The U.S. Army's top civilian recently fired a technology demonstrator of the service's Next Generation Squad Weapon (NGSW), chambered for a special 6.8mm round.
Ryan McCarthy, who is serving as acting secretary of the Army, met with officials from the Army Soldier Lethality Cross Functional Team at Fort Benning, Georgia, on Wednesday to check out the Textron Systems-made weapon, which fires case-telescoped ammunition.
The NGSW is being developed to begin replacing the M249 squad automatic weapon and M4 carbine in infantry and close-combat units as early as fiscal 2022. Textron delivered the first of five NGSW-Technology demonstrators to the Army this spring.
McCarthy fired a magazine of about 20 rounds though the demonstrator, according to Daryl Easlick, test and evaluation specialist for the Soldier Lethality CFT. He would not give any details about what McCarthy said about the experience.
Last week, McCarthy told Military.com he was excited about going to see the new weapon but would rather watch soldiers shoot it.
"I like hearing the direct-user feedback -- is it too heavy? Is it accurate?" McCarthy said.
The technology demonstrator program was intended to help Army officials prove out the early NGSW concept, Easlick said.
It achieved the proof-of-concept goals such as "weight reduction, controllability, acceptable sound levels, and increased lethality at extended ranges," an Army official told Military.com.
The service has been working with gunmakers on several initiatives to develop prototypes -- both an automatic rifle and carbine version of the NGSW -- that are chambered to fire a special government-designed 6.8mm projectile.
In 2018, Textron also received a separate Army contract to develop a prototype weapon through an NGSW prototype opportunity notice. In addition to Textron, the service awarded prototype contracts to General Dynamics-OTS Inc., PCP Tactical LLC and Sig Sauer Inc. Two contracts were awarded to FN America LLC, according to a July 2018 contract award notice.
Those prototypes were expected to be delivered in June, but a delay occurred and they are now scheduled to be delivered later this month, Easlick said.
The Army is also scheduled to award prototype contracts in August to gunmakers participating in a second prototype opportunity notice, released in January, to design the automatic rifle and carbine version of the NGSW to ensure they both work with the common, government-produced 6.8mm projectile, he said.
In May, the Army released a third prototype opportunity notice, inviting industry to develop prototypes of an advanced fire control system for the NGSW that "increases the soldier's ability to rapidly engage man-sized targets out to 600 [meters] or greater while maintaining the ability to conduct Close Quarters Battle," according to the solicitation.
The Army is on track to field the first NGSWs to a unit in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2022, Easlick said.
-- Matthew Cox can be reached at email@example.com.