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You may have heard the U.S. Army is looking to replace the M4 carbine and M249 squad automatic weapon. Many surmised that the service would follow the Marines and adopt the Heckler & Koch M27 IAR (Infantry Automatic Rifle). Not so fast. Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee’s Airland subcommittee on the subject of Army modernization, officials said the plan now is to pursue an entirely new platform called the the Next Generation Squad Weapon.

According to Military.com, the subject got brought up when Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas, asked about the Army’s effort to defeat enemy body armor which the 5.56mm cartridge can’t penetrate.

“There has been a proliferation of body armor, specifically Russian and Chinese, designed to defeat traditional 5.56mm NATO ammunition which is of course what our soldiers fire from their M4s,” Cotton said. “What are we doing to address what is a very serious issue for the soldier on the front lines?”

Lt. Gen. John Murray, Army Deputy Chief of Staff G-8, replied that the service was looking to address the issue in two phases. The first is a “near-term” solution in the form of the Squad Designated Marksman Rifle (SDM-R).

“That is a 7.62 capability that gives us the ability to penetrate the most advanced body armor in the world, along with the Advanced Armor Piercing round that’s in development,” Murray said. “We are accelerating the SDM-R, or the Squad Designated Marksman Rifle, to ’18 … We had hoped to accelerate the ADVAP round, the Advanced Armor Piercing Round, to ’18 as well to line up with that, but we’re about a year off. So we will develop that ammo and field it in ’19. You can still fire 7.62, and you can still penetrate, you just can’t get quite the range you will with the next generation round.

“That’s Phase 1. Phase 2 is the development of what we’re calling the Next Generation Squad Weapon,” Murray continued. “First iteration will probably be an automatic rifle to replace the SAW, which is also a 5.56. We’ve been pushed on the M27 which the Marine Corps has adopted. That is also a 5.56 which doesn’t penetrate, so we’re gonna go down the path of Next Generation Squad Weapon, automatic rifle first, to be closely followed I’m hopeful for either a rifle or a carbine that will fire something other than a 5.56. It probably won’t be a 7.62, it’ll probably be something in-between. Cased telescoping round, probably polymer casing to reduce the weight of it. We have in the S&T community a demonstration weapon right now. It’s too big, it’s too heavy, but we’ve recently opened it up to commercial industry for them to come in with their ideas about how they would get to that. We’ve offered them some money to come in and prototype for us that type of weapon. We believe with that weapon, with a new ammo, we can achieve probably weights similar to the M4/5.56 ammo, the weapon will probably weigh a little bit more, the ammo will probably weigh a little bit less, and we can get penetration of the most advanced body armor in the world probably well out past the max effective range of the M4, and that’s what we see as a replacement for the M4 in the future, not the SDM-R.”

Next Generation Squad Weapon Timetable

Lt. General Paul Ostrowski, Army Acquisition Corps Director and the military deputy to the Assistant Secretary of the Army (Acquisition, Logistics and Technology, then gave a timeline for the fielding of the Next Generation Squad Weapon.

“I will just say that, between the S&T effort that we have ongoing with Textron, and the OTA – Other Transactional Authority – that we’re going to offer to other vendors in ’18, the intent is to try to do a fly off between those particular companies by the end of ’21 in order to provide some kind of capability by ’22 or ’23 at the latest,” Ostrowski said.

Ostrowski’s statement appears to confirm earlier reports that Textron Systems’ new Intermediate Case-Telescoped Carbine in 6.5mm was used for testing. But given the fact that Murray described the demonstration gun as “too big” and “too heavy,” the service will undoubtedly be going with something different in terms of the Next Generation Squad Weapon.

 

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