Are there any real benefits from the NGSW?

©US Army
©US Army

Author: EvstPalaiologos

This will be an article that will include speculations and predictions, but mainly it will ask questions and give interpretations. I’m not a fan of predictions and speculations but here I’m forced to give into them because of the limited information I have access to. However, I think that dealing with the subject regardless is useful because a successful outcome will mark a change in the tactical employment of the rifleman or a colossal failure of the military hierarchy to understand the role of the rifleman as it is. It will also create a trend to copy by other players and a discussion as to the real need for the program in various forums, physical or digital…

Disclaimer: English is not my first language. What you read is “translation” of an article I wrote in Greek for a local Defense Magazine. Some technical terms may not translate word to word. Also, I’m not an investigative reporter or professional journalist. What I write I do so from memory. So, some dates, names or events may not correspond 100% to the actual. Neither do I have combat experience although I serve in the military for over 25 years and I have sort of extensive weapons handling experience and proficiency.

Efforts for a “Small Arms Fire Control System” are not something new. Still, the decisive factor is the human operator.

I was inclined towards writing this due to the latest developments in the NGSW program. For the time being, contracts to develop prototypes have been given to three consortiums and all three have presented their concepts and prototypes publicly. However, as of yet, not specifics have been given to the public about precise specifications, or operating systems. Further down I will describe in brief each candidate.

Going through a short review of how we’ve come up to this point it’s best that we take into account that this is not the first attempt to replace the M16/M4 family. Programs like the ACR, OICW (XM8), ICSR, NGSAR (although this had to do with a SAW replacement) etc all had the same ending. They failed to achieve their over-ambitious or demanding goals. Or, if you prefer, they failed to justify the cost for the limited gains they would offer.

The NGSW Program

If we had to give fatherhood for NGSW to a single person that would have to be General Mark Milley. From this comes the second part of the title of the article. His insistence in procuring a 7,62×51 rifle according to the ICSR (Interim Combat Service Rifle) with the main justification being the inability of the current M4/M855A1 combination to achieve penetration of Level IV, or equivalent, type of body armor at any significant ranges (or any range for that). And with the proliferation of cheap body armor it was considered that personal weapons of Infantry Squads must be able to pierce through such plates at extended ranges. Further justification was given by calling on possible future peer/near peer conflict. On this “paradox” I will comment later.

Insistence on this was met with some reaction and apparently the justifications were not adopted by neither USSOCOM nor the USMC, at least with the same zest… In the end it was apparent that neither 7,62×51 solutions could meet the demands of defeating Level IV armor at distances required so the ICSR was put on ice, which is close to being canceled. It was canceled for good in November of 2017. Sometime here we can find the origins of the NGSW program. In essence it’s the amalgamation of the ICSR with the NGSAR. The later passed the contracts for prototypes phase in June 2018. It seems that General Milley believed that new technologies would provide an even better “ICSR” platform. The defeat of Level IV armor remained the primary objective and justification. I will comment on this aspect later also.

So, we come to this day. On August of 2019 contracts were given to three consortiums for the development and delivery for testing of weapons and ammunition. These were (headed by) General Dynamics, AAI Textron and Sig Sauer. Contracts involve the delivery of 53 rifles (NGSW-R), 43 automatic rifles (NGSW-AR) as well as approximately 850,000 rounds of ammunition for testing. Testing is stated to last for 27 months. Estimated needs call for 250,000 weapons and 150,000,000 rounds of ammunition. However, current planning is for an initial procurement of 17,972 “weapons” (no distinction between Rifles and Automatic Rifles) and a final goal of 85,986 “weapons”. It is stated clearly that the Program might choose only Rifles, only Automatic Rifles, or even Rifles from one consortium and Automatic Rifles from other. This will for sure create further development issues as currently each consortium’s ammunition is not compatible with other’s weapons.

Cased Telescopic ammunition, developed by ARES for Textron and the LSAT program.

