The US Army have launched their official Prototype Project Opportunity Notice (PPON) inviting design submission for both the Next Generation Squad Weapon-Rifle (NGSW-R) and the Next Generation Squad Weapon-Automatic Rifle (NGSW-AR), both chambered in the Army’s new specification general purpose 6.8mm round.
There have been a fair few developments in the US Army’s NGSW programme since it began several years ago. Most recently five companies, including Textron, FN America, General Dynamics, PCP Tactical and SIG Sauer, were awarded contracts to develop Next Generation Squad Automatic Rifle prototypes. In October last year it appeared that the Army was rebooting their programme with a new prototype opportunity, the Army, however, have denied this and confirmed that the five prototype contracts remain valid. Army Contracting Command confirms that the contracts are for the manufacture and development of a NGSW-AR system demonstrator to inform the requirements of the new PPON issued on the 30th January. However, it is worth noting that none of the companies contracted in October have yet delivered a weapon to inform the requirements that have been set out.
The New NGSW Prototype Project Opportunity Notice
The Prototype Project Opportunity Notice (PPON) was posted on 30th January, and follows an earlier Draft PON, which we covered back in October 2018. The PON confirms that three OTA contracts for NGSW prototype will be awarded. The OTA contracts are estimated to last up to eight years with the first 27 months of that period spent prototyping the NGSW-R, NGSW-AR, and their ammunition. The rest of the eight year period will be for additional iterative prototyping efforts, this means the Army would be looking to select, adopt and introduce the rifle and automatic rifle sometime between 2025 and 2027. Production contracts will be awarded as Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity. Close combat forces will be the first to receive new weapons if adopted and contracts for as many as 250,000 weapons and 850 million rounds of ammunition may be awarded. At high production rates the contract may be worth up to $150M per year.
Contracts may be awarded to one or more manufacturers and successful industry applicants who are contracted will then have to provide 53 NGSW-R prototypes, 43 NGSW-AR prototypes, 845,000 rounds of ammunition, as well as spare parts, test barrels, tools/gauges/accessories, engineering support, and iterative prototyping efforts going forward.
The contracts are set to be awarded in the 4th quarter of 2019, with delivery of weapons scheduled at the end of 2nd quarter 2020. The first round of testing will take place during the second half of 2020 with the second round, testing “production representative hardware” taking place in mid 2021.
Here’s what the Army are looking for in terms of weapon characteristics:
The NGSW-R and the NGSW-AR prototypes shall:
a. allow for ambidextrous operation and controls;
b. include a flash hider, removable suppressor (with or without flash hider installed),
and a tool for suppressor removal after firing or for maintenance;
c. include a tactical carrying sling with quick release attachments;
d. include selection positions for Safe, Semi-Automatic Firing, and Automatic Firing
e. be resistant to corrosion, abrasion, impact and Chemical, Biological, Radiological and
Nuclear (CBRN) defense contaminants, decontaminants, battlefield-chemicals,
electromagnetic pulse and cyber-attacks;
f. reduce visual detection via a neutral non-reflective, non-black color not lighter than
Light Coyote 481 and not darker than Coyote 499;
g. function in all environments and weather conditions, including ambient, cold, hot,
marine, high humidity, rain, and desert conditions;
h. be compatible with combat clothing (including body armor and Modular Lightweight
Load-carrying Equipment), CBRN defense, wet weather, and cold weather gear;
i. provide interchangeable magazines between both weapons if NGSW-AR utilizes a
j. include, at a minimum, a 12 o-clock position rail(s) that is compliant to Attachment 2-
Picatinny Smart Rail Interface Control Documents. Weapon configurations include a
non-battery and a battery configuration:
• A non-battery configuration: battery removed. This is the primary
configuration for all weapon deliveries and is included in the overall weapon
• Replaceable battery configurations: rechargeable battery assembly and nonrechargeable battery assembly that are fully contained within the envelope of the NGSW-R and NGSW-AR and common to both. The battery assembly shall operate at 6-32 volts. The rechargeable battery assembly shall interface with the Universal Battery Charger (NSN: 6130-01-659-7090). The weight of the battery assembly will not be included in the overall weapon weight. Both the rechargeable battery assembly and the non-rechargeable battery assembly shall meet the requirements for safety and transportation per the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Dangerous Goods Regulation.
More Recent NGSW Developments
In the last month or so their have been a number of other developments in the Army’s search for its next generation of small arms. I have previously covered the Army’s special notice seeking a ‘Squad Fire Control’ optic for use with the new weapon systems. The new optic must weigh less than 2lbs and combine a direct view optic, ballistic calculator, atmospheric sensor suite, and a laser range finder.
General Dynamic-OTS and polymer ammunition manufacturer True Velocity also recently announced their partnership to collaborate on not just GD-OTS’ earlier NGSW prototype contract but also this new PON. True Velocity’s ammunition is conventional in layout but does offer weight savings (reportedly in the region of 30%) and the ability to scale case capacities and projectiles dimensions.
From Army Contracting Command responses to NGSW questions we also know that the NGSW will be predominantly running suppressors in the field. With ACC confirming that “the weapons are intended to be used primarily with the suppressor on.” From the same response notice we also know that the “the NGSW is not planned to be compatible with the M320 40MM grenade launcher” or the M26 underbarrel shotgun. The Army also confirmed that their is no preference for either a bullpup or a conventional weapon system.
Other, less clear, developments might give us an idea about what the Army’s new 6.8mm general purpose ammunition specification might look like. Both SIG Sauer and Textron appear to have disclosed information on what characteristics the army wants its new round to have. Back in October Jane’s reported that the new projectile has a weight of 135 grains while at their SHOT Show range day Sig Sauer told Military.com that “both the AR and carbine prototypes for the NGSW effort will have to be able to produce a muzzle velocity of 3,000 feet per second.” While this gives us some insight into the kind of round the army are looking for it has not been confirmed.
We also know from ACC responses to NGSW industry questions that the Lake City Army Ammunition Plant have not developed a cartridge designed for the 6.8mm projectile and the the will Government only be providing 6.8mm projectiles not completed rounds. The responses also justified the choice of a 6.8mm projectile saying: “The 6.8mm caliber projectile cannot change. A 6.8mm caliber is large enough to
achieve Government’s required outcomes whereas a 6.5mm caliber cannot.”
U.S. Army Contracting Command have said that written proposals for the PPON have a deadline of 24th April 2019, and bid samples are due on 30th May 2019.