The U.S. Army is currently evaluating a new small arms systems that could give their warfighters a serious edge, including squad weapon and sniper rifle. The Army is rolling along on multiple fronts in the small arms department, ranging from area weapons to those with a little more precision- to put it lightly.
One of the reasons, according to Norman, is the Pentagon’s current shift from the close quarters of urban warfare in Iraq and Syria to the mountains and open terrain of Afghanistan. While the carbine may be well-suited for a knock-down, drag-out brawl while moving house to house in cities like Mosul and Raqqa, it lacks the range to take out Taliban and ISIS fighters in open stretches.
Second is shift in posture from counterterrorism operations to near peer adversaries. “For the past 10 or 15 years, we’ve been really focused on the requirement of lethal effects against unprotected targets,” Norman said. “Now we’re looking at near-peer threats like Russia and others. We need to have lethal effects against protected targets and we need to have requirements for long-range lethality in places like Afghanistan, where you’re fighting from mountaintop to mountaintop over extended ranges.”
At Fort Carson, Colorado, eight snipers of the 4th Infantry Division’s 2nd Brigade are testing out the newly-improved Heckler & Koch M110A1 Compact Semi-Automatic Sniper Systems (CSASS), putting the upgraded models through their paces. Testing began earlier this year and has involved firing over 8,000 rounds from various positions and while wearing different equipment. According to the National Interest, the Army claimed the new upgrades include “increased accuracy, plus other ergonomic features like reduced weight and operations with or without a suppressor.”
In Maryland, officials at the US Army Combat Development Command have been testing the new Next Generation Squad Weapon-Technology platforms, which were sent forward as prototypes by Textron Systems. The new squad weapons (NSGW-T), were pushed from development to product in short order. Textron Systems Senior Vice President of Applied Technologies & Advanced Programs Wayne Prender. “Our CT [Cased Telescoped] weapons and ammunition offer the growth path to a true next-generation small arms weapon for U.S. warfighters, including increased lethality at longer ranges, while also delivering significant weight reductions to the warfighter.” Military Embedded Systems reports that the cased telescoped ammunition, while proprietary in nature, allows for more ammunition to be carried without giving in to the weight issue posed by conventional ammo.
The US Army is developing new light machine gun that will weigh less — and yet shoot farther, but will put M1 Abrams Main Battle Tank-style blasting power literally at the fingertips of US soldiers. It should make US soldiers even more lethal and enhance their speed and mobility while improving their safety in future combat. Distance, accuracy, ergonomics and lethality are all expected to be improved in this new generation of weapon. Infantry will also be able to take advantage of new specially designed, harder hitting, plus lighter weight bullets.
The service plans on fielding a Next Generation Squad Automatic Rifle (NGSAR) — the first version in the Army’s Next-Generation Weapons System that chambers a round between 6.5mm and 6.8mm — as a potential replacement for its 80,000 M249 SAWs starting in fiscal 2022 rather than the original target date of fiscal 2025, Col. Geoffrey A. Norman, force development division chief at Army HQ, told Task & Purpose, with two per nine-man infantry squad.
Next Generation Squad Automatic Rifle (NGSAR)
The Small Arms Ammunition Configuration (SAAC) study, completed in 2017, identified potential weapon system approaches that can address the operational needs. This DOTC initiative is for the development and fabrication of advanced lightweight small caliber cartridge prototype ammunition and the development and fabrication of a functional prototype weapon system capable of firing this ammunition.
Next Generation Squad Automatic Rifle (NGSAR) is the first variant of the Next Generation Squad Weapons. The NGSAR will address operational needs identified in various capability based assessments and numerous after action reports. The NGSAR is the planned replacement for the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW) in Brigade Combat Teams (BCT). It will combine the firepower and range of a machine gun with the precision and ergonomics of a rifle, yielding capability improvements in accuracy, range, and lethality.
The US Army has awarded a new contract to aerospace and defence manufacturing firm Textron Systems to develop a functional prototype for the Next Generation Squad Automatic Rifle (NGSAR) programme. Textron’s prototype could be used to replace the army’s light machine gun, the M249 squad automatic weapon (SAW), in the Brigade Combat Teams (BCT). The scope of the contract involves the development and delivery of a new system demonstrator, which would be based on Textron Systems’ current portfolio of Cased-Telescoped (CT) weapons and ammunition.
