U.S. Army Looking for M249 Light Machine Gun Replacement

The Army is exploring carbine-like options to possibly replace the M249 light machine gun, like the Marines. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps)

The U.S. Army posted a notice announcing their interest in a new weapon system to replace the M249 light machine gun. The Army is looking for a lighter, carbine-like magazine-fed machine gun.

This follows the Marine Corps’ decision to equip select units with the Heckler & Koch M27 IAR in place of their M249s. The Army is calling it the “Next Generation Squad Automatic Rifle” or NGSAR program.

Right now the Army is just looking for options. The branch is not soliciting contracts, but is interested in something functionally similar to the M27 for starters.

“No award is intended as a result of this Special Notice nor does the Government intend to pay for information received,” reads the notice. “Any response to this notice is not an offer and cannot be accepted by the Government to form a binding contract.”

What the Army wants is a complete package, not just a new gun. The package must have a smaller flash signature and less report at the shooter’s ear than the M249. It must also exhaust less gas near the shooter’s face.

A lighter support rifle would increase soldiers’ mobility and survivability. (Photo: U.S. Army)

This notice also includes specific range requirements for hitting stationary targets out to 600 meters and suppressing any targets out to 1,200 meters. It must also be very accurate.

“[The] NGSAR will be capable of firing two rounds with one trigger pull with both rounds impacting the target within 1 inch at 100 meters in automatic or semi-automatic modes.”

The Army is also open to new cartridges as well. The special notice is actively interested in ammo that weighs 20 percent less. If it needs to be something other than 5.56 NATO that will be fine.

See Also: U.S. Military Branches Exploring New Cartridge Options

Off-the-shelf solutions for both requirements would be sound suppressors and polymer-cased ammunition. Suppressors are nothing new and hybrid polymer-cased ammunition is on the horizon today.

Still, polymer-cased rifle ammo is not a proven technology. Trying to use polymers as a direct replacement for brass saves weight but has other issues including reduced case volume and higher operating temperatures.

It may take a new cartridge to meet the range, accuracy and most importantly weight requirements the Army is asking for. This notice has pretty steep requirements for accuracy, range and durability.

Of course it’s entirely possible that, in the end, the Army keeps using the M249 or adopts a similar, hopefully, lighter, light machine gun. It’s been in service for nearly 40 years and can still be improved.

{ 15 comments… add one }
  • bill June 11, 2017, 7:00 pm

    damn shame that because of the MG amendment in the 1986 McClure-Volkmer act, NO american development or manufacture of MGs can happen. it also cut off import of any MGs from overseas

  • Jones June 10, 2017, 3:52 pm

    Weight is a issue when you want a 115lb girl to be in combat…..

    Can’t think of any caliber that’s lighter and offers 600 meter range. The little 5.7×28 is super light but it’s limited to maybe 400 meters.

    • XTrooper August 11, 2017, 5:59 am

      The M249 SAW weighs approximately 20lbs loaded. You hump on around all day and you’ll be crying like a 115lb girl.

      • Flep Vandergaard August 11, 2017, 8:54 am

        To quote James Coburn in ‘Payback’, “Now that’s just MEAN!”.

  • Altoids June 10, 2017, 7:55 am

    Certainly no expert myself, but those ex-army types with whom I’ve spoken say the M249 is a piece of junk – jamming issues. Don’t know the details, but any military weapon needs to be able to function with a certain amount of sand, mud, caked on burnt powder residue or whatever else in the action.

  • Mas June 9, 2017, 6:29 pm

    Gotta put out new requirements for new products to keep the defense industry rolling…..:)

  • Eric Equis June 9, 2017, 4:40 pm

    So… just purchase the Ultimax 100 Mark 3, or better yet, the Mark 4 or 5 that uses STANAG mags (developed for the USMC) and put a Vortex flash hider on it.

