The Army plans to field in 2023 a rifle and light machine combination that will replace the standard issue M4 carbine and the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon for its close combat force.
They’re not alone, both the Marine Corps and Special Operations Command have been included in the years-long testing and experimentation phase and will have the option to adopt the new-caliber weapons.
That new caliber, a special, Army-designed 6.8mm round, is the biggest change that shooters will see. The Next Generation Squad Weapon program had industry competitors build the weapon around the round.
This past year, Sig Sauer won the $4.7 billion weapon contract and Vortex Optics and Sheltered Wings working together won the $2.7 billion NGSW-Fire Control.
Once fielded, the M5 carbine replacement and the M250 SAW replacement, will allow users to shoot farther, faster with more accurate shots that are more lethal than the current 5.56mm round used in the two legacy weapons.
The fielding will go to operational units, likely in early 2023. Those units have not yet been identified publicly by Army officials. The full rollout to the entire close combat force will happen over several years.
That close combat force includes infantry, scouts and combat engineers who support or deploy alongside infantry and scouts.
The rest of the force will continue to carry the M4 and M249 for the coming decade or longer.
Both weapons feature M-lock handguards, a Picatinny Rail for attaching shooting accessories, an ambidextrous safety and left-side accessible charging handle for the M250.
The two will also feature the NGSW-Fire Control, which is a computer-assisted optic that can provide aim correction, first focal plane optic, a disturbed reticle, ballistics computer and laser range finder. It also links wirelessly with current and future soldier electronics.
Todd South has written about crime, courts, government and the military for multiple publications since 2004 and was named a 2014 Pulitzer finalist for a co-written project on witness intimidation. Todd is a Marine veteran of the Iraq War.