The weapon will be lightweight and fire lightweight ammunition, improving Soldier mobility, survivability, and firing accuracy. Soldiers will employ the NGSAR against close and extended range targets in all terrains and conditions. The NGSAR support concept will be consistent and comparable to the M249 SAW involving the Army two-level field and sustainment maintenance system.
The NGSW program currently consists of the NGSAR, a Next Generation Squad Carbine (NGSC), and a squad designated marksman rifle, along with specialized ammunition and fire control system. But while the Army had previously focused on fielding an improved carbine with a range and accuracy superior to the standard M4 that would also chamber a round between 6.5mm and 6.8mm, the service recently changed gears to prioritize the muscular automatic NGSAR.
The current contract is built upon two related awards that the company recently secured from the US Army for the development of advanced weapons and fire control technologies for the Next Generation Squad Weapon Technologies (NGSW-T) and fire control capability development.
Statement of Work (SOW)
This statement of work defines the work required to design, develop, fabricate, test, and deliver a system demonstrator. A final SOW will be negotiated with each Awardee. The system demonstrator should be capable of accurately defeating current and future threats. The design should factor in trade space to support further weight reduction and capabilities growth in the system integration prototype project and the P&D effort. The system demonstrator is encouraged to include additional capabilities such as: advanced fire control (direct view optic with variable magnification, laser range finder, ballistic calculator, environmental data, disturbed reticle, etc.), powered/intelligent rail (including data transfer), ammunition capacity (belt or box fed), and other enablers which enhance military utility
THE PON lays out the army’s desired characteristics for the NGSAR:
The Army hopes to award as many as five contracts for system demonstrators (prototypes) with a technology readiness level (TRL) 6. This is significant as TRL 6 requires that the prototype is capable and ready for simulated environment testing. The PON also explains that following market research the Army Contracting Command believes “that Industry has potential concepts that can address the aforementioned operational needs in the near term and provide future growth as technologies mature.”
The company intends to produce a high-velocity, magazine-fed system of an intermediate calibre. Weighing less than 12lb, the prototype will be designed to meet the NGSAR programme’s requirements with ammunition weighing 20% less than an equal brass case.
With the buttstock down, the Army also aims for it to be 35 inches long or less. In terms of dispersion, both the automatic 14 inch, and the semiautomatic 7-inch will have an average mean radius of 400 meters. The fire control, including day and night optics, will be a maximum of three pounds. The rate of fire will be 60 rounds per minute with 3-round burst for 15 minutes without a barrel change or cook-off.
The goal is for the weapon’s chamber pressure to achieve similar levels to battle tanks that is between 60 and 80 KSI (kilopond per square inch), similar to the Army’s M1 Abrams main battle tank. Recent conflicts have shown that currently issued weapons have not been sufficient when tackling the challenge of forces with defence innovation and access to modern equipment. Even if a threat is about 600 metres away and seemingly well protected, the new weapon will blast through enhanced body armour.
Weapon Weight: 12 lbs or less
Ammunition Weight: 20% less than equal amount of conventional brass cased ammunition
Length: 35 inches or less
Rate of Fire: ’60 rounds per minute with 3 round burst for 15 minutes without a barrel change or cook-off’ Dispersion: Semi-Automatic 7 inch Average Mean Radius 400 meters, & Automatic 14 inch Average Mean Radius 400 meters
Suppressor: Flash – 80% less than an unsuppressed M249
Acoustic – 140 decibels or less
Weapon Controllability: “Soldier firing standing with optic at a 50 meter E-Type silhouette given 3 to 5 round burst must be able to engage in 2-4 seconds placing two rounds 70 percent of the time on target”
Lethality Requirements: Not published publicly
The prototypes will be evaluated on three factors: Concept (the weapon’s ability to meet Army requirements), Feasibility (ability to produce weapon) and Price.
The Government will consider the following areas of the Offerors system demonstrator concept: Weight Budget, Accuracy, Physical Characteristics, Fire Control, Lethality Requirements, Rate of Fire, Suppressor Effectiveness, Weapon Controllability and Other Human Factors
The Government will evaluate the feasibility of the Offeror’s ability to execute the proposed plan to meet the Government’s objectives within 12 months. The Government will consider the following areas of the Offerors’ plan: Experience, Facilities, Resources, Key Participants and Schedule of Key.Events
‘Guaranteed Hit’ Tech Could Be Added to Army’s Next-Gen Squad Weapon
An Israeli company, working with Sig Sauer, recently showed a version of its high-tech, smart-shooter technology that the U.S. Army is currently evaluating in its Next Generation Squad Weapon Fire Control competition.
