The United States Army is preparing for decades of hybrid wars across multiple domains - space, cyberspace, air, land, and, maritime. Back in October, we examined the Army’s latest Training and Doctrine Command report, which highlights how the next round of hybrid wars could begin somewhere around 2025 and last through 2040.
Currently, the Army is in a transitional period [quiet period] before the next round of wars start. President Trump has infused the Pentagon with more than $700 billion this fiscal year, in the attempt to plug significant gaps and expand emerging technologies. For instance, the Army has made it clear that it will replace its three decades old M249 light machine gun and the Colt M4 Modular Weapon System Carbine, with a lightweight and higher chamber pressure assault rifle.
Back in March, we documented how the Army selected the Textron/AAI Corp. LSAT (Lightweight Small Arms Technologies) Cased Telescoped Machine Gun, a new high-tech assault rifle that can release a high rate of specialty designed bullets with as much chamber pressure as an M1A2 Abrams tank to pierce through the world’s most advanced body armor, into the Next Generation Squad Automatic Rifle (NGSAR) program.
AAI Corp. and Textron have been developing some of the world’s most advanced assault rifles for a dozen or more years, in hopes to be the defense contractor that replaces the Army’s M249.
Now it seems Textron is not alone. According to the Prototype Opportunity Notice (PON) for NGSAR, the U.S. Army Contracting Command-New Jersey (ACC-NJ), on behalf of Project Manager Soldier Weapons, awarded six (6) separate Fixed Priced, Full and Open Competition (F&OC), Prototype OTA’s to:
AAI Corporation Textron Systems – Hunt Valley, MD; OTA W15QKN-18-9-1017
FN America LLC. – Columbia, SC; OTA’s W15QKN-18-9-1018 & W15QKN-18-9-1019
General Dynamics-OTS Inc. – Williston, VT; OTA W15QKN-18-9-1020
PCP Tactical, LLC – Vero Beach, FL; OTA W15QKN-18-9-1021
Sig Sauer Inc. – Newington, NH; OTA W15QKN-18-9-1022
“These Prototype OTA’s will be for the manufacture and development of a Next Generation Squad Automatic Rifle (NGSAR) system demonstrator representative of a Technology Readiness Level (TRL) 6 and Manufacturing Readiness Level (MRL) 6. The expected Prototype OTA duration is twelve months after award. The Prototype OTA’s were awarded on 25 June 2018,” stated the PON. Following each manufactures submission of their prototype weapons, there will be an open competition, where each gun manufacture hopes their weapon outperforms the rest and ultimately replaces the M249.
In a Textron press release, the company states the prototype will be based on their cased-telescoped weapons and ammunition portfolio.
Wayne Prender, vice president of Applied Technologies & Advanced Programs at Textron Systems, spoke with Military.comabout his firm’s prototype weapon and the NGSAR program.
“We are leveraging and building upon our lineage of lightweight squad weapon technologies that we have been working on over the last 14 years,” he said.
Prender said his firm was notified in late June of the contract award to deliver “one prototype weapon, one fire control system and 2,000 rounds of ammunition within 12 months.”
The NGSAR program also wants gun manufacturers to decrease the weight of the ammunition by at least 20 percent. According to Military.com, Textron has invested large sums of money into its case-telescoped ammunition technology.
“The futuristic cartridges - featuring a plastic case rather than a brass one to hold the propellant and the projectile, like a conventional shotgun shell - offer significant weight reductions compared to conventional ammo,” said Military.com.
Despite Textron’s vast experience in defense, Prender reveals it could be quite challenging to deliver what the Army wants.
“They have some pretty aggressive goals with respect to lethality and weight and size and some other performance characteristics,” he said. “All of those things individually may be relatively easy but, when you start stacking them all together, that is really where it becomes complex and you need a new design.”
Pender was not at liberty to discuss the specifics about the prototype Textron is submitting but said: “we are taking lessons from all of our case-telescoped projects to include the 5.56mm, 7.62mm, and the intermediate caliber — all that information is informing this new design.”
“There is not an easy button here. Certainly, we think our case-telescoped solution is an ideal one to meet these requirements … but there is development that is necessary over and above what we have done to date,” he added.
In case you are wondering what the next high-tech assault rifle could look like, well, watch this video: