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US Army Contracting Command, on behalf of Project Manager Soldier Weapons, awarded five companies contracts to develop prototype weapon technologies on 25 June 2018. These were for six separate Fixed Priced, Full and Open Competition (F&OC), Prototype Other Transaction's (OTA) to:

  • AAI Corporation Textron Systems
  • FN America
  • General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems (GDOTS)
  • PCP Tactical
  • Sig Sauer

These Prototype OTAs will be for the manufacture and development of a Next Generation Squad Automatic Rifle (NGSAR) system demonstrator representative of a Technology Readiness Level (TRL) 6 and Manufacturing Readiness Level (MRL) 6. The expected Prototype OTA duration is 12 months after award.

The contract awards are the result of a Prototype Opportunity Notice (PON) 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 must weigh less than 12lbs, with ammunition weighing 20% less than an equivalent brass case and integrate fire control. Although the calibre and type of ammunition is left open to vendors, most are using the government provided 6.8mm projectile. It will be up to industry to create a cartridge which is lightweight, yet delivers an undisclosed velocity, which is beyond any other intermediate calibre cartridge previously evaluated. With that comes the challenge of increased chamber pressures and recoil which must be dealt with.

FN America announced on 16 July that the company has been awarded contracts to produce two prototypes under PON 1 for the NGSAR programme. The company can confirm earlier speculation that one of the submissions is a lightweight machine gun and the other is the FN HAMR, a heat adaptive modular rifle. To deliver against the two awarded contracts, FN has partnered with industry-leading organisations such as Federal Cartridge Company (FCC) to utilise emerging technologies to enhance lethality of FN’s NGSAR contenders and offer a complete systems solution.

MONCh reported on 12 July that the US Army awarded Textron Systems and five other gunmakers a contract to build prototype weapons for its NGSAR programme. 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.

The new weapon might be delivered with two per nine-man infantry squad, starting in fiscal year 2022 instead of 2025. 

The US Army 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 (shown) starting in fiscal 2022 rather than the original target date of fiscal 2025. (Photo: US Army)

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