Requirements for NGSW products. U.S. Army graphics
The US Army is currently working with several commercial organizations to implement the NGSW (Next Generation Squad Weapon) program to replace existing automatic rifles and light machine guns. Updates on progress and progress are published regularly.
In spite of difficulties
On May 13, Task & Purpose published new data on the NGSW project. The information was disclosed by Bridgette Seater, a representative of the Soldier Lethality Cross Functional Team, which is responsible for the development of advanced weapons. Despite the known epidemiological problems, the work continues on schedule and gives the necessary results.
Experimental weapons are currently being tested with the involvement of military personnel from combat units. B. Seeter notes that the NGSW project attaches great importance to “Soldier Centered Design”, and therefore the feedback of the operator and designers is of particular importance.
To date, 567 soldiers and officers of the ground forces and marines have familiarized themselves with the samples of the NGSW program. They have worked with this weapon for a total of 7658 hours. Experimental work continues, and in the near future these figures will increase significantly.
Plans have already been drawn up for the further introduction of promising weapons both within the framework of military tests and after being adopted and put into service. This was reported on May 14 by the Military.com portal with reference to Colonel Joel Babbitt of the Special Operations Command.
Automatic NGSW-R from Textron. Photo by Vpk.name
Colonel Babbitt noted that his department is following the NGSW program with enthusiasm and awaits completion of the work. US SOCOM wants to receive new weapons as soon as their mass production and supply to the troops begin. The officer also noted the importance of fruitful cooperation between different organizations and established feedback.
Samples of the NGSW program have already performed well and even influenced the plans of US SOCOM. Based on the test results of this weapon, the Command decided to suspend its own program for the development of a 6.5-mm machine gun. Instead, it is planned to take a sample from the army program.
Through the SOCOM line, NGSW-type complexes can receive several units and formations related to the Special Operations Forces. These will be the 75th Ranger Regiment, Green Berets and other special forces in need of modern and effective small arms. At the same time, the delivery dates to the listed structures have not yet been specified.
Plans for the future
According to already published data, the current stage of military tests of two types of weapons will continue until next summer 2021. The purpose of this stage of the program is to identify all the pros and cons of the presented designs. The army will spend the next few months analyzing the test results, after which the winner will be selected.
Light machine gun from Textron. Photo Vpk.name
The NGSW winner will be officially selected and announced in Q1 2022. Then they will spend about a year fine-tuning the selected sample, preparing a series, etc. No later than the beginning of 2023, they will launch the production and supply of finished weapons to the troops. The pace of production and rearmament of specific combat units has not yet been specified.
The program is highly complex, and weapon developers have to spend a lot of time and effort on solving specific problems. According to various estimates, the process of fine-tuning weapons and ammunition can be delayed, at least. until the middle of the decade.
Challengers to win
Recall that the NGSW program started several years ago, and initially five companies that manufacture weapons and ammunition joined it. Its goal is to create fundamentally new rifle complexes with increased firepower that meet the current requirements of the army. It is required to develop a new ammunition with increased penetrating power, as well as weapons for it, capable of replacing M16 / M4 rifles and M249 machine guns.
The program includes the development of two versions of new weapons. The NGSW-R product is positioned as a new automatic rifle. The niche of the light machine gun will be given to the NGSW-AR product. The two types of weapons must use a common cartridge and have the maximum degree of unification. In addition to increased firepower, weapons require the ability to install a flame arrester or a silent firing device, interchangeable magazines, sophisticated ergonomics, etc.
Cartridge from General Dynamics. Photo by Modernfirearms.net
Five arms companies were involved in the program early on. By now, the number of contestants has been reduced to two. The first project is being developed by several companies led by General Dynamics, the second is being done by AAI Corporation / Textron Systems and Sig Sauer. Both consortia offered their own versions of cartridges and weapons for them.
By now, the appearance of the developed complexes and their main features have become known, while other details have not yet been published. The requirement to increase firepower led to the need to develop reinforced cartridges, which affects the characteristics of the weapon, and also requires the use of specific design solutions.
For example, in the complex from General Dynamics, the .277 TVCM cartridge from True Velocity, built on the basis of a plastic sleeve, is used. The RM277 NGSW-R assault rifle for this ammunition is made according to the bullpup scheme and is equipped with advanced recoil reduction devices. In particular, a rollback buffer is assumed. The ammunition supply is provided by a box magazine for 20 rounds.
The automatic machine from Textron and AAI has a traditional layout, but uses a telescopic type cartridge. In this regard, the product has a complex ammunition supply system with a movable chamber. From the point of view of ergonomics, the Textron NGSW-R differs little from modern rifles, but should show advantages in combat qualities.
The .227 TVCM cartridge from the General Dynamics complex. Photo Modernfirearms.net
In parallel, the aiming equipment is being developed within the framework of the program. This topic is being handled by L3 Harris Technology and Vortex Optics. In April, they received new contracts for work, the result of which will be the emergence of advanced scopes specifically for the new weapon.
In the middle of the way
Prospective samples of prototypes have already reached field tests with the involvement of military personnel. Several hundred fighters spent thousands of hours at the training grounds and gained some experience. Already next year, the command plans to choose a winner and launch subsequent work preceding the widespread introduction of new weapons. However, the situation is not conducive to excessive optimism so far.
Many unusual and fundamentally new solutions are used in NGSW projects that need to be worked out. Identifying and correcting shortcomings can take a lot of time, and the refinement process will continue even after being put into service. In addition, some technical features of a negative nature cannot be removed in principle. This includes excessive noise during firing, which persists even when muzzle devices are used, a large mass of the structure and an increase in cost in comparison with other samples.
However, decision-makers and organizations in general appreciate the current program. Its current results are satisfactory for the customer, although not without reservations. The work will continue and, most likely, it will be brought to its logical conclusion. However, at the moment, all the proposed projects remain “raw”, and the rangers or “green berets” will have to hope that their fine-tuning will be successful.