US Military Updates & Discussions

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Textron Preps For Mass Production Of New Army Rifle

Textron Preps For Mass Production Of New Army Rifle
Textron is not just betting it will win the Next Generation Squad Weapons contract: It’s betting the Army will want to start buying in bulk ASAP. That’s not a bad bet.
By SYDNEY J. FREEDBERG JR.on September 03, 2019 at 8:18 PM


Early prototypes of Textron’s telescoped cased ammunition weapons. The company would not release photos of the 6.8 mm models now headed for Army testing.

WASHINGTON: Textron has partnered with global gun-maker Heckler & Koch to mass-produce new rifles for the Army and with ammunition giant Olin Winchester to churn out the high-powered yet lightweight 6.8 millimeter rounds.

Textron still has to beat both General Dynamics and Sig Sauer for the right to build the Next Generation Squad Weapons (NSGW). All three companies won awards last Thursday to build prototypes for troops to test, starting this coming spring and continuing through late 2021. No follow-on production contract is guaranteed. But Textron is watching the Army’s urgent push to modernize across the force, from assault rifles to hypersonic missiles and wants to be ready to sprint to mass production if it wins.

Textron could do everything in house, senior VP Wayne Prender said. But, he told reporters this morning, by working with Olin Winchester and H&K, which are experienced with largescale manufacture of ammo and weapons respectively, “we are preparing ourselves for a high rate of production.”

The Army wants to start fielding two variants of NGSW to tens of thousands of close combat troops — infantry, scouts, special operators, and so on — in 2022. Support troops and vehicle crews will stick with the current M4 carbine for the indefinite future. But frontline ground combatants will get more than just a gun.

Linked wirelessly with electronics all over the soldier’s body, including Microsoft HoloLens-derived targeting goggles called IVAS, the Next Generation Squad Weapon is meant to be just one lethal component of a larger, high-tech system. It’s like the Hellfire missiles on an Apache helicopter or the 120 mm Rheinmetall smoothbore cannon on an M1 tank, except this “weapons platform” moves on foot. This approach is part of a wider push, begun by former Defense Secretary (and Marine Corps rifleman) Jim Mattis, to improve the Close Combat Lethality of the military’s most exposed members.

The American grunt has accumulated more and more high tech over the last two decades. Designing a new weapon from scratch is a chance to streamline the scopes, cables, batteries, and other impedimenta festooning modern foot troops.
 

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Bell unveils 360 Invictus concept for US Army

BELL UNVEILS '360 INVICTUS' CONCEPT FOR US ARMY FARA PROGRAMME

Bell, partnered with Collins Aerospace, has unveiled its candidate for the US Army's Future Armed Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) programme, the '360 Invictus.'



The US-based helicopter manufacturer boasts that the proposed single-rotor concept, unveiled on 2 October, will be the most suitable solution to the US Army's FARA programme, which forms part of the service's Future Vertical Lift (FVL) programme alongside the Future Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS), Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) and Future Advanced UAS programmes. The FARA programme intends to fill a capability gap left following the retirement of the Bell OH-58D Kiowa Warrior light observation, reconnaissance and attack helicopter fleet in 2017. That capability gap is currently been covered by US Army Boeing AH-64E Apache Guardian attack helicopters.



Bell has partnered with Collins Aerospace on the programme, with Bell being one of five main companies to have been awarded contracts to design a prototype to submit for the FARA programme. However, following the bids, the US Army will choose just two companies to move forward and develop prototypes and the service aims to have airworthy prototypes by 2023, with a production decision being made later in the decade. Bell have stated that they are aiming to fly the '360 Invictus' by 2022.



A rendering of the 360 Invictus. Image: Bell


Bell have been quick to point out the key features of their 360 Invictus platform concept, which bears a striking resemblance to the Boeing-Sikorsky RAH-66 Comanche prototype which flew in the late 1990s, with its sleek, blended fuselage design, retractable landing gear and 20mm cannon on the nose bears a striking resemblance to that employed on the cancelled RAH-66 Comanche. Unlike the Comanche, however, the Invictus is not designed to have a stealth capability. The 360 Invictus, like the RAH-66 before it, is designed to operate and manoeuvre efficiently at high speeds and will feature a retractable undercarriage, internal weapon bays, a ducted tail rotor at a canted angle (saves power) and a shrouded main rotor.



