The Army Wants To Try Out Next-Generation Rifle Prototypes Sooner Than You Think

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Editor’s Note: This article by Matthew Cox originally appeared on Military.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

The Army has announced that it plans to give gunmakers the opportunity to build 6.8mm prototypes for the service's effort to replace its M249 squad automatic weapon and M4/M4A1 carbine.

The release date of the much-anticipated Prototype Opportunity Notice, or PON, for the Next Generation Squad Weapon program "is currently estimated to be January 2019," according to a Dec. 17 update to the service's draft PON, which outlines changes made after an industry day held Nov. 14 at Picatinny Arsenal, New Jersey.

The Army released the original draft PON solicitation Oct. 4. It described the service's plans to award future deals to companies to build prototypes of the Next Generation Squad Weapon-Rifle, or NGSW-R, and the Next Generation Squad Weapon-Automatic Rifle, or NGSW-AR, chambered for a newly designed, "government-provided" 6.8mm cartridge.

The service intends to have companies develop prototypes of both the rifle and auto rifle versions of the NGSW to ensure the Army-developed 6.8mm round works efficiently in both weapons, officials said.

The Army's interest in fielding a 6.8mm round, intended to make a squad more lethal, emerged from a 2017 Small Arms Ammunition Configuration Study.

If the PON is released in January, the plan is to have gunmakers submit proposals in April, the updated solicitation states.

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The Textron 5.56mm LSAT light machine gun. In the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing of Feb. 7th, 2018, the Next Generation Squad Automatic Rifle (NGSAR) demonstrator weapon was revealed to be a Textron prototype based on LSAT technologyTextron/The Firearm Blog

The update also states that the Army plans to "remove the live-fire portion of the Bid Sample evaluation and replace it with a recoil/impulse test (details to be determined)."

In a separate action, the Army awarded five contracts to gunmakers in July to develop prototypes of the auto rifle. The prototypes from those contract awards are scheduled to be delivered to the service next June for evaluation, Army officials said.

If the NGSW program leads to the adoption of new weapons, Army leaders plan to field them to soldiers in infantry and other close-combat units, service officials have said.

This article originally appeared on Military.com

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