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).
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.
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.