The ammunition

All companies offered ammunition that use the US Army developed 6,8mm projectile as the Program specifies. The projectile, developed initially for the NGSAR program is estimated to be between 125-135 grains and follows the pattern of the EPR (Enhanced Performance Round) ammunition, like the M855A1 and the M80A1. It should not be confused with the 6,8 SPC that was introduced some time back as, sort of, an “American 7,62×39” equivalent. The operational round will be the XM1186, which is for all intended purposes an AP round! A non-AP, and presumably cheaper, round will also exist. The projectile is designed in such a way and with a BC (Ballistic Coefficient) factor suitable that when fired at speeds of 3000ft/s (or even slightly more) will achieve defeat of Level IV armor plate at 600 meters (this translates to energy outputs pretty close to 0,300” Winchester Magnum!!). This remains to be proven. Performance demands still remain classified and the previous interpretations is what comes out as the “common feeling” from what has “leaked”. Performances as these involve challenges to be met that each company chose a different route to.

Notional explanatory cut.

The demands

Going through the specifications we can observe that they are pretty loose where it comes to weight and configurations. This was on purpose as the Program wanted to give companies the leniency to come up with innovative solutions to the challenges to be met. Some interesting aspects that stand out is the demand for the systems batteries (also lots of leniency is given here) where it is specified that weapon weight does not include the batteries and that offered batteries should be common for both configurations (NGSW-R and NGSW-AR) and use common Army charges if are rechargeable. Another interesting point is the need for the System to be “resistant to cyber-attacks”. I believe a first for small arms specifications!
It has to be stated also that the Program calls for at least 210 “stowed rounds”, which means that magazines or belt pouches accompanying each weapon should hold at least this amount of rounds. 210 might sound a bit low for a dedicated Automatic Rifle. This might change in the future.

The Fire Control Subsystem

In parallel to the NGSW program the Squad Fire Control (S-FC) Program also runs. This includes all the aiming systems for the NGSW. The winner consortium for the S-FC will deliver the systems to the US Army and the Army will deliver them to the winner of the NGSW for integration. The NGSW contractors are obliged to include a “Smart Rail” and a power source to the design of the weapons. The S-FC will include Direct View Optics as well as a Ballistic Computer, a Rangefinder and Environmental Sensors. It should also have the ability to project information in the field of view of the operator as well as seamlessly corporate with other part of the soldier equipment such as Night Vision Goggles.

General Dynamics proposal

GD revealed a rifle and automatic rifle design in a bullpup configuration. Both use a 20 round magazine. Not much detail is available. But, the rifle has a 20” barrel and the AR a 22” barrel (as well as a bipod). Their weight is listed as “less than 10lb and less than 11lb” respectively. This is approximately, 4,5 and 4,9 kilos. That’s a significant increase from the M4 in terms of weight but a big decrease when comparing the Automatic Rifle to the SAW. Of course here we have an AR instead of a “Light Machine Gun”.

The rifle configuration of General Dynamics (© Battle Order)

Other available data we can see or conclude is the use of a Delta P Design suppressor with a Flow-Through technology and 3D Printing construction that reduces the pressures in the operating system. Also, we can see canted foldable BUIS. As with the rest of the proposals and as stated in the specifications an “Smart Rail” is used (T-Worx Intelligent Rail) in the 12 O’clock position. The rest of the handguard has M-Lock which is considered the “new standard” for peripherals attachment on weapons except for Optics (scopes) for the USSOCOM and the US Army.

Maybe more interesting than the above is the Operating System. Although the company doesn’t give much detail from the videos released it’s apparent that the barrel reciprocates to some extent during firing. We can assume from this that some sort of “boosted recoil” or “short recoil” method is used. It remains to be determined.

The need for integration of current accessories remains. Here GD’s NGSW-AR with a Specter DR.

The cartridges are developed by True Velocity and they bear a composite case with a characteristic minimal, or completely absent, neck. The company calls them Advanced Composite Cartridge Case. This, the absence of a normal neck, probably means that part of the internal volume is used to hold the projectile aligned. True Velocity names their cartridge as 0,277 TVCM, hence the name of GD’s weapons, RM277. The powder is compressed inside the case and the company claims that this guarantees consistency in the quantity and thus consistency in pressures and velocities, and apparently an inherent accuracy due to this. They also claim a 30-40% weight reduction but this without specifying in comparison to what. Probably they mean in comparison to a cartridge of similar performance but with traditional brass case, which also must apply for the claims of the other competitors.

