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.
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.
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.