While the U.S. Army is in the final phase of evaluating what will become the standard Next Generation Squad Weapon (NGSW), which is down to three finalists, including General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems Inc., Textron Systems and Sig Sauer, it was reported recently that U.S. Special Forces will be the first to be equipped with the new platform. All three of the contractors are expected to deliver 38 prototype rifles and 28 prototype automatic rifles along with 660,000 rounds of ammunition for testing and soldier evaluations next year.
The NGSW will replace both the M249 machine gun and the M4 Carbine – and will be a weapon that provides both the firepower and effective range of the former and the precision and ergonomics of the latter.
The 75th Ranger Regiment, Green Berets and other U.S. special operations ground forces will be the first units to receive the new NGSW, which will be lightweight and fire a new type of ammunition that will have reduced acoustic and flash signatures. The 6.8mm ammunition is 30% lighter and yet more lethal than the current 5.62mm NATO caliber round.
"We are an enthusiastic supporter of the Army's 6.8mm Next Generation Squad Weapons," Col. Joel Babbitt, of Program Executive Officer Special Operations Forces Warrior, told Military.com. "We expect there will be Next Generation Squad Weapons in our formations as soon as we can receive them via fielding."
As noted by Defense-Blog, the goal of the NGSW is to improve the lethality, mobility and situational awareness of a dismounted infantrymen as well as scouts and engineers. Versions of the new small arms platform will be able to be equipped with advanced technologies that can provide ballistic calculation, intelligent targeting and tracking capabilities, wireless communication and advanced camera-based capabilities.
The three NGSW prototypes are currently in the final phase of soldier evaluation. Formal testing of the weapons and ammunition is scheduled for December, while the final design is expected to be named in the first quarter of 2022 with the weapons beginning deployment to soldiers in the field later that year.
Military.com reported that the enthusiasm from the Special Forces is noteworthy as the U.S. Special Operations Command has not always been an ardent support of conventional Army weapons programs – and called out the XM25 Counter-Defilade Target Engagement System. The 75th Ranger Regiment even refused to take the XM25 in an operation as it was found to be too heavy.
However, the opinion on the NGSW seems far more promising, and as a result the PEO SOF (Program Executive Office Special Operator Force) may not move forward with its efforts to development a new light machine gun chambered for the 6.5mm Creedmoor round.
"We have currently put our 6.5mm Creedmoor lightweight machine gun on hold pending the results of the Next Generation Squad Weapon," Babbitt added.
Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.