held virtually last month, Col. Joel Babbitt, Program Executive Officer for SOF Warrior, said “As the Army moves forward, we are absolutely cheerleaders for that effort [NGSW]. Our partnership with PEO Soldier out of the Army… is absolutely strong.” Col. Babbitt also noted that 70% of SOCOM’s deployed forces are part of the Army component (including the 75th Ranger Regiment, Delta Force and the 1st Special Forces Command).

    FN Mk48 Mod. 2 6.5CM a possible contender for the Lightweight Machine Gun – Assault requirement (Matthew Moss/TFB)

    The 6.8mm NGSW’s capabilities and aims potentially overlap with a number of SOCOM’s ongoing small arms acquisition programs. These include the Lightweight Machine Gun – Assault requirement, a light machine gun chambered in 6.5mm Creedmoor, and potentially the Precision Intermediate Caliber program. The PIC program would potentially see precision semi-automatic rifles like the M110 Semi-Automatic Sniper System upgraded and chambered in 6.5mm Creedmoor.

    A U.S. Army Special Operation Soldier with 3rd Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) fires a M110 Semi-Automatic Sniper System (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. William Chockey)

    Navy Lt. Cmdr. Tim Hawkins, a spokesman for U.S. Special Operations Command, confirmed to TFB that SOCOM has indeed put its Lightweight Machine Gun – Assault requirement on hold pending the result of the Next Generation Squad Weapon program. Lt. Cmdr. Hawkins also stated that “the Precision Intermediate Caliber program has not been paused”, and that SOCOM is “constantly assessing various systems to provide increased capability to our operators.”

    While the Army’s NGSW program hasn’t suffered any serious delays, the down-selected manufacturers were given an extra 30 days to ship their prototypes. SOCOM also have a number of procurement programs ongoing but confirmed that they “have experienced no significant impacts to major acquisition programs” because of the pandemic.

    Matthew Moss

    _________________________________________________________________________ – Managing Editor – Managing Editor

    Matt is a British historian specialising in small arms development and military history. He has written several books and for a variety of publications in both the US and UK. He also runs Historical Firearms, a blog that explores the history, development and use of firearms. Matt is also co-founder of The Armourer’s Bench, a video series on historically significant small arms.

    Here on TFB he covers product and current military small arms news.

    Reach Matt at: [email protected]