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.