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US Army Calls for Next Generation Squad Automatic Rifle Prototypes

This article was originally posted on Thefirearmblog.com

The US Army’s Next Generation Squad Automatic Rifle (NGSAR) program is moving forward with a Prototype Opportunity Notice scheduled for publication later this week. The US Army Contracting Command has issued a draft Prototype Opportunity Notice (PON) for the NGSAR. Before the PON is issued the Contracting Command is looking for feedback on its draft PON from industry partners. The Army has previously held industry days for the NGSAR programme. Feedback is requested no later than 8th March, making the publication of the final PON imminent.

In February, Nathaniel F reported a Textron weapon, likely the 6.5 CT carbine, was acting as the NGSAR demonstrator. While the draft PON confirms that Textron Systems were awarded a Department of Defense Ordnance Technology Consortium (DOTC) Initiative to develop cased telescoped ammunition and a prototype weapon back in December 2017. The PON also explains that following market research the Army Contracting Command believes “that Industry has potential concepts that can address the aforementioned operational needs in the near term and provide future growth as technologies mature.”

The Textron’s 5.56mm LSAT light machine gun, a likely submission to the PON (Picatinny Arsenal, US Army)

the NGSAR is the first iteration of the NGSWS Next Generation Squad Weapon System, the draft PON’s synopsis gives a pretty good description of what the Army hopes the NGSAR will be capable of:

The NGSAR is the planned replacement for the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW) in Brigade Combat Teams (BCT). It will combine the firepower and range of a machine gun with the precision and ergonomics of a rifle, yielding capability improvements in accuracy, range, and lethality. The weapon will be lightweight and fire lightweight ammunition, improving Soldier mobility, survivability, and firing accuracy. Soldiers will employ the NGSAR against close and extended range targets in all terrains and conditions. The NGSAR support concept will be consistent and comparable to the M249 SAW involving the Army two-level field and sustainment maintenance system.

The Army hopes to award as many as five contracts for system demonstrators (prototypes) with a technology readiness level (TRL) 6. This is significant as TRL 6 requires that the prototype is capable and ready for simulated environment testing. (You can read more about the DoD’s Technology Readiness Assessment and TRL system here.) The draft PON also called for a Manufacturing Readiness Level (MRL) 6. This calls for contractors to be capable of building a prototype system in a production (rather than lab/toolroom) environment. (More on MRLs here).

Alternate NGSAR concept displayed in Lt. Col. Beal’s presentation at NDIA. It appears to be a bullpup, magazine-fed weapon firing CT ammunition

The final PON for NGSAR is anticipated for release on or about the 9th March with proposals then due by the 26th March, 2018. The PON states that those selected to develop a prototype will then have 12 months to prepare their submissions. The submissions must include: a prototype weapon, 2,000 rounds of the system’s ammunition, fire control (day and night), a bipod, a suppressor, and tools and spare parts to support testing and firing of 2,000 rounds.

The PON lays out the Army’s desired characteristics for the NGSAR:

Weapon Weight: 12 lbs or less
Ammunition Weight: 20% less than equal amount of conventional brass cased ammunition
Length: 35 inches or less
Rate of Fire: ’60 rounds per minute with 3 round burst for 15 minutes without a barrel change or cook-off’ Dispersion: Semi-Automatic 7 inch Average Mean Radius 400 meters, & Automatic 14 inch Average Mean Radius 400 meters
Suppressor: Flash – 80% less than an unsuppressed M249
Acoustic – 140 decibels or less
Weapon Controllability: “Soldier firing standing with optic at a 50 meter E-Type silhouette given 3 to 5 round burst must be able to engage in 2-4 seconds placing two rounds 70 percent of the time on target”
Lethality Requirements: Not published publicly

The prototypes will be evaluated on three factors: Concept (the weapon’s ability to meet Army requirements), Feasibility (ability to produce weapon) and Price. You can check out the Army Contracting Command’s draft PON in full here

H/T: Thanks Hrachya for bringing the PON to my attention!

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