Tag Archives: Textron

NGSW? Don’t Hold Your Breath

The current NGSW field 

The U.S. Army is full-speed ahead on an initiative to select a new series of innovative 6.8mm-caliber Next Generation Squad Weapons to phase out its 5.56mm platforms for combat troops. However, it would seem the Department of the Army is hedging their bets with traditional systems just in case things don’t work out like planned such as in past ambitious programs for futuristic small arms.

In April, FN won a 5-year $119 million contract for new M4/M4A1 Carbines from the company’s South Carolina factory– where 500 of the shorty 5.56s roll out every, single, day.

And this week, Big Army likewise issued a $78 million award to FN for more M249s, the squad-level U.S-made variant of the FN Minimi light machine gun that has been standard since 1982.

Just google the Individual Carbine (IC), Objective Individual Combat Weapon (OICW), or the Advanced Combat Rifle (ACR) programs to see why keeping the legacy infantry arms in production until things work out is a good idea.

The army advanced combat rifle ACR prototypes.

After SPIW, ACR, and OCIW, is NGSW the charm?

Despite past programs such as SPIW, ACR, and OCIW that left the U.S. Army still fielding successive generations of Eugene Stoner’s AR platform at the end of the day, today’s NGSW program could be different. The new Next Generation Squad Weapon program is moving right along and its competitors read like a who’s who of modern rifle, ammo, and optics makers.

Names like Beretta, Heckler & Koch, Leupold, Sig Sauer, Vortex, and Olin-Winchester are enumerated among the current vendors of what could end up as the most revolutionary small arms award of the 21st Century thus far.

The current field

More in my column at Guns.com

Guns of the U.S. Army, 1775-2020

While you may know of today’s standard U.S. Army infantry rifles, and those of the 20th Century, how about those present at Lexington and Concord or the line of Springfield muskets from 1795 through 1865? What came after?

For all this and more, check out the easy 2,000-word primer I did for this last weekend at Guns.com.

Sig Says they have delivered their prototype Next Gen small arms systems to the Army

New Hampshire-based Sig Sauer reports they have recently delivered their Next Generation Squad Weapons system to the U.S. Army for testing and evaluation.

Sig is one of three contractors who last year got the nod from the Pentagon to continue with the NGSW program, which is designed to replace 5.56mm NATO small arms– such as the M4 Carbine and M249 Squad Automatic Weapon– in the Army’s frontline units.

Sig’s belt-fed MG 6.8mm machine gun, which is submitted as the NGSW-AR, is billed as being 40% lighter than the M249 but with “dramatically reduced felt recoil.” It has ambidextrous AR-style ergonomics, quick detach magazines, increased M1913 rail space, and a quick-detach Sig-developed suppressor.

Meanwhile, Sig’s MCX Spear rifle, submitted as the NGSW-R rifle, is also chambered in the new 6.8mm cartridge, has a fully collapsible and folding stock, rear and side charging handle, free-floating reinforced M-LOK handguard, fully ambi controls, and a quick-detach suppressor.

More in my column at Guns.com 

Has Vortex cracked the combat optic of the future?

Wisconsin-based Vortex Optics announced Monday they have entered into an agreement with the U.S. Army an agreement to deliver a possible component of the service’s Next Generation Squad Weapon.

The contract between the Pentagon and Vortex is an Other Transaction Authority (OTA) agreement, an award type traditionally used to fund innovative prototype procurement and development of forward-looking technology. As such, Vortex will provide production-ready prototypes for use in Soldier TouchPoint evaluations.

The optic at the center of the OTA is Vortex’s 1-8×30 Active Reticle Fire Control, which the veteran-owned company explains is “built around a revolutionary technology based on many years of internal research and development, along with multiple cooperative development efforts with the Army’s PM-Soldier Weapons group.”

The Active Reticle has reportedly been proven to increase hit percentage and decrease time to engage during Soldier TouchPoints in the past two years. In the case of a battery power loss, users still have an uncompromised 1-8x, direct-view optic and glass-etched reticle, which alone exceeds current optics.

And it looks pretty sweet.

More in my column at Guns.com. 

Next Generation Squad Weapons abound

Groovy and very sci-fi looking new guns competing in the U.S. Army’s Next Generation Squad Weapons program were shown to the public last week.

Intended to replace the current standard M4 Carbine and M249 SAW light machine gun, the new NGSW contenders — which use 6.8mm (.277-caliber) hybrid ammunition with an EPR bullet– were on hand at the largest land warfare conference and tradeshow in North America: the Association of United States Army annual meeting (AUSA 2019) last week in Washington DC.

General Dynamics Ordnance & Tactical Systems, which is working with True Velocity and Beretta, showed off their new RM277 NGSW platform, a bullpup with lots of modularity.

Notably, the gun uses True Velocity’s 6.8mm composite-cased cartridge, which has a “drastic reduction in cartridge weight and enhanced accuracy.”

Other contenders include a team made up of Textron, which has subcontracted with ammo maker Winchester-Olin and firearms maker Heckler & Koch, while Sig Sauer is going it alone.