As per the helicopter's specifications, the Bell 360 Invictus is essentially a smaller version of the 525 Relentless commercial helicopter, for instance the diameter of the high-speed rotor blades has been reduced to fit within the US Army's FARA specifications. Bell have noted that the 525 Relentless has exceed speeds of 200 knots (kts), which exceeds the US Army's requirement for an aircraft which can exceed 180kts, meaning that if the same speeds are produced by the Invictus, it ticks that box.

Bell also boasts that the aircraft will have a combat range of 135 nautical miles (nmi) with a payload of 1,400lbs and an ability to stay on station for 90 minutes. The 360 Invictus' design features horizontal stabilisers which will help reduce drag at high speeds and two lift-sharing wings to offload work from the main rotors. A full fly-by-wire flight control system will help to reduce aircrew workload, whilst synthesising technology and creating a path to autonomous flight undertaken by the platform. The Bell 360 will be powered by a single engine being developed by General Electric under the US Army's Improved Turbine Engine Program (ITEP). The aircraft will require two aircrew members to pilot in a tandem-seat configuration.

In terms of armaments, Bell state that the helicopter will feature a 20mm rotary cannon under its nose, internal weapon bays, an integrated munitions launcher and the capability for air-launched effects integration, all of which give the Invictus some sharp teeth when it comes to its employment in the battlespace. Focusing mainly on reliability, adaptability and affordability, Bell are looking to produce a light attack and reconnaissance helicopter which is fit for use across all domains of conflict, be it in open spaces, forests or urban city settings.



A rendering of the 360 Invictus in combat. Image: Bell


The term Invictus, as is what Bell have decided to call the concept, translates to "unconquerable" or "undeafeated" in Latin, suggesting the famed helicopter manufacturer is confident of a successful campaign in the FARA contest. "The Bell 360 will deliver advanced battlefield situational awareness, as well as lethal options, in support of the manoeuvre force at an affordable cost," says Vince Tobin, the Executive Vice President of Military Business at Bell. He adds that "The multi-domain fight will be complex, and our team is delivering a highly capable, low-risk solution to confidently meet operational requirements with a sustainable fleet."



Kieth Flail, Vice President of Advanced Vertical Lift Systems at Bell said: "Bell is committed to providing the U.S. Army with the most affordable, most sustainable, least complex, and lowest risk solution among the potential FARA configurations, while meeting all requirements."



Five companies are currently looking to produce designs for the US Army's FARA programme, after contracts were awarded in April 2019. Lockheed Martin-owned Sikorsky will be fielding their S-97 Raider, which uses the company's X2 coaxial technology and is regarded as the favourite to win the FARA competition. AVX Aircraft Co. have partnered with L3 Communications Integrated Systems and Karem Aircraft teamed up with Northrop Grumman and Raytheon in July, both of which have yet to announce their proposed aircraft. The designs fielded will join those for the FVL programme, which includes proposals from Bell's V-280 Valour tiltrotor, along with Boeing-Sikorsky's SB-1 Defiant, both of which have undergone their first flights.
 

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DARPA’s Operational Fires (OpFires) program has reached a major program milestone, completing booster preliminary design review of an innovative two-stage tactical missile system. OpFires aims to develop and demonstrate a ground-launched hypersonic weapon system to engage critical, time-sensitive targets in contested environments.

The first two phases of the program focus on the propulsion technologies required to deliver diverse payloads a variety of ranges. Since Phase 1 contract awards last fall, Aerojet Rocketdyne, Exquadrum, and Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) have made critical discoveries in advanced rocket motor technology for the OpFires upper stage, completing more than 30 motor trials from subscale through full size. These advances put the program on track for booster critical design review in late 2020.

Exquadrum completed a full-scale, full-duration test fire Sept. 19, which marked the performer’s culminating event for Phase 1. SNC has targeted October to complete its Phase 1 testing, and Aerojet Rocketdyne completed six subscale tests in August. Development activities will continue under Phase 2, which will culminate with multiple hot/static fires targeted for late 2020.

DARPA anticipates awards later this year for the third phase of the OpFires program, which aims to develop an operational system design leveraging propulsion systems concepts developed under the first two phases of the program. Phase 3 will conclude with integrated end-to-end flight tests to begin in 2022.
 