An advantage given by composite cases is that they are insulators. This means that less heat is passed from the case towards the chamber of the weapon (and the other way around, less heat is transferred from the chamber to the powder) when firing. This in contrast with brass or other metallic cases that, on the other hand, retain some of the heat produced and expel it as they are ejected from the weapon, acting in a sort of heat sink.

The proposal of AAI Textron

Textron teamed up with Heckler und Koch and Olin Winchester. Basically, what the company did was to offer the weapons and ammunition developed through the LSAT program modified/scaled up so that they would meet the specifications set by NGSW (to be more precise, the ammunition where developed by ARES who also took part in the ACR program). Textron had ready solutions. The cooperation with H&K and Olin has more to do with industrial production help if they would end up needing to go to mass production.

Taking a different route than G.D, Textron went with a belt fed LMG (it had one ready as mentioned above). Plus a magazine fed rifle. Details are also scarce. They do give a weight measurement for the LMG as “under 12lbs” (5,4 kg) which is impressive for an LMG in such a caliber. For their NGSW-R they give a “below 9lbs” (4 kgs). Both their NGSW-R and AR use a “virtual baffle” technology Suppressor made by Lewis Machine & Tools.

The CT (Cased Telescoped) ammunition developed by ARES used for Textron’s NGSW bid have the 6,8GP projectile embedded in. The company believes that CT ammunition technology is mature enough and has overcome any problems they might have faced in the past (e.g projectile alignment, throat erosion etc). What CT design does is to embed the projectile completely inside the case and, in theory, give a better volume to performance ratio. Textron promises significant weight savings also, up to 40%, although they don’t specify in comparison to what.

The so called “H&K” configuration.

Perhaps what’s more interesting about Textron’s bid is the somewhat complex operating method, or, to put it better, feeding method. The weapons have a “dropping” chamber, which is a separate, moving, part from the barrel. That is because the zero taper of the CT ammunition allows for “push-through” operations when extracting and ejecting the spent case. To put it in simpler terms, the next round pushes the spent case out of the chamber as it is being inserted. Ejection takes place at a port just forward of the chamber on the right side of the weapon. Advantages of using such a complex procedure may not be obvious at first but the absence of a conventional bolt opening may allow for higher operating pressures as the chamber is sealed by a fixed trunnion extension rather than a movable bolt.

The “AR” configuration seen in vpn_test renderings.

As with the other two bidders Textron comes up with recoil mitigation methods, required by the powerful ammunition used. For the LMG it seems to be in the form of the time tested “continual recoil”, like in the well-known Ultimax LMG, where the moving parts are stopped by the recoil spring before striking the rear trunnion or back plate. For the rifle it’s not clear what method is used but it’s clear that every effort to align the recoil forces was taken. The characteristic bulge just in front of the magazine well is the space where the chamber drops for inserting/extracting. It’s also the space where the common battery for all accessories will be housed, although it seems that the base of the stock might eventually be used. The battery will also power the (appears to be) partial electronic trigger mechanism, which may include an “electric sear set” but later a full electronic trigger might be used.

Possible configuration of the rechargeable battery for Sig NGSW. It is obvious that it will add weight and bulk but estimations are that it will be less than the sum of the batteries it will replace

Sig-Sauer USA proposal

Perhaps the most conventional solution comes from Sig. The rifle, called SPEAR, seems to be one more take on the AR-15/AR-10 theme and probably is a scaled up, or beefed up MCX. The Automatic Rifle part of the proposal is, this time, a “scaled down” MG-338 (a.k.a SLMAG), the machine gun developed by Sig for USSOCOM in 0,338” Norma Magnum. A distinct advantage of Sig is that they make all necessary parts for the NGSW and S-FC in house, as well as the ammunition.

