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By Kris Osborn - President & Editor-In-Chief, Warrior Maven

U.S. Army Infantry, Airborne Rangers, and Special Operations Forces are developing a next-generation automatic rifle, anticipating a new era of “close-in combat” firefights and paradigm-changing threats to the warfighter.

The Next-Generation Squad Weapon (NGSW) rifle is intended to supplement and ultimately replace the current M4A1 carbine and the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon. Army developers say the new weapon will be longer range, lighter weight, and much more lethal by “achieving greater energy on the target.”

“Current weapons and calibers lack the required lethality growth against protected individual targets,” said Maj. Wyatt Ottmar, Project Manager, Soldier Lethality Cross Functional Team, Army Futures Command, in an Army-produced video.

Next-Generation Squad Weapon (NGSW) Rifle 

According to Ottmar, the NGSW will incorporate improved ergonomics, signature-suppressing capabilities, data power transfer, new rail designs, a lightweight case, and “increased performance at range.”

The concept for the NGSW emerged following a 2017 U.S. Army Small Army Ammunition Configuration (SAAC) study. Among other priorities, the study called for advanced fire-control technology and bullet design to “not only defeat threat capabilities but also ensure overmatch.”

Subsequently, the Army launched two concurrent yet distinctly interwoven acquisition efforts – one with a 6.8mm round and one on a fire-control system. Since, the program has added funding and awarded three prototyping contracts to gun makers.

“A project opportunity notice resulted in several vendors exceeding government expectations and providing innovative approaches to bridge the gaps found in the SAAC study,” Ottmar said in the Army video.

Army Contract

In 2019, the Army awarded a $64 million NGSW contract to General Dynamics-OTS, Sig Sauer, and Textron. Beretta had teamed with GD-OTS and composite-cased ammunition manufacturer True Velocity, embedding engineers with their design teams to support the effort. GD has since novated its contract to LoneStar Future Weapons, a wholly owned subsidiary of True Velocity parent company TV Ammo, Inc.

As part of the collaboration, Beretta also manufactured components for the second round of NGSW prototyping testing and performed a range of analyses, including numerical assessments, finite-element analysis, and simulation.

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The LoneStar NGSW offering is a gas and recoil-operated, impulse-averaged, air-cooled magazine-fed automatic rifle. Along with short recoil, the weapon is engineered to enable controllable, accurate automatic fire essential for meeting evolving threats, developers say.

“The LoneStar offering, in conjunction with our Tier 1 strategic partners True Velocity and Beretta, is an evolution in soldier lethality, not just a change to an existing weapon system,” Craig Etchegoyen, chairman of LoneStar Future Weapons, said in a written statement. “The new reality of Great Power Competition now confronting America’s warfighters requires nothing less.”

LoneStar has partnered with famous gunmaker Beretta to architect a gas and recoil-operated, magazine-fed automatic rifle. The weapon is impulse averaged and air cooled to optimize lethality and combat performance. LoneStar’s gun is designed for short-recoil and automatic fire.

Other attributes of the LoneStar weapon include dual-firing modes with a closed bolt in semi-automatic mode. Beretta statements also refer to a flash-minimizing, sound-reducing suppressor design intended to reduce the signature of the weapon and soldier on the battlefield.

True Velocity’s advanced composite-cased 6.8TVCM ammunition solution complements the LoneStar weapon by providing extremely consistent muzzle velocity, improved accuracy and extended effective range in a cartridge that is approximately 30 percent lighter than a brass-cased 7.62x51mm cartridge. The polymer-based material employed in the design of the True Velocity case also insulates the weapon from heat transfer, reducing wear and tear on the rifle.

“The composite case insulates the chamber and bolt face from heat transfer, reducing wear and tear on the weapon system,” said True Velocity President Chris Tedford, “and the consistency of our powder burn results in tighter standard deviations in muzzle velocity, high velocities, and dramatically reduced muzzle flash.”

Some of the LoneStar-TrueVelocity-Beretta team’s innovations are intended to build upon previous Army efforts to improve the M4, including managing heat signature challenges with IR suppressors, acoustic sensors, and muzzle-flash reducing technologies.

The NGSW weapon and ammunition system explores areas such as IR signature reduction, ergonomic improvements, and recoil, but it also aims to take the program in a new direction. While much of the Army’s prior M4 upgrade work and developmental progress likely contributed to the innovations incorporated in the NGSW, the new rifle is built to expand, re-adjust, and greatly advance close-in-combat lethality.

Army weapons developers have been careful to reference each individual vendor in public statements. Along with comments about Textron and Sig Sauer, Maj. Wyatt Ottmar, Project Manager, Soldier Lethality Cross Functional Team, Army Futures Command, noted the LoneStar offering “incorporates a bullpup design that places the magazine behind the cartridge and the pistol grip which allows for a longer barrel while minimizing the total length of the weapon,” according to an Army-produced video on the NGSW.

The NGSW weapons and rounds are slated to be deployed by the end of 2022, going first to soldiers within the close combat force, including elements of the Active National Guard and Reserve.

Kris Osborn is the defense editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Master’s Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.

Kris Osborn, Warrior Maven President

Kris Osborn, Warrior Maven President