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General Dynamics to unveil extended range projectile that uses rocket technology – Defence Blog

General Dynamics to unveil extended range projectile that uses rocket technology
Published 09:26 (GMT+0000) October 11, 2019


General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems, a business unit of General Dynamics, will unveil extended range projectile that uses rocket technology at the Association of the United States Army (AUSA) convention in Washington.

AUSA is one of the largest land warfare forums in the world with over 37,000 attendees from government and industry. Three General Dynamics Business Units will be at the AUSA 2019 Annual Meeting & Exposition to showcase innovation that enables Multi-Domain Operations for the U.S. Army, including the newest XM1113 Insensitive Munition High Explosive Rocket Assisted Projectile, or XM1113 RAP.

The XM1113 RAP is an extended range projectile that uses rocket technology to deliver greater thrust to a round, enabling current U.S. field artillery 155mm systems the ability to fire to a range of 40km, a 30% increase from M549A1 projectiles. This capability enhances performance and increases safety for the artillery warfighter. This round is one of the most critical components of the U.S. Army’s Long Range Precision Fires (LRPF) strategy and Extended Range Cannon Artillery program.

The traditional high explosive, TNT, inside typical artillery rounds has also been replaced by Insensitive Munition Explosive, which is less volatile and reactive to outside stimuli, such as rocket propelled grenades, improvised explosive devices and extreme high temperatures. For instance, if a rocket grenade hits a convoy transporting the rounds, the rounds are less likely to detonate and explode.

As a replacement for the M549A1 rocket-assisted projectile round in inventory today, the new projectile can be fuzed with a Precision Guidance Kit for improved accuracy. The XM1113 will provide a range increase in this class of projectiles with legacy artillery systems and offer an even greater capability with the M777ER armament.

https://www.gd-ots.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/XM1113-Press-Release.pdf

General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems Awarded Contract for 155mm XM1113 Rocket-Assisted Projectile Round St. Petersburg, FL – The Combat Capabilities Development Command – Armaments Center (CCDC-AC) and the Joint Program Executive Office Armaments and Ammunition at Picatinny Arsenal have awarded General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems (GD-OTS) a contract valued at $15 million for Prototype and Process Development for the 155mm XM1113 Rocket-Assisted Projectile (RAP) round. GD-OTS is partnered with American Ordnance, Nammo-Talley, and SAVIT in the United States; and is working with Thales Australia to expand the international Supply Chain, enabling the U.S. Government to make the system available to overseas customers.

The XM1113 RAP uses rocket technology to deliver greater thrust to the round, when compared to its predecessor, the legacy M549A1. This will enable current U.S. Field Artillery 155mm Systems to fire the XM1113 RAP to a range of 40 kilometers, a 30% increase from the M549A1. When fired from the planned future Extended Range Artillery Cannon (ERCA), the XM1113 will achieve ranges out to 70 kilometers. The XM1113 RAP round aligns with the U.S. Army’s modernization initiative under the Long Range Precision Fires (LRPF) Cross-Functional Team.

“The XM1113 RAP brings enhanced performance to the battlefield, increasing lethality and extending range for the cannon artillery warfighter. We are proud to support the U.S. Army’s modernization initiatives to provide overmatch capability to the warfighter; and look forward to meeting the operational needs of our international allies” said Jason Gaines, Vice President and General Manager of Munition Systems at General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems. For more information about General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems, please visit General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems
 

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AUSA 2019: AH-64E APACHE Sensor Suite Upgrades

AUSA 2019: AH-64E APACHE SENSOR SUITE UPGRADES
While the US Army steps up the pace of its aviation modernisation plan for the battlefield of 2030 and beyond, the service is concurrently enabling its legacy fleet – the AH-64E APACHE in particular – to be a more lethal and capable weapons platform well into the next decade.