A sample of Sig Sauer (also picture mounted on a SPEAR prototype) FC-S. It’s a singular device. The option of a “distributed” device is also available and maybe pursued by other makers.

The round they proposed is called 6,8×51 “Hybrid”. The “Hybrid” part comes from the two metal construction of the case, with a copper body and steel base. The company claims up to 20% weight saving compared to single metal construction. Using this round the SPEAR rifle apparently meets the muzzle velocity demands out of a 13” barrel (compare this to GD 20” barrel) which might mean very high chamber pressures or only meeting threshold requirements by choosing lower pressure and velocity. High chamber pressure is a subject often criticized when referring to the NGSW program, mainly because of barrel wear issues related to this, or increased moving parts stresses which lead to reduced reliability. Some are talking about pressures up to (or even above) 80,000psi!

Sig’s NGSW-AR proposal, a belt fed machine gun, uses an internal buffer mechanism to reduce perceived recoil but not all details are available. From the videos however it’s apparent that there’s barrel movement/recoil. Also, the recoil mitigation for the rifle is not readily apparent. Maybe there’s some sort of counter recoil mechanism, although from Sig patents we can see another, also somewhat complex, solution. Both weapons use Sig’s MIL-SLX-68QD suppressor with provisions for “reduced back pressure”. A thing to note with Sig’s proposal is that SPEAR has two charging handles, a classic AR one and a second one on the receivers left side. This was not part of the specifications.

Regarding the weight given for the weapons, the company says “less than 10lbs” (4,5 kgs) for the rifle. For the LMG it’s “less than 12lbs” (5,4 kgs) which is impressively low (as with Textron’s LMG) for a weapon of this class! This is achieved through extensive use of light alloys but also with other solutions such as deletion of the quick change of barrel provision.

Sig Sauer’s proposal. Apparent are the size of the magazines but also the choice to go with a “limited ammunition capacity” belt pouch for the Light Machine Gun (NGSW-AR)

Closing the comment on Sig’s proposal, a point that might prove crucial in the long term, especially commercially, is that both weapons are completely compatible with standard 7,62x51NATO ammunition only with a simple barrel swap. This might expand the range of organizations and individuals that will show interest in such weapons but might not want to take on the cost of new ammunition.

Some comments common on all three proposals

First, all three companies chose different routes to address the muzzle velocity/energy demands that have to do with the rumored (still classified) range and lethality goals. Another point is that all three companies presented a NGSW-AR with a longer barrel than the NGSW-R. This probably means that muzzle velocity/energy demands differ from Rifle and Automatic Rifle specifications. This might, for example, explain Sig’s 13” Rifle barrel as with the company going for “threshold” rather than “optimum” in this field to gain in other parts of the specifications, such as e.g. weight. Lastly, apart from Textron’s Rifle, for the rest is not readily apparent as to where they will “hide” the systems batteries.

Questions and interpretations

As I already mentioned in the prologue, I’ll put forward some questions that I’ll attempt to answer in order to reach some conclusions and interpretations. Before this, however, I’m obliged to state that all three companies have, seemingly, presented very capable platforms and ammunition. No one can argue with this. I’m sure that the NGSW program, should it become fruitful, will field a weapon/ammunition compilation with exceptional capabilities. I will comment on some “paradoxes” though.

Sig’s ammunition as well as a diagram from the patent papers. It’s obvious that the company strengthen the “maximum pressure” areas of the casing that allowed to save weight by keeping a more refined wall on the rest of the structure.

The range paradox*. The so called “overmatch” factor

I have, in the past, commented on the issue of range (concerning hand held weapons) and the various “complaints” regarding the 5,56×45 as to that aspect. For some people this has become sort of obsession! On numerous reports regarding the NGSW program General Milley is reported as saying that their opponents (the US Army’s opponents) are enjoying a range supremacy in hand held weapons that allows them to engage friendly forces from distances that cannot be retaliated. Often this goes on with mentions of PKM machine guns, SVD rifles, and sometimes even AKs!

