The U.S. Army is moving forward with the Next Generation Squad Weapon program, or NGSW, in a series of efforts to give individual infantry squads the ability to more precisely engage targets at longer distances.
According to a press release from Army, it continues its rigorous testing and evaluation of small arms systems to meet their requirements and deliver increased lethality to the Soldier.
Last April, the Army awarded a contract to Sig Sauer to produce the Next Generation Squad Weapon — or NGSW — XM7 Rifle, XM250 Automatic Rifle and a 6.8mm family of ammunition to replace the M4A1 Carbine, M249 Squad Automatic Weapon and 5.56mm family of ammunition within the close combat force.
Since that time, PEO Soldier, JPEO Armaments & Ammunition, Product Manager Next Generation Weapons, Product Manager Small Caliber Ammunition, the Soldier Lethality Cross Functional Team, Sig Sauer and the collective Army enterprise have worked tirelessly to get this new capability ready to field to the Army.
During the fall of 2022, Sig Sauer and the government conducted numerous technical tests and a Soldier touch point with the latest weapons configuration at Aberdeen Test Center. The engagement focused on user acceptance, load carriage and integration with the XM157 Fire Control optic produced by Vortex Optics Inc., which will be mounted on every XM7 Rifle and XM250 Automatic Rifle.
Sig Sauer has taken testing to a new level by replicating the test setup, used by the Aberdeen Test Center, at their home test center in Exeter, New Hampshire. This provides “clear confidence of our vendor’s commitment to results for our Soldiers,” said Maj. Jamin D. Williamson, Assistant Product Manager, PM Soldier Lethality.
PEO Soldier has relied heavily on user feedback to create a Soldier-centric design that also meets the performance requirements. The team conducted over 100 technical tests, fired over 1.5 million rounds of 6.8mm ammunition and executed over 20,000 hours of Soldier testing. The team continued this pace by conducting a Soldier touch point with the XM7 Rifles and XM250 Automatic Rifles last fall with squads from the 75th Ranger Regiment and National Guard. With advanced weapons technology, ammunition performance and the advanced fire control, Soldiers can put steel on target with 6.8mm general purpose ammunition and defeat the threat at range.
“The Soldier Touch Point allowed the program and Sig Sauer the opportunity to solicit direct Soldier feedback on the systems post-contract award and inform simple design changes to improve the weapons before going into production qualification testing and operational tests in the coming year,” said Capt. Tyler Morgan Assistant Product Manager, NGSW
A Soldier with the 75th Ranger Regiment said on the XM7, “Absolutely would take this weapon to combat in a heartbeat. It is light, functions very well, has an awesome load system, and is easy to handle and engage targets with.”
On the XM250, another Soldier expressed, “I would certainly take this weapon into combat today. This feels like a huge upgrade as far as ergonomics of controls, recoil management and ease of manipulation over the M249.”
Another key focus for the team prior to product qualification testing, or PQT, is supporting Doctrine, Organization, Training, materiel, Leadership and Education, Personnel, Facilities, and Policy — or DOTmLPF-P — integration efforts. This is critical to ensure that the enterprise is set up for success with a major integration effort to replace two weapons and a family of ammunition, something that has not occurred in the last 60 years.
Critical integration efforts include pairing the weapons with the Multiple Integrated Laser Engagement System, ensuring arms room weapons racks are ready, vehicle weapons mounts are upgraded, technical manuals are validated, and range surface danger zones are updated, and more.
“The level of emphasis and precision the Army enterprise has put into synchronizing the NGSW DOTmLPF-P domains has been nothing short of amazing,” said Lt. Col. Joshua Headley, Product Manager, Next Generation Weapons. “The enterprise has rallied around the schedule we have laid out and we are on a great glidepath to get our Solders weapons and ammo, at the speed of relevance, that are fully integrated across the DOTmLPF-P.”
The next step in the NGSW program will be PQT, scheduled for May to July 2023. PM Soldier Lethality is preparing to accept delivery of two dozen XM7 Rifles and XM250 Automatic Rifles in preparation for testing.
Following PQT, the Army will conduct an operational test focused on setting the conditions for the First Unit Equipped scheduled in the second quarter of FY24. Future operational testing is planned for FY24 to assess natural environments and airborne qualifications.