Following a rigorous 27-month selection process, US-based firearms manufacturer SIG Sauer has beaten General Dynamics and Textron Systems to secure a $20.4 million contract to produce two new weapons systems built around the 6.8mm Common Cartridge Family of Ammunition. The US Army will now conduct additional testing of the new XM5 rifle and XM250 automatic rifle to assess whether the platforms can viably replace current standard Army weapons, namely the Colt M4/M4A1 pattern rifles and the FN Herstal M249 Squad Automatic Weapons.

Tristan Sauer, Land Analyst at GlobalData Aerospace, Defense and Security, a leading data and analytics company, offers his view:

“The decision to adopt not one, but two new standard weapons systems and a new ammunition caliber for the US Army reflects one of the most significant efforts to modernize solider systems in recent history. Due to growing concerns over the lethality of infantry units in conflicts against peer-level adversaries with modern body armor, the Army has opted to forego the current NATO standard calibers whilst retaining a level of interoperability between the rifles and squad automatic weapons. Indeed, both the XM5 and the XM250 fire the 6.8mm round, which is purported to have increased lethality and accuracy compared to both the 5.56x45mm and 7.62x51mm NATO standard cartridges”.

GlobalData’s report “Thematic Research – Soldier Modernization” highlights the scope of the NGSW program, which is projected to cost $1.07 billion between FY2022-25. The report also anticipates that should the 6.8mm caliber prove capable of meeting US expectations over the coming years, it seems likely that other NATO member states would seek to develop other new weapons platforms chambered in 6.8mm, which could in turn revitalize the stagnant European small arms market.

Sauer notes: “SIG SAUER ’s success in the NGSW program illustrates how specialist arms manufactures are still capable of beating defense primes such as Textron and General Dynamics. SIG Sauer’s XM17 pistol had already beaten out renowned pistol manufacturer Glock for the Modular Handgun System in 2017, and commercial rifle optics manufacturer Vortex Optics was declared the winner of the NGSW – Fire Control System (FCS) competition earlier this year, with their XM157 FCS now set to be integrated with the XM5 and XM250 platforms. These factors indicate that well-established small arms manufacturers are capable of winning contracts against the major defence primes”.