To set some things straight, some would argue that AKs (7,62×39) have less of an effective range when compared to the M16/M4 rifles mainly because of a less flat trajectory and less energy at distance (remember also, it’s what the shooter can do with the weapon/ammunition and not what the weapon/ammunition theoretical specs are). In the cases examined though is the almost complete absence of any aiming accessories from said opponents that limits their effective range, especially when compared to the fully accessorized weaponry of US ground forces. If you cannot see a target then how can you accurately engage it… So, to conclude, regardless of caliber, the effective range of the Rifleman is that that he can see and aim to. Let’s keep this!

Regarding the PKMs and SVDs (both in 7,62x54R). When it became a necessity for an individual rifle to be able to openly confront a medium machine gun or a sharpshooter rifle?! Going beyond this, the US Army has equivalent (or even better) weapons in these categories such as M-240B/L and Mk-48 machine guns and M-110/A1 and M-14EBR sharpshooter/sniper rifles etc, and in larger numbers and a more dense issue for that! And all have modern day and night aiming accessories. And going beyond still, the US Army enjoys the support of a full array of heavier weapons such as mortars, ATGMs, light cannons and much more! I’ve written before, Infantry operations are not long range rifleman duels (and counter-insurgency is Infantry operations)! If the leadership sees the rifleman as a do-all system I think they’ve failed to grasp at the complexity of modern operations.

More on this on “Tactical Applications of hand held weapons” regarding “tactical accuracy” in Greek Defense Magazine “Δούρειος Ίππος” (Trojan Horse).

Body armor presents it’s maximum area when standing square towards the thread direction. In realistic combat conditions soldiers take positions that present less such area in regard to the percentage of the exposed body. This does not diminish the importance of body armor but emphasizes the fact that it’s not something that changes the way ground combat is fought

The Body Armor paradox

General Milley also (is reported as) referred to the fact that the vast majority (70%) of own forces casualties over the past years is from Ground Combat Units. The logic behind this report us that they (the Ground Combat Units) need a caliber capable of defeating their opponents, even after, in the near future, they wear body armor similar to the one used by US Forces. This, to myself, looks like a “counter-argument”… Someone might say, “being that the US Ground Forces have suffered such casualties from regular weapons and ammunitions, even though they sport Level IV armor, why would they, the US Forces, need something so extremely more capable for inflicting similar casualties to their opponents..?”. Will the NGSW mean that enemy forces will suffer 80% casualties? Is this critical? And will this reduce the US casualties and to what extent? And how many of those casualties came from hand held weapons? And why did the enemy managed to achieve such US casualties even though they don’t have NGSW capability?

Many of you might have heart or read that during the Viet-Nam war for every enemy casualty attributed to Light Arms a 250,000 expended ammunition figure was required! Similar numbers, or even higher still (in the 300,000 area) are also reported for current conflicts. This might seem as an exaggeration and truth is that actual numbers are much lower (this is simple “rounds produced vs persons killed” “journalistic math”) though still high enough. But in that a critical role of the hand held weapons lies. That of suppression. Most ammunition is fired in order to prevent the enemy from effectively using their own weapons. And this is regardless of caliber, that most rounds will be fired even if a clear and defined target is absent. But not in vain. Suppression is a major factor in operations and ground combat in general. In the permissive environment created by suppressive fire roles and weapons operate more effectively, such as Sharpshooters and AT gunners. A great deal of Infantry Squads work is to create the conditions necessary for support weapons to do just that, support the Infantry Squads, in order for them to be able to maneuver to their Objectives.


Another thing concerning hard body armor is just how much of the body does it cover. Hard armor plates cover roughly 20% of the human body’s surface area. This applies, regarding area actually covered from direct fire only for a man standing square to the direction of the thread. This is rarely the case. To give an example, for a soldier laying prone the hard body armor practically covers 0% of his exposure towards the thread. Many might consider body armor as a miraculous way of zeroing casualties or as a means of allowing maneuver regardless of enemy fire. The primary role envisioned for hard armor plates was to prevent, to an extent, “non-medically treatable” wounds in the torso area. A large percentage of such wounds (heart, aorta, spine) inflicted from high caliber (rifle) ammunition cannot be treated medically and leads to inevitable death. Hard armor plates primarily aim to prevent these sorts of injuries. The torso area, due to its relative rigidity, is easier to cover with hard armor. Body armor always presents challenges. Indicative to this is that even for USSOCOM TALOS (recently renamed as Hyper Enabled Operator) ideally only a 40% area would be covered by hard armor.