The upcoming Version 6 (V6) upgrade to the AH-64E will enhance many systems on the aircraft, including its weapon system sensor suite. Of significance, during the service’s recent Follow-On Test and Evaluation II of the V6 APACHE, Lockheed Martin’s Tom Eldredge (Director, APACHE Fire Control Programs) and Jim Messina (Director, LONGBOW Fire Control Radar), reported the attack helicopter demonstrated upgraded target acquisition capabilities, including the company’s Modernized Day Sensor Assembly (M-DSA), and the AN/APG-78 LONGBOW Fire Control Radar (FCR) from LONGBOW Limited Liability, a joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman.

Providing enhanced situational awareness, the M-DSA capability included in the V6 upgrade helps APACHE pilots to see either colour or near-infrared, high-resolution imagery on cockpit displays, and allows them to accurately identify targets at greater standoff ranges using the ultra-narrow field-of-view and the extended range picture-in-picture capability,” the company told MON.

Additionally, the US Army recently awarded Lockheed Martin a $40.6 million (€36.9 million) contract to produce Modernized Turrets (M-TUR) for the AH-64E, another upgrade to the Modernized Target Acquisition Designation Sight/Pilot Night Vision System (M-TADS/PNVS) system, bringing enhanced operational and performance capabilities.

More specifically, the Version 6 APACHE will include 30 additional enhancements to FCR capabilities. These enhancements will provide new operational modes and capabilities, including maritime, single target track and 360° surveillance modes as well as extended detection range capability against land, air and sea targets. The V6 detection range has doubled, to 16km, along with improved detection of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV).

The company executives called attention to select FCR updates:

• Maritime Mode – detects surface targets as well as helicopter and fixed wing targets;

• Air Targeting Mode – adds detection of UAVs, automatic scanning of multiple elevations and improved target detection in adverse weather conditions;

• Single Target Track for Air, Ground and Maritime Targeting; and

• Extended Range (XR) – doubles Ground Targeting Mode, Air Targeting Mode and Maritime Mode range from 8m to 16km.

Lockheed Martin has invested in modifications across all its upgraded designs, including M-TUR and M-DSA, to enhance reliability and maintainability.

As previously alluded to, “M-DSA will be included in the V6 APACHE upgrade, further improving search, location, identification, targeting and engaging capabilities during both day and night operations. M-DSA allows APACHE pilots to identify and designate targets at longer ranges, increasing standoff […] The M-TUR upgrade noted earlier provides increased angular rates and accelerations, and allows for increased line-of-sight stabilization. In addition to sensor performance improvement, the new M-TUR design also improves turret reliability by 40 percent and reduces operation and support costs with a dramatic decrease in time required to conduct flight line maintenance – in some cases by more than 12 hours.”

Further, the M-TUR’s new design allows for:

• Subassembly replacement on the flight line, including higher reliability components that will improve aircraft availability; and

• Significant improvements to slew rate, helmet tracking and Built-In Testing (BIT).

Lockheed Martin’s integrated sensors are designed to work together to help the aircrew detect and identify potential targets on the ground, at sea, or in the air. Our weapon system sensors provide unmatched survivability, supporting a wide range of missions including reconnaissance, patrol and a diversity of combat missions from small scale, close air support for ground forces, to high intensity battlefield combat against enemy air defense units and armored vehicles.”

To date, more than 1,400 M-TADS/PNVS systems and spares have been delivered to the US Army and 16 international customers in 15 nations and nearly 500 LONGBOW FCR systems have been delivered to the US Army and 13 international customers in 12 nations.

 

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How far will the Army’s precision strike missile fly?

How far will the Army’s precision strike missile fly?
By: Jen Judson   6 hours ago

The Army's future precision strike missile will initially be fired from a HIMARS launcher. (Sgt. Bill Boecker/U.S. Army)
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Army will adjust its maximum range requirement following critical test shots of the two precision strike missiles competitively under development by Raytheon and Lockheed Martin later this year, according to Brig Gen. John Rafferty, who is in charge of the service’s long-range precision fires modernization effort.

The LRPF effort is the top modernization priority for the Army, and the PrSM weapon, meant to replace the Army Tactical Missile System, is a centerpiece effort within that portfolio.

The service has accelerated PrSM’s fielding timeline by several years and will stick to the baseline requirements for the missile to get there.

The missile’s current maximum range requirement is 499 kilometers, which is the range that was compliant under the now-collapsed Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty between the United States and Russia. The United States withdrew from the treaty in August, and so the Army no longer has to adhere to the range limit for its missiles.

