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Army Names Firms Selected to Design Next Gen Squad Auto Rifle

Pfc. Tyler Kramer, a mechanic with I Company, 3rd Combined Arms Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division qualifies on an M249 Squad Automatic Weapon during a range Feb. 1, 2018 at Fort Stewart, Ga. (U.S. Army/Sgt. Ian Thompson)
Pfc. Tyler Kramer, a mechanic with I Company, 3rd Combined Arms Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division qualifies on an M249 Squad Automatic Weapon during a range Feb. 1, 2018 at Fort Stewart, Ga. (U.S. Army/Sgt. Ian Thompson)

The U.S. Army on Thursday named the five gunmakers it selected to build prototypes of the Next Generation Squad Automatic Rifle.

Project Manager Soldier Weapons awarded single contracts to AAI Corporation/Textron Systems, General Dynamics-OTS Inc., PCP Tactical LLC and Sig Sauer Inc. Two contracts were awarded to FN America LLC, according to a July 12 contract award notice.

The contracts were the result of a Prototype Opportunities Notice the Army posted in March for the small-arms industry to submit ideas for the Next Generation Squad Automatic Rifle, an effort to replace the M249 squad automatic rifle, made by FN America.

For contract award, the firms will submit one weapon, a fire-control system and 2,000 rounds of ammunition within 12 months.

The Army wants the weapon to weigh no more than 12 pounds and the fire-control system to weigh less than three pounds. The weapon should have a maximum length of 35 inches, according to the PON document.

The M249 can weigh as much as 17 pounds, depending on the model, and its full-size version measures more than 40 inches long.

The Army also wants the NGSAR ammunition to weigh 20 percent less than the current brass-cased ammo, the document states.

The weapon must have a sustained rate of fire of 60 rounds per minute and be highly controllable, the document states.

Textron has been working for more than a decade on next-generation light machine guns that fire case-telescoped ammunition in its Lightweight Small Arms Technology program.

The futuristic cartridges -- featuring a plastic case rather than a brass one to hold the propellant and the projectile, like a conventional shotgun shell -- offer significant weight reductions compared to conventional ammo.

-- Matthew Cox can be reached at matthew.cox@military.com.

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