In the below, BG Dave Hodne, Director SL CFT, and BG Potts, PEO Soldier, talk about soldier lethality and how the NGSW fits into the equation, below.

Textron is now the largest Mirage F1 operator in the world

Former Armée de l’Air Dassault Mirage F1s could be a familiar sight over U.S. skies near aggressor bases

As noted by Flight Global, Textron subsidiary Airborne Tactical Advantage Company just picked up 63 former French Air Force (Armée de l’Air) Mirage F1B, F1CT, and F1CR for dissimilar air combat training and aggressor squadron purposes for the U.S. Air Force. The deal included 150 engines and a host of other gear the French weren’t using anymore.

“Textron is planning to retrofit the F1s with modern avionics systems such as digital radio frequency memory jamming capabilities and upgraded radars,” ATAC chief executive Jeffrey Parker says. “The requirements we’re seeing the air force describe clearly include a modern radar such as AESA or a highly capable mechanically scanned array radar.”

A tip-top dual purpose strike fighter when introduced in 1973, over 720 F1s were fielded with the French using the lion share (246) and the Ecuadorian, Greek, Iraqi (the Exocet attack on the USS Stark), Libyan, Moroccan, South African, and Spanish getting smaller quantities, though almost all have retired them.

The French disbanded the last squadron flying the F1 in 2014 and today only Gabon flies a few surplus Armée de l’Air jets, and the Libyans have a handful the French are upgrading while the Iranians are thought to have about a dozen operational F1BQs and F1EQs that escaped Desert Storm by skipping over the border in 1991.

The Army goes for a lighter machine gun, and you won’t believe what it shoots

Ever since the first cave dweller was handed a rock by his war chief and told to go smash on “the others,” grunts on the sharp end of things have wanted to carry lighter weapons into battle– and the soldiers of the U.S. Army are no exception to this rule. Well, it looks like the latest weapon in the Joe’s arsenal to potentially get light-sized is the hard serving M249 Minmi squad automatic weapon, otherwise known as the SAW.

The U.S. light machinegun concept

Back around 1909, the Army realized that, with the German Spandau, the British Vickers, and Russian Maxim machineguns out there in ever-growing numbers, Big Green was going to need something more mobile and effective than its Civil War-technology Gatling guns. This led them to adopt the French Hotchkiss gun as the M1909 Benét–Mercié machine gun.

Isnt it cute?

Isnt it cute?

This 26.5-pound gas operated weapon, with a cyclic rate of about 600 rounds per minute, seemed just the thing, and was put into production by Springfield Armory in 30.06. While it proved better than a pointy stick in places like Columbus, New Mexico (where a team of 13th Cavalry troopers with four of the guns fired in excess of 20,000 combined rounds in some 90-minutes against raiders from Pancho Villa’s legions), the gun, with its 181 moving parts and cranky 30-round feeding strips just wasn’t all that good.

This led the Army to adopt the thoroughly detested 20-pound Chauchat light machine gun during World War One before finally going American in 1919 with the Browning Light Machine Gun. The former weapon, although chunky at 31-pounds, remained in service due to its utter reliability until as late as the 1970s when it was finally replaced by the 7.62x51mm NATO M60 machine gun.

The M1919A6 was 32.5 to 35 pounds depending on setup...but it was better than either the Benet Mercie or the Chauchat

The M1919A6 was 32.5 to 35 pounds depending on setup…but it was better than either the Benet Mercie or the Chauchat

Known as “the Pig,” the M60 was unforgiving to those not well versed in its use, and worst of all, was heavy to boot, with Vietnam-era models hitting the scales at nearly 25-pounds unloaded, which wasn’t all that much lighter than the guns used against Villa back in 1916.

M60 machine gunner of the 25th Infantry Division, 1968

M60 machine gunner of the 25th Infantry Division, 1968

Well, fast forward until 1984, when the U.S. Army went shopping around and stumbled over the Belgian-made Minimi, a light machine gun manufactured by FN Herstal (FN). This neat little 17.5-pound LMG only weighed 2/3rds that of the Pig and, even though it was chambered in 5.56x45mm rather than the bigger 7.62, a gunner could carry more of the smaller round per pound, meaning there would be more love to give on the modern battlefield. While this gun, adopted as the M249 or SAW, has seen mucho combat in Panama, Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere, many argue it could still be lighter and, while it was at it, shoot a bigger round.

Enter the LSAT CT LMG…

 

The Lightweight Small Arms Technologies (LSAT) Cased Telescoped Light Machine Gun, or CT LMG, weighs just 9.2 pounds...

The Lightweight Small Arms Technologies (LSAT) Cased Telescoped Light Machine Gun, or CT LMG, weighs just 9.2 pounds…

And shoots a caseless polymer telescoping round inside polymer links that weigh about half as much as a normal round

And shoots a caseless polymer telescoping round inside polymer links that weigh about half as much as a normal round

Read the rest in my column at Firearms Talk