Rafferty said he thinks the baseline missile could actually reach a range of 550 kilometers based on data from both companies competing to build the PrSM.
 

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Boeing and Saab ready to start production of ground-launched small diameter bomb after third test launch


Boeing and Saab ready to start production of ground-launched small diameter bomb after third test launch
By: Valerie Insinna   1 hour ago

A Boeing-Saab ground-launched small diameter bomb is fired during a test at Andoya Test Center in Norway. (Boeing and Saab)
WASHINGTON — After conducting a third test launch of the ground-launched small diameter bomb this month, Boeing and Saab now believe they have the data necessary to move the munition into production, company officials said Monday.

Next, the focus moves to nailing down a first customer for the munition.

With the U.S. Army focused on its Long Range Precision Fires program — which could see the service field a ground-based missile capable of striking targets up to 499 kilometers away — Boeing and Saab see international militaries as the most probable market for the ground-launched small diameter bomb, or GLSDB, which has a range of 150 kilometers.
 

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US Army nears competition that could lead to robots directly engaging the enemy

US Army nears competition that could lead to robots directly engaging the enemy
By: Jen Judson   2 hours ago

The Army's Combat Capabilities Development Center's Ground Vehicles Systems Center hosted a robotic combat vehicle demonstration at Texas A&M's RELLIS campus in May 2019 ahead of its major prototyping competition. (Courtesy of an attendee at the VIP day)
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Army is close to triggering a competition for both a light and medium robotic combat vehicle by releasing a request for product proposals before the Thanksgiving holiday, according to Brig. Gen. Ross Coffman, the head of combat vehicle modernization for the service.

The plan is to award one contract to one company to build a light variant, and repeat the process for a medium-sized robotic combat vehicle, or RCV, in March 2020. Then each company will deliver four prototypes for evaluation and testing in 12 months from contract award, Coffman told Defense News in a recent interview..

The Army anticipates a large pool of applicants based on a recent evaluation of eight different vehicles on a course at Texas A&M University’s RELLIS campus, and because the response to a request for whitepapers for each variant was fruitful.

The caliber of vehicles at the physical demonstration was higher than expected. Companies “really took it seriously” and brought vehicles that weren’t just “modified, off-the-shelf” versions, Coffman said. Instead, the robots were “closer to purpose-built than we ever imagined,” he added.

The Army is focused — across all three weight classes of robotic vehicle under pursuit — on a chassis rather than a vehicle as a whole. The idea is to integrate mission systems onto a common chassis for each weight class.

On the heavyweight side, the Army completed a major experiment last month at Camp Grayling, Michigan, where four robotic versions of the M113 armored personnel carrier was evaluated for ground robotic capabilities. At the event, which will be followed by rigorous testing and evaluation at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, four robotic combat vehicles moved across the battlefield in a wedge formation. Soldiers controlled the platforms to keep them out of harm’s way.



Dirty work: Robots take on complex obstacles in US Army exercise
Learning by doing, the Army is assessing how robots can be an asset on the battlefield.

By: Jen Judson

“They came online, identified an enemy and then the humans called for fire based on the sensors on this robot,” Coffman said. “And then, once the artillery went in, the robots continued to traverse the terrain and engaged with direct fire against an enemy, destroying that enemy, all while the humans were in sanctuary controlling the battlefield.”

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The exercise demonstrated to Coffman that heavy RCVs can reduce the risk to soldiers on the battlefield.

Once Army Test and Evaluation Command can put each vehicle through its paces, the platforms will head to Fort Carson, Colorado, in March 2020. “We’re going to put these in the hands of soldiers and they’re going to — they’re going to get them dirty, they’re going to execute tactical operations and they are going to fight against a live [opposing force],” Coffman said. “They are going to take them to the gunnery, and we’re going to see all of the capabilities they can do.”

After that phase, the Army plans to evaluate four M113s as well as four medium and four light RCVs that will form a company and execute tactical formations as the Army builds up its capability, according to Coffman.

In 2023, the Army will evaluate purpose-built heavy variants with the medium and light RCVs also in a company formation, Coffman added.
 