Lastly, which is the possibility that right after such a thread for armor emerges armor plates will just get stronger? I’d assume that it’s pretty certain. And that’s not taking into account the possible introduction of exoskeletons allowing for even heavier armor. And, what happens if the opponent doesn’t wear body armor? What does the round offer then? Increased lethality? Even in the SAAC study (Small Arms Ammunition Configuration) it is stated that caliber doesn’t play all that much of a role in lethality. Actually hitting the target does, hence the aiming means (Anthony G. Williams, The US Army’s Next Generation Squad Weapon program).

The “Automatic Rifle” of Textron. Is basically a modification of their LSAT work

The “peer/near peer opponents” paradox

The General referred also in the need to confront potential future adversaries (in the China, Russia category). It is at least a paradox to come up with this argument to justify a small arms program. One would assume that peer/near peer war made a good argument point for an artillery program, or an anti-tank program, or IFVs and such, not rifles and bullets! For the time being potential US adversaries doesn’t seem to be bothered with the same anxieties as to “overmatching” US in the small arms court.


The “tactical application of the rifleman” paradox

Here I comment on the first part of the title. Do we see a change in the way the rifleman is employed, and the Infantry Squad as an extension of that? The demands for accuracy (stated as “better than” 1,5MOA) and range point at a universal Sharpshooters dogma… Range and accuracy are desirable features for any weapon. What can be described as “satisfactory” though? As I have written again and again in the past, the decisive factor in determining a weapons effective range in combat is the user, the operator. The role he plays and how is he applied. Personnel has various roles to fill in combat and they all work in conjunction. Each role exists and operates because other roles and actions create the situations for him to do so. This leads to an effective “team work”. It’s not an Army of One.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Joey Mendez

The NGSW program covers the accuracy demands with the inherent values given to the round and weapons and with the S-FC. Relating this with the body armor context, a SAPI plate at full exposure at 600m covers over 1,5 MOA (1 MOA equals approximately 3cm at 100m, so 18cm at 600m). And here lies a question, why would a NGSW operator, whom, in theory, has the ability to hit such a small target at 600m wont aim for a less protected or more vulnerable spot to shoot the opponent at? Like the head, of roughly the same size. Or the rest of the 80% of unprotected area? But more still, the human operators capabilities remain the same, regardless of what the weapon/ammunition is capable of, and are defined mainly by the actual tactical situation. Asking any Sniper will probably get you the answer that long range accuracy is something achievable in favorable conditions for the shooter. The Sniper/Sharpshooter role takes advantages of such conditions, but, as I already mentioned, they don’t work in void. But rather in the “mini-mixed arms task group” of the ground combat units and against target more suitable for their roles.

Here comes the S-FC with it’s range and environmental sensors and also the partially or fully electronic trigger. As we see in various Fire Control and electronic trigger manufacturers commercials they promise 100% accuracy as they “mark” the target and the weapon only fires when hit is assured. This may sound as ideal and a game changer but in the complex battle environment scarcely allows for such practices by the rifleman. For starts, targets exposure times are minimal. The marking procedures would require the same level of marksmanship as actual shooting even when automatic target trackers are employed. The situation the operator will be in for sure will not cooperate for such a procedure (his seek of own cover and the enemy’s cover and concealment for example). In conclusion, these are all helpful technologies but not to the extent that they’d justify the need for a new caliber. Beyond this, the need for suppression will for sure remain. But it will have to be achieved with fewer (due to weight limitations) and more expensive ammunition. More capable ammunition for sure, but suppression doesn’t mind all that much about actual round performance…

A picture indicative of the challenges faced to produce a Stabilized Weapon Platform in an effort to reduce the effects of the “human factor” in the tactical accuracy of small arms.

