The US Army has contracted FN Manufacturing to supply M249 5.56mm light machine guns in a $68.4m deal.

The M249 is a fully-automatic, gas-operated, magazine or belt-fed infantry weapon used either as automatic rifle or light machine gun. The weapon can be fired from the shoulder, hand-held or from the integral bi-pod at a rate of 750 rounds a minute.

The light machine gun has a optional short barrel for close-quarter operations. It can also be equipped with the army standard Picatinny rails, which allow the user to quickly mount optics and other devices.

The US Army has adopted M249 in 1984 to replace the 7.62mm M60 machine gun.

FN Manufacturing will perform the work in its Columbia facility with scheduled completion due for July 2014.

The US Army Contracting Command, Joint Munitions & Lethality Contracting Center at Picatinny Arsenal, New Jersey is the contracting agency.