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Army Plans to Field Battery of New Hypersonic Missiles By 2023

AUSA NEWS: Army Plans to Field Battery of New Hypersonic Missiles By 2023
10/14/2019
By Mandy Mayfield



Concept art: Dynetics Technical Solutions

The Army plans to deploy a new long-range hypersonic weapon system no later than fiscal year 2023, a program leader said Oct 14.

“We’re going to field an experimental prototype with residual combat capability by 2023,” said Robert Strider, deputy director of Army hypersonic programs said at the Association of the United States Army's annual meeting in Washington, D.C. “Those words are tattooed on every one of us within the rapid capability and critical technologies office.”

The service plans to deliver a battery of eight missiles, which will launch from a mobile ground platform, breaking speeds of Mach 5, he said.

The weapon system falls under the Army’s No. 1 modernization priority: long-range precision fires.

Dynetics Technical Solutions won an other transaction authority agreement this summer to produce the glide body for the missile, Strider said.

“They've got a team built around them … at Sandia [National Laboratories] right now, learning all the processes and procedures to build this very unique system,” he said.

The Army and Navy are working together to develop the weapon.

“The booster that we'll use to launch it … will be absolutely common with the Navy,” Strider said. “In fact, there's a [memorandum of agreement] in place that put the Navy in charge of design and the Army in charge of production.”

The program could face delays if Congress can't pass a long-term defense spending bill for fiscal year 2020, he noted. Federal government agencies are currently operating under a short-term continuing resolution, which holds funding at 2019 levels. Additional CRs would hold up contracts for the long-range hypersonic weapon, or LRHW.

“We will need additional funding to keep moving forward … to keep our schedule," Strider said.

Both China and Russia are pursuing hypersonics programs and have claimed to make breakthroughs. Defense Department leaders have declared the technology a top research-and-development priority. Maneuverable missiles that can reach hypersonic speeds are hard to defeat, which makes them a disruptive technology, experts have said.

Lt. Gen. L. Neil Thurgood, director of hypersonics, directed energy, space and rapid acquisition for the Army, said the service plans to stay on its current trajectory and only adjust if necessary.

“We'll play our role as the services present what we believe are the requirements to Congress, and then they have to apply that back to us,” Thurgood said.
 

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The design of the General Dynamics MPF light tank is conventional with the driver and engine at the front and the turret located at the rear of the hull. The turret has a crew of three including commander, gunner and loader. The turret architecture is based on the M1 Abrams tank using the M1A2 Sep V3 fire control system and CITV (Commander's Independent Thermal Viewer) armed with one 105 mm cannon. One 12.7mm heavy machine gun is mounted on the commander hatch.

The General Dynamics MPF tank is motorized with a Diesel engine. The hydraulic pneumatic suspension of each side consists of six road wheels.
 

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Textron Preps For Mass Production Of New Army Rifle

Textron Preps For Mass Production Of New Army Rifle
Textron is not just betting it will win the Next Generation Squad Weapons contract: It’s betting the Army will want to start buying in bulk ASAP. That’s not a bad bet.
By SYDNEY J. FREEDBERG JR.on September 03, 2019 at 8:18 PM


Early prototypes of Textron’s telescoped cased ammunition weapons. The company would not release photos of the 6.8 mm models now headed for Army testing.

WASHINGTON: Textron has partnered with global gun-maker Heckler & Koch to mass-produce new rifles for the Army and with ammunition giant Olin Winchester to churn out the high-powered yet lightweight 6.8 millimeter rounds.

Textron still has to beat both General Dynamics and Sig Sauer for the right to build the Next Generation Squad Weapons (NSGW). All three companies won awards last Thursday to build prototypes for troops to test, starting this coming spring and continuing through late 2021. No follow-on production contract is guaranteed. But Textron is watching the Army’s urgent push to modernize across the force, from assault rifles to hypersonic missilesand wants to be ready to sprint to mass production if it wins.

Textron could do everything in house, senior VP Wayne Prender said. But, he told reporters this morning, by working with Olin Winchester and H&K, which are experienced with largescale manufacture of ammo and weapons respectively, “we are preparing ourselves for a high rate of production.”

The Army wants to start fielding two variants of NGSW to tens of thousands of close combat troops — infantry, scouts, special operators, and so on — in 2022. Support troops and vehicle crews will stick with the current M4 carbine for the indefinite future. But frontline ground combatants will get more than just a gun.

