The U.S. military’s Next Generation Squad Weapon (NGSW) program to replace the M4 carbine and M249 SAW is moving forward.
Vortex Optics received a potential $2.7 billion follow-on other transaction agreement from the U.S. Army to produce the weapon platform's fire controls in January. Under the terms of the contract, the family-owned optics maker would produce and deliver up to 250,000 NGSW Fire Control (NGSW-FC) systems over a ten-year production period that would begin later this year.
The NGSW-FC, dubbed the XM157, was designed and engineered entirely in-house by Vortex. It is a Low-Powered Variable Optic (LPVO) with a display overlay, Laser Rangefinder (LRF), ballistic solver, environmental sensors, aiming lasers, digital compass, and wireless communication to provide for seamless connectivity on the battlefield.
Each of the NGSW-FC systems is built around a 1-8x30 LPVO featuring a glass-etched reticle lens made entirely in the U.S. It reportedly weighs less than many traditional LPVOs, yet can allow a weapon's operator to engage threats quickly and effectively. It features an integrated Picatinny base that houses the Vortex Active Reticle system, while the XM157 injects a digitally displayed image into the first focal plane of the optic and allows for intuitive displays to support ballistic drops, reticle shapes and sizes, and additional modes to display waypoints, identified threats, and fields of fire.
To ensure that the fire control system can withstand the modern battlefield anywhere that soldiers may be deployed, the XM157 underwent testing in a broad range of climates and weather conditions. The optic withstood rigorous drop-testing, extreme hot and cold environments, immersion testing, and tens of thousands of rounds of live-fire testing.
"With a clear focus on ease of use, the combined technology enables the XM157 to range a target, send the information to an on-board ballistic solver, gather atmospheric information, and display an illuminated Active Reticle corrected aimpoint with wind holds in the user's sight picture, all in tenths of a second," the company said in a press release. "To provide for flexibility in the field, the XM157 can be controlled via an on-board keypad or a detachable remote."
As the production period begins, Vortex announced that it would use American aerospace machine shops and American lens manufacturers to supply components. The XM157 will be assembled entirely at Vortex headquarters in Barneveld, Wisconsin.
As of the end of 2021, the competition for the NGSW had been narrowed to two manufacturers: LoneStar Future Weapons and Sig Sauer. The LoneStar Future Weapons/True Velocity rifle and machine gun were designed to operate with a polymer-cased cartridge, while the Sig Saucer rifle and belt-fed machine gun was developed to utilize a custom brass-steel hybrid cartridge.
Winchester announced in January that it had been awarded the contract to produce the 6.8mm ammunition for whichever weapon is eventually selected.
Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military small arms, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.
Image: U.S. Army Flickr.