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.
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
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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.