Back in June, VK Integrated Systems, partnered with Bachstein Consulting, broke cover to unveil their submission to the US Army’s Next Generation Squad Weapon programme. The AR-platform XR-68 boasts a proprietary 6.8mm round and an integrated electronic rail system which offers some interesting possibilities. OVD’s sister site TFB were pleased to speak to Vasilios K. Kapogianis, VK Integrated Systems’ President and CEO, about the new rifle.
While we’ve heard a lot about the Textron CT-firing rifles, VK Integrated Systems’ have purposely focused on the tried and tested AR platform for their XR-68, believing the venerable platform still has room for improvement. Kapogianis tells us that one of the upgrades that they are bringing to the rifle are their “stocks and aluminum lower receivers that neatly house and route electronics throughout the lower portion of the weapon“. He explains that to accommodate their SmarTak powered rail system only one part in the lower has to be modified. The XR-68 weighs ‘no more than 9lbs‘ unloaded, with the rail system and electronics installed.
The weapons submitted to the rifle and automatic rifle elements of the NGSW both run a rifle-length DI gas system and both run the same lower receiver, feed from box magazines and have the same upper and handguard. The only difference being the AR’s barrel length and overall weapon length. VK Integrated Systems say this will allow parts interchangeability between the two weapon systems if they are selected. Kapogianis envisions some exciting tech integrations for the rifle in the future coupled with their SmarTak system:
“Not only do we meet the shot counting requirements for service, but we have a 9-DOF IMU of our own design that is in the receiver. This allows enablers such as the scope or laser range finder to get data from the IMU… imagine the possibilities. And while things like GPS, an IMU, temperature & pressure sensors are not required by the Army, we give them the option to take the functionality a-la-carte.”
He notes that they have developed “a Bluetooth link specifically for the purpose of passing data to scopes and Augmented Reality goggles. Currently, we are working with some very capable industry partners to get Augmented Reality functionality.”
While the Army provided a specification for desired ammunition performance and a 6.8mm projectile they have not provided a fully fleshed out round for the NGSW submission to be designed around. Instead, they have allowed companies to develop their own ammunition around the 6.8mm projectile. VK Integrated Systems’ new rifle fires a round called 6.8 Sherwood. The ammunition was designed by Bachstein Consulting to meet the army’s desired performance levels. The cartridge case is derived from the .284 Winchester case “allowing for more performance potential”. Kapogianis told us that “6.8 Sherwood will meet the Army’s lethality needs out of a 16″ barrel,” and that they are currently “just above the desired capability and functions in hot and cold.” Bachstein Consulting are also currently working on an upgrade to the round, but VK Integrated Systems couldn’t share much more about the rounds specs and final velocities. They did confirm, however, that Bachstein Consulting are developing loads for commercially available projectiles.
Kapogianis believes that their submission “delivers an NGSW-R and NGSW-AR with common components and cartridge along with a future-proof weapon system.” He says that this will allow for future “modular upgrades to electronics and software without affecting the performance of the weapon.” The Army is apparently allowing submitting parties to refurbish and refine their weapons as the evaluation process continues.