Improving actual hit probability in most tactical situations would require solutions such as stabilized chassis, like in the AimLock Stabilized Weapon Platform. Just looking at the photographs allows us to comprehend the challenges of such effort. To sum up, caliber and energy has little to do with the rifleman’s ability to be effective at range. For example, WWI weapons and calibers presented impressive performance at range. Yet, riflemen remained as effective as their human nature allowed them to be. This improved only when optics came to be a universal issue accessory. But not to a level that would justify new, more powerful, calibers.
Another paradox, the US Army has the CSASS program already delivering SDMRs to combat Units, in 7,62X51 NATO. Apparently, Sig Sauer’s proposal has a clear advantage being compatible with the caliber.

Photo by Matt Lyman

Are there any real benefits from the NGSW?

Up until this point I’ve been more or less judgmental about NGSW program. I’ll emphasize once more that this is in regard to the actual program and it’s purposes and by no means as to the quality of the material being offered or of it’s capabilities! But are there any real benefits emerging? I’ll dare say that for sure there are. It’s a step towards establishing a common small arms caliber or the understanding of the need for one. The 6,8GP projectile emerges as an extremely capable one (as a projectile that is). Perhaps if it was to be combined with a more realistic power/energy/range goal it would have produced an exceptional round, light enough to fully substitute the 5,56mm keeping the weight and recoil advantages but still powerful enough to fully replace the 7,62X51. Matter is though that current calibers are far from obsolete and the pursue of the “common caliber” could have waited (if deemed an absolute necessity) or could have been contacted as a search for what is actually needed rather than what is wanted (there’s a distinct difference between “need” and “want”).

A Soldier fires a M249 Squad Automatic Weapon during a combined arms live-fire exercise at the 7th Army Training Command
‘s Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany, Aug. 18, 2017. U.S. Army photo by Gertrud Zach.

Is this eventually the “chapel” of US Generals?

I will dare and say, YES. Although it will (if fruitful) produce an extremely capable combination it doesn’t solve the issue (if such one exists …) of Ground Combat Warriors need for firepower. Infantry and ground combat Units firepower is not defined by the small arms caliber or it’s power as such. But rather it’s defined by heavy weapons, crew served support weapons, IFVs, Attack helicopters, artillery, tanks etc. It’s these that will judge the outcome of the battle. Ground troops maneuver under the suppressive cover and with the help of the fore mentioned and have a critical role to fulfil. One that cannot be accomplished by any other mean. That of dismounted close combat, a kind of combat that puts other priorities forward rather than extreme range lethality. Future foot soldiers will increase their lethality take advantage of technologies that allow better situational awareness, that will allow smaller and lighter precision strike munitions, that will allow for lighter “heavy” weapons, that will allow for shorter targeting to effects cycles.

Also, technologies will allow fewer foot soldiers to accomplish given missions. Such technologies might be robotic vehicles, loitering munitions and other. The traditional perception of warfighting does not allow for evolution but rather only for incremental improvement. NGSW will be an improvement of some aspects, no doubt on that, but does not really cover future needs and challenges to an extent that would justify the cost and hustle. A greater benefit would emerge if efforts where driven towards countering the inevitable emergence of killer UGVs, or the proliferation of UAVs at even the lowest files of the Squad. In the rest of the Ground Combat arena the US are enjoying undisputable superiority, or steps are made to establish such (VSHORADS, EW, etc).

*”chapel” An expression used by friends and I to describe unassuming hierarchy “projects” taking as an example those Cos that struggle for the 2-3 years of their presence at a Unit to build a small chapel or a monument and are proud of themselves that they accomplished a feat. If that effort and money where to be spent in actual operational endeavors our military would be far more capable…

*”paradox” (Greek “παράδοξο”) Something not close to reason. That defies what is considered as normal

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Doukas Gaitatzis

Doukas Gaitatzis

Παρατηρητής και ιστογράφος θεμάτων αμυντικής τεχνολογίας. Δεσμευμένος με τις Ελληνικές Ένοπλες Δυνάμεις και παθιασμένος με οτιδήποτε στρατιωτικό.

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