Potential Army M249 Weapon Replacement
The US Army recently awarded Textron Systems and five other gunmakers a contract to build prototype weapons for its Next Generation Squad Automatic Rifle (NGSAR) programme. The contract awards are the result of a Prototype Opportunity Notice the army released in March in an effort to develop a futuristic replacement for the three-decade-old M249. NGSAR is one of the army’s primary efforts under its soldier lethality modernisation priority and is intended to replace the over 80,000 M249 Squad Automatic Weapons (SAW) in Brigade Combat Teams.
The prototype that Textron Systems develops is based upon its 14 years of work on case-telescoped weapons research. Based on program requirements, the prototype will weigh less than 12lbs pounds, including sling, bipod and suppressor, with ammunition weighing 20% less than an equal brass case. Textron Systems’ prototype will be an intermediate calibre, high-velocity, magazine-fed system. The weapon must have a sustained rate of fire of 60 rounds per minute for 15 minutes without requiring a barrel change.
Textron was notified in late June of the contract award to deliver one prototype weapon, one fire control system and 2,000 rounds of ammunition within 12 months. This builds upon two related awards that Textron Systems recently received from the army for advanced weapons and fire control technologies – one for Next Generation Squad Weapon Technologies (NGSW-T), and another for fire control capability development.
The Prototype Opportunity Notice (PON) solicitation document reads: “NGSAR will address operational needs identified in various capability-based assessments and numerous after action reports. 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 weapon will be lightweight and fire lightweight ammunition, improving soldier mobility, survivability, and firing accuracy.
The US Army declined to identify the other five companies that were awarded contracts, but intends to evaluate prototypes in an attempt to refine NGSAR requirements.
Textron has developed light and medium machine guns that fire 5.56mm and 7.62mm case-telescoped ammunition under the Lightweight Small Arms Technology programme, an effort the army has invested millions of research dollars into over the last decade. Last year at AUSA 2017 (story here), the company unveiled its new Intermediate Case-Telescoped Carbine, chambered for 6.5 millimetres.
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