The U.S. Army's chief of staff said Monday that its 6.8mm, next-generation weapons, slated to replace the M249 squad automatic weapon and the M4A1 carbine, will be able to penetrate any body armor on the battlefield.
"It will fire at speeds that far exceed the velocity of bullets today, and it will penetrate any existing or known ... body armor that's out there," Gen. Mark Milley told Military.com at the 2018 Association of the United States Army's Annual Meeting and Exposition. "What I have seen so far from the engineers and the folks that put these things together, this is entirely technologically possible. ... It's a very good weapon."
Milley's comments come on the heels of an Oct. 4 draft solicitation announcing the Army's plans to "award up to three prototype Other Transaction Agreements ... with each offeror developing two weapon variants and a common cartridge for both weapons, utilizing government-provided 6.8 millimeter projectiles," according to the solicitation posted on the federal contracting website FedBizzOpps."The weapons include the Next Generation Squad Weapon-Rifle (NGSW-R) and the Next Generation Squad Weapon-Automatic Rifle (NGSW-AR)."
The Army also intends to make follow-on production awards for "250,000 total weapons system(s) (NGSW-R, NGSW-AR, or both), 150,000,000 rounds of ammunition, spare parts, tools/gauges/accessories, and engineering support," the solicitation states.
The awards could be worth "$10 million the first year and $150 million per year at the higher production rates," it adds.
The solicitation comes about three months after the Army announced it had selected five gun makers to build prototypes of the next-generation squad automatic rifle.
The contracts were the result of a prototype opportunities notice the Army posted in March for the small-arms industry to submit ideas for the NGSW-AR, an effort to replace the M249 squad automatic rifle, made by FN America.
Milley would not comment on the recent prototype contracts, but said that there were "several prototypes that were advanced forward."
He added that the Army will likely not "speak too much about its technical capabilities because our adversaries watch these things very closely."
"It's a very sophisticated weapon, a very capable weapon. It's got an integrated sight system to it, and it also integrates into the soldier's gear and other equipment that we are fielding," Milley said. "And not surprisingly with a weapon like that, it's probably pretty expensive. We expect it to be expensive so we are probably not going to field the entire Army with this weapon."
He explained the service will likely field these cutting-edge weapons to infantry and other close-combat forces.
"The bottom line is we are committed to a new rifle and a new squad automatic weapon," Milley said. "We hope to be able to shoot it on ranges down at Fort Benning, [Georgia], hopefully ... maybe sometime next year late summer."
-- Matthew Cox can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.