Linked wirelessly with electronics all over the soldier’s body, including Microsoft HoloLens-derived targeting goggles called IVAS, the Next Generation Squad Weapon is meant to be just one lethal component of a larger, high-tech system. It’s like the Hellfire missiles on an Apache helicopter or the 120 mm Rheinmetall smoothbore cannon on an M1 tank, except this “weapons platform” moves on foot. This approach is part of a wider push, begun by former Defense Secretary (and Marine Corps rifleman) Jim Mattis, to improve the Close Combat Lethality of the military’s most exposed members.

The American grunt has accumulated more and more high tech over the last two decades. Designing a new weapon from scratch is a chance to streamline the scopes, cables, batteries, and other impedimenta festooning modern foot troops.
These are General Dynamics’ NGSW contenders — and it’s a bunch of bullpup!

These are General Dynamics’ NGSW contenders — and it’s a bunch of bullpup!
General Dynamics Ordnance & Tactical Systems' NGSW-Automatic Rifle prototype at this year's AUSA Annual Meeting (Photo Christian Lowe)
General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems just unveiled its take on the Next Generation Squad Weapon program, and it’s a doozy.

Gear Scout got a look at the Automatic Rifle (replacing the M249 SAW) and Rifle (replacing the M4/M4A1 carbine) prototypes at this year’s Association of the US Army Annual Meeting.

Instead of the M16-style layout the Army has been accustomed to since the 1960s, GDOTS took their prototypes in a different direction with the bullpup configuration — the action and magazine located behind the fire control unit of the rifle.

One of the primary benefits of a bullpup design is a final product that holds a longer barrel in a more compact frame, maximizing the effective range of the 6.8 mm cartridge the rifle uses.

GDOTS's NGSW-Rifle prototype, designed to replace the M4 and M4A1 carbines in Army infantry service (Photo Christian Lowe)

Both of GDOTS’s -AR and -R guns have a charging handle on the left side that can be swapped to the right depending on user preference, as well as ambidextrous controls. A full length 12 o’clock rail, as well as MLOK points on the side faces of the handguard, offer plenty of space for optics and electronics respectively.

The ejection port is located towards the rear of the gun near the stock, and ejects spent casings forward and away while in operation.

In contrast to the Sig and Textron entries for the Automatic Rifle, GDOTS’s -AR gun feeds from what seems to be a 30-round box magazine, instead of a belt. This would place it in a similar role and level of combat functionality to the M27 IAR that the Marine Corps adopted as a partial replacement for the M249 SAW in its fleet infantry units, which also feeds from a 30-round box mag.

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An official with Beretta USA, which makes the GD guns, told GearScout the idea for the non-belt-fed automatic rifle was to get back to the philosophy of the WWII-era Browning Automatic Rifle, a 30-06 beast that fired from a box magazine.

As per the program requirements, GDOTS’s guns both come with suppressors. The cans mated to the NGSW-AR and -R guns are both designed and produced by Delta P Designs, and bear a significant resemblance to the company’s unique Brevis II suppressors, originally developed as a more compact alternative to longer and heavier cans.

GDOTS also showcased the new cartridge it hopes the Army might pick up as part of its bid — a composite-cased 6.8 mm round developed by True Velocity in partnership with Beretta and General Dynamics.

While the US Army moving to a bullpup-style rifle seems like a far-fetched idea, it wouldn’t be the first time companies have made overtures to the DoD with prototypes featuring that configuration, now popular with a number of other foreign militaries.

In the late 1980s, the Army’s Advanced Combat Rifle program sought a replacement for the M16A2 with a few next-generation features. Of the finalists, two companies offered bullpup rifles (considerably unconventional for the time).

Heckler & Koch offered the revolutionary G11 K2, a rifle that utilized caseless rounds housed in a magazine attached above the barrel. The Steyr ACR was the second major bullpup prototype evaluated by Army personnel, firing sabotted steel flechettes housed in telescoped cartridges.

Ultimately neither the H&K nor the Steyr products were picked up, and the Army carried on with the M16-platform, eventually moving to the M4 carbine in the mid-1990s.

Now, decades later, bullpups are finally getting a second serious look with GDOTS’s bid for the NGSW program.