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    Next-Generation Assault Rifle (NGSAR)

    Next Generation Squad Automatic Rifle (NGSAR) under development to replace M249.
    The new assault rifle will unleash a hailstorm of specially-designed shells with as much chamber pressure as a battle tank to tear through even the most advanced body armour — and if all goes according to plan, the soldiers will get them to play with sooner than they thought

    The Next Generation Squad Automatic Rifle (NGSAR) will be the first version in the military that chambers a round between 6.5mm and 6.8mm. Textron an arms maker firm is gambling that its 14 years of work on case-telescoped weapons research will satisfy the U.S. Army’s ambitious requirements for an M249 squad automatic weapon replacement. The US military recently awarded Textron and five other gunmakers a contract to build prototype weapons for its Next Generation Squad Automatic Rifle program.

    The gun expected to be available starting in fiscal 2022 rather than the originally planned date of fiscal 2025, Col Geoffrey A. Norman, the chief of development division at Army HQ, told Task & Purpose. The NGSAR will weigh less, shoot farther, and pack more punch than the service’s existing infantry weapons. And more importantly, the platform will incorporate a chamber pressure superior to the current system in soldiers’ arsenals to ensure that the rounds can still blast through enhanced enemy body armour at up to 600 meters.

    The goal, as military strategists have put it, is to equip infantry soldiers with an automatic rifle that fires a small bullet at the pressure equivalent to what a tank would fire. The chamber pressure for the standard assault rifle is around 45 KSI [kilopound per square inch], but we’re looking for between 60 and 80 KSI, almost equivalent to M1 Abrams tank firepower. The rifle can fire a bullet reaches out at the target about 600 meters and have lethal effects even if the target is protected by body armour.

    The NGSW program currently consists of the NGSAR, a Next Generation Squad Carbine (NGSC). The reason, according to the Pentagon is to shift from the close quarters of urban warfare in Iraq and Syria to the mountains and open terrain of Afghanistan. While the carbine may be well-suited for a knock-down, drag-out brawl while moving house to house in cities like Mosul and Raqqa, it lacks the range to take out Taliban and ISIS fighters in open stretches “For the past 10 or 15 years, we’ve been really focused on the requirement of lethal effects against unprotected targets,” Norman said. “Now we’re looking at near-peer threats like Russia and others. We need to have lethal effects against protected targets and we need to have requirements for long-range lethality in places like Afghanistan, where you’re fighting from mountaintop to mountaintop over extended ranges.”

    NGSW system is currently undergoing testing and evaluation by the Soldier Lethality Cross-Functional Team at Fort Benning, Georgia and will initially head downrange with the 7.62mm XM11158 Advanced Armor Piercing (ADVAP) round while the service hacks away at a specialized round built to achieve the proper balance between range and lethality. The challenge of the 5.56mm is that it doesn’t have enough mass [to defeat enemy body armour].

    We’re exploring several options to ensure that what the gun aims at, it actually hits, ”Norman said. “The system will adjust and potentially only fire when the muzzle will line up with its target. It will take into account atmospheric conditions, even automatically align the weapon using an internal system. We’re looking to get these capabilities ready as soon as possible.” The Army’s hard target of a 2022 fielding may seem ambitious, especially given the maddeningly batshit nature of defence acquisition. But the service isn’t the only one putting the NGSW in the crosshairs: According to Norman, the Corps is also interested in adopting the NGSAR alongside the M27 and M1101 CSASS sniper rifle the Army has eyed in recent years.

    And with the campaign against ISIS in close-quarters environs like Iraq and Syria winding down, soldiers and infantry Marines could use the range and the punch of the system sooner rather than later. “We’ve got support from Congress and the Secretary of Defense as part of our close combat strategic portfolio review,” Norman told Task & Purpose. “We’re not going to replace all 80,000 SAWs right away — but the intent is to get this AR variant out to infantry squads as soon as possible.”

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