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U.S. military replacing standard M4 carbine with more powerful battle rifle

The shift comes as the United States seeks to boost its military capabilities in order to remain competitive against emerging threats from nations such as China and Russia.

U.S. military replacing standard M4 carbine with more powerful battle rifle
AP Photo/Nathan Posner
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The U.S. Army is replacing its M4/M4A1 carbine for an entirely new main battle rifle that fires a much more powerful round that is critical to the U.S. military’s capability to wage war against its top competitors like Russia and China. 

In April, the U.S. Army announced a 10-year contract with Sig Sauer to produce two Next Generation Squad Weapon (NGSW) variants: the XM5 Rifle, which replaces the M4/M4A1 carbine, and the XM250 Automatic Rifle, a replacement for the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW). Both weapons are equipped with a suppressor by default.  

The contract was awarded to Sig Sauer, which was in competition with several other companies for a duration of 27 months.  

Both the M4/M4A1 and the M249 SAW relied on the 5.56x45mm NATO cartridge, a round that has been in service for around 40 years. The newly developed NGSW weapons will fire a new 6.8x51mm cartridge that is proven more accurate and more lethal against targets than the existing 5.56x45mm and the 7.62x51mm in use by near-peer competitors in the Russian and Chinese armies. 

“Both weapons provide significant capability improvements in accuracy, range and overall lethality,” the U.S. Army said in a statement. “They are lightweight, fire more lethal ammunition, mitigate recoil, provide improved barrel performance, and include integrated muzzle sound and flash reduction.” 

Additionally, the NGSW rifles will be paired with a fire control system to provide U.S. service members with a major advantage against enemy combatants.  

“The XM5 and XM250 will be paired with the XM157 Fire Control, a ruggedized advanced fire control system that increases accuracy and lethality for the close combat force,” said the U.S. army in its statement. “The XM157 integrates a number of advanced technologies, including a variable magnification optic (1X8), backup etched reticle, laser rangefinder, ballistic calculator, atmospheric sensor suite, compass, Intra-Soldier Wireless, visible and infrared aiming lasers, and a digital display overlay. It is produced by Sheltered Wings Inc. d/b/a Vortex Optics, Barneveld, Wisconsin.” 

The new 6.8x51mm cartridge “uses a patented lightweight metallic case designed to handle pressures higher than conventional ammunition, resulting in dramatically increased velocity and on-target energy in lighter weapons,” Sig Sauer said in a statement. “The U.S. Army’s procurement of the NGSW System marks the beginning of an era where combat weapons are coupled with a suppressor as standard issue equipment.” 

As detailed by the Daily Wire, U.S. Army Brigadier General Larry Q. Burris said that the army’s goal on the modern battlefield is to achieve a “clear, decisive and sustainable overmatch against our near-peer adversaries,” adding that the need for an overmatch was more pressing today than at any other time in recent history, especially with Russia’s ongoing conflict in Ukraine – and China’s expansionist policy in the Pacific.  

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