  • Jim Chandler June 9, 2017, 12:11 pm

    An updated BAR in 30-06 would be an excellent choice. The “M” Series USMC Rifle Company had 3 Rifle Platoons and a Weapon Platoon. Each Rifle Platoon had 3 Squads. Each Squad had 3 Fire Teams. A Fire Team consisted of a BAR Man, an Assistant BAR Man (who carried extra BAR Ammo and spare parts), a Rifleman and a Fire Team Leader who controlled his FireTeam. The Marine BAR was selective fire. Single Shot. 3 Shot Burst. Full Automatic. Magazine held 20 rounds. (If you do your math you will determine that a Rifle Company had 27 BAR’s.) The “M” Series Battalion had 4 Rifle Companies and a H&S Company.

    • Doctor rizz June 10, 2017, 10:36 am

      The BAR was a great for its time but will never come back. Way to heavy, not enough ammo cap, and way better options.

      • Jim Chandler June 10, 2017, 12:48 pm

        My comment was an “Updated” BAR. With a loaded magazine My BAR weighed 20 lbs. It took less than 3 seconds to change magazines. (much less than that in a firefight) From personal experience I know that the “Sighted In” BAR could hit a 55 Gallon Drum with a 3 shot burst at 1500 yards. We did not engage in “suppression fire”. We shot the enemy, not at the enemy! A 180 lb. Officer Candidate could traverse the Quantico 3 mile “Hill Trail”, in the dark carrying 2 BAR’s in 30 minutes.

        Infantry Weapons should be designed to Kill the Enemy, not “Suppress” them.
        Jim Chandler

      • Don June 10, 2017, 9:45 pm

        You can bring back the BAR with new space age materials and maybe use 5.56 or 300 blackout or what ever to increase magazine capacity.

    • Jones June 10, 2017, 3:54 pm

      They want lighter ammo! 100 rounds of 30-06 is heavy. The 7.62 m240 is what your describing.

  • Mott D June 9, 2017, 10:25 am

    Putting a Mag into a machine-gun is STUPID unless it is for BACKUP only. The M-16/M-4 will empty a 20 round mag in about 3 sec on rock&roll. So a mag only MG had better be able to swap mags FAST and have a lot of them!

  • Nick Carroll June 9, 2017, 8:02 am

    So,… This is the fix? It still fires the same round,.. Short barrel,.. Same basic platform as an M16/m4, and fires from a closed bolt instead of an open one. Except for possibly a heavier barrel to withstand a high volume of fire and a piston this IS an M16/M4. Yeah, I know the piston keeps hot exhaust gases out of the chamber, but it also makes the gun front heavier and unbalanced somewhat. Unless you want to run the risk of cook-offfs and runaway gun, this is not a real solution. I wouldn’t want to trust mags bigger than 30 rounds in a firefight like the snail drums I’ve seen, or the likelihood that the “distribution of extra magazines among a squad,” as the one article I read from the Corps wouldn’t be exhausted by the other troops carrying them is a good idea. There are much better options.

    • Steve June 9, 2017, 1:31 pm

      I agree, the concept of using a weapon like the H&K M27 is ludicrous because in essence it is a glorified M4 – ie, M-16 (or CAR-15, XM177E2 etc) that is full auto not 3rd burst. You need a weapon that can sustain suppressive fire not a magazine based weapon with “distribution of extra magazines among a squad” as Nick stated. To me that had to have been a political move for the USMC to adopt a “full auto” weapon M-16 like weapon in lieu of a belt fed weapon. In a combat situation, do you think the other Soldiers would even be in a position to cross level magazines, when in fact THEY might be in trouble and can’t/won’t be will to toss a mag or two for the H&H M27 type operator? Not everyone is going to be bunched up or close to the M27 type operator and sometimes you need a heavy volume of fire to suppress or counter suppress enemy fire. Give the Soldiers something they need not something the Pentagon “thinks” they need. Get rid of the lobbyists that meddle in the procurement process!

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