machine gun barrels
(Photo by John Hafner)

After months of rumors, the U.S. Army confirmed its Next Generation Squad Weapons (NGSW) will adopt the 6.8mm.

The caliber switch from the current 5.56mm applies to the upcoming M4 carbine and M249 Squad Automatic Weapon replacements.

Details on the 6.8mm Switch

In a Prototype Opportunity Notice posted on Fed Biz Opps, U.S. Army Contracting Command calls for “two weapon variants and a common cartridge for both weapons, utilizing Government provided 6.8 millimeter projectiles.”

Again, those two variants apply to both replacements in the ongoing NGSW program. The first replacement is the NGSW-Rifle (NGSW-R), which will succeed the current M4/M4A1 Carbine.

The second variant refers to the NGSW-Automatic Rifle (NGSAR), a replacement for the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW) in the Automatic Rifleman Role in Brigade Combat Teams (BCT).

This is a change from the initial plan, which, according to the Army Times, “was to first develop the NGSAR and then allow its advancements to inform the development of the M4 replacement, the NGSW-R.”

Posted on Oct. 4, the PON notes a 27-month development period, suggesting a winner could be selected at some point in 2021.

Why 6.8mm?

Various reports state the U.S. Army had been looking for an “intermediate caliber” in between the 5.56mm and 7.62mm.

Ultimately, the decision comes down to effectiveness in the field.

“We’re looking to reach out around 600 meters and have lethal effects even if the target is protected by body armor,” Col. Geoffrey A. Norman, force development division chief at Army HQ, told Task & Purpose in May 2017. “We need to have lethal effects against protected targets and we need to have requirements for long-range lethality in places like Afghanistan, where you’re fighting from mountaintop to mountaintop over extended ranges.”

NGSAR Candidates Confirmed

The U.S. Army confirmed in July that five companies have already been selected to produce six prototypes for the NGSAR program.

The companies include SIG Sauer, FN America, Textron Systems, General Dynamics and PCP Tactical. FN is submitting two variants.

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