Smart Shooter Ltd. demonstrated its SMASH Fire Control System at a Sig-hosted range day for SHOT Show 2020. The SMASH is designed to help improve the accuracy of any shooter engaging stationary or moving targets in both day and night conditions, said Devin Schweiss of Smart Shooter Inc. The SMASH “allows you to acquire, lock on and engage targets” using a weapon-mounted optic and special pistol grip that “allows the weapon to fire only when it’s a guaranteed hit,” he said.
Last summer, Army weapons officials invited defense firms to design and build prototypes of an advanced fire control system to go with service’s Next-Generation Squad Weapon (NGSW), a 6.8mm system that includes rifle and automatic rifle variants to replace the M4A1 and M249 squad automatic weapon in infantry and other close-combat units.
The SMASH features a lock button that’s mounted on the weapon’s handguard. The shooter looks through the SMASH optic, places the crosshairs on the target and presses the button to mark the target with a tiny rectangle.As the information is fed back into the computer, the shooter keeps the crosshairs on the target and pulls the trigger, but the weapon will not fire unless the sights are lined up properly. If the target moves suddenly, the shooter continues to keep the crosshairs on the target. When the shot is lined up, the SMASH will fire the weapon, Schweiss said.
“While I am holding down this button, I am acquiring targets through image processing. … Once I release it, it will lock the target and give me and aimpoint,” he said. “Then I just hold down the trigger, align my crosshairs to where the system tells me to, and the system will fire whenever it’s a hit.” At any time, the shooter can fire the weapon without using the SMASH target lock feature if quicker shots are needed on close-quarter targets, Schweiss said. “It only takes about five minutes to learn and, once you learn the motion, then it’s quick,” he said.
Contract for NGSW Fire control
Army modernization officials have selected a Wisconsin-based optics firm to make advanced fire-control prototypes capable of equipping the service’s Next Generation Squad Weapon (NGSW) with a 1,000-meter laser range finder and a ballistic computer to calculate the bullet’s path to the target, according to an April 20 news release from Vortex Optics. The Army’s Product Manager Soldier Lethality awarded Vortex an agreement to deliver production-ready prototypes of the NGSW-Fire Control for future Soldier Touch Point evaluations, the release states.
The 1-8×30 Active Reticle Fire Control is a variable power, direct-view, first focal plane riflescope — meaning that the reticle is located in front of the magnification lens to allow the reticle to increase in size as the shooter increases the magnification level. The Vortex system is built around “a revolutionary technology based on many years of internal research and development, along with multiple cooperative development efforts with the Army’s [Project Manager] Soldier Weapons,” according to the release. “The end result is Active Reticle, which has been proven to increase hit percentage and decrease time to engage during U.S. Army Soldier touchpoints over the last two years,” it adds.
The Army released a Prototype Opportunity Notice last spring inviting companies to develop a NGSW Fire Control that “increases the soldier’s ability to rapidly engage man-sized targets out to 600 [meters] or greater while maintaining the ability to conduct Close Quarters Battle,” according to the solicitation, posted May 30, 2019, on FedBizOpps.gov. Weapons officials are currently testing NGSW prototypes from General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems Inc., Textron Systems and Sig Sauer Inc. for the final phase of the NGSW effort, which is designed to replace the 5.56mm M4A1 carbine and the M249 squad automatic weapon in close-combat units with automatic rifle and rifle versions chambered for a more powerful 6.8mm round.
The Army plans to select a final design for both weapons from a single company in the first quarter of 2022 and begin fielding them to an infantry brigade combat team in the first quarter of 2023. Vortex officials maintain the prototype’s “1km-capable laser rangefinder, state of the art on-board ballistic engine, atmospheric sensor suite, and programmable active matrix micro-display … delivers a true multi-mission fire control enabling everything from [close-quarter battle] to designated marksmanship at the extents of the NGSW’s effective range,” according to the release. “For the soldier in the field, that means the freedom to devote their entire focus downrange,” Sam Hamilton, chief technical officer at Vortex Optics, said in the release. “End-users will no longer need to leave their field of view to consult separate rangefinders or ballistic calculators, slowing them down and compromising their situational awareness.”