US Army Claims New Next Generation Squad Weapons PON is NOT a ‘Reboot’

With the launch of a new draft Next Generation Squad Weapons (NGSW) PON a couple of weeks ago, I suggested this might be a reboot of the Army’s flagship small arms programme. The Army has now responded to that suggestion.

Last week during a question and answer session at the Association of the US Army’s Annual Meeting and Exposition General Mark A Milley, the US Army’s Chief of Staff, declined to discus specifics or the fate of the original contracts awarded in June.

But on the 10th October, the Army Contracting Command (ACC) responded to industry questions related to the Next Generation Squad Weapons draft PON, posted on October 4th. The responses are to questions received between the 4th and 8th of October, just three questions were received. Following my earlier article I contacted ACC to ask about the fate of the six earlier Next Generation Squad Automatic Rifle PON contracts awarded in June, my question is #2.

It seems that two other people had similar questions, one referring directly to my article that suggested the new draft PON was a ‘reboot’ of the programme. Here’s the questions and responses posted by the ACC:

1. Question: Is the subject effort considered a new requirement or a follow-on to an existing contract? If the latter, would you mind providing the incumbent contractor’s name and contract number?
Response: The Prototype Opportunity Notice (PON) for Next Generation Squad Weapons
(NGSW) would be a new requirement. Reference the DRAFT NGSW PON’s section 1.2
Background, for efforts related to this.

2. Question: I am writing to enquire how the latest Draft PON impacts upon the six contracts awarded to five vendors back in July. Will the new PON and subsequent awards replace the earlier NGSAR contracts?
Response: This DRAFT NGSW PON does not impact the six contracts awarded to the five
contractors on June 25, 2018 (reference DRAFT NGSW PON’s section 1.2 Background). The new NGSW PON will not replace the Next Generation Squad Automatic Rifle (NGSAR) system demonstrator awards and follows the general strategy explained in NGSAR PON W15QKN-18- R-01UR where a new competitive PON would be announced for a more mature system with a subsequent follow-on production contract (reference NGSAR PON W15QKN-18-R-01UR section 1.3 Acquisition Approach).

3. Question: There’s an article that says that the new PON that hit FedBizOps on October 4 may be a “reboot” of the program. Can you clarify on background? The previous awarded contracts still stand, is that so?
Response: This is inaccurate. The new NGSW PON will not replace the NGSAR. Reference
question 2 above. The other transaction agreements (OTAs) awarded on June 25, 2018 are still active and have no plans on being canceled [sic].

From these responses it seems that the US Army is continuing with their previous Next Generation Squad Automatic Rifle PON while simultaneously developing a new weapon system (NGSW) that includes a rifle and an automatic rifle both chambered in rounds based around the Army’s new 6.8mm GP projectile.

The responses are somewhat contradictory with the first suggesting the NGSW is a ‘a new requirement’ and then describing it as a PON to develop ‘a more mature system’ evolved from the first PON. While there will no doubt be significant design overlap, at least for the initial manufacturers who decide to submit to the new PON, the new ammunition requirement will arguably require redevelopment by them and substantial work by new entrants to provide both a rifle and an automatic rifle. As a result it seems that the reboot I alluded to in my earlier article will continue alongside the development of the original demonstrator prototypes submitted.


UPDATE 20/10/18:

The US Army has announced Industry Days for Next Generation Squad Weapons programme. Running between the 14th and 16th November the Industry Days will be open to interested vendors to find out more about the Army’s requirements and ask questions about the programme. The Industry Days were announced on the programme’s FedBizOps page on 19th October.