*Correction: This article has been updated to accurately reflect the financial contract awardm amount of $2.7 billion.
The Army hasn’t yet decided which of two competitors will build the Army and Marine Corps replacement for the M4, M16 and M249 yet, but on Friday, they announced who’ll be making the advanced optic to go on top of the Next Generation Squad Weapon.
Vortex Optics subsidiary Sheltered Wings has been selected to build as many as 250,000 Next Generation Squad Weapon – Fire Control systems at a starting price of about $2.7 billion over the next decade. The partnership beat out L3 Harris, the other company selected to provide a prototype for testing and evaluation.
“The NGSW-FC system is a ruggedized fire control that increases accuracy and lethality for the Close Combat Force. It integrates a number of advanced technologies, including a variable magnification optic, backup etched reticle, laser rangefinder, ballistic calculator, atmospheric sensor suite, compass, Intra-Soldier Wireless, visible and infrared aiming lasers, and a digital display overlay,” according to a release from the Army’s Cross Functional Team-Soldier Lethality.
Beginning in earnest in 2018, the Army narrowed its decades-long attempt to replace the more than half century old weapon by selecting the 6.8mm as the intermediate caliber replacement. The round has shown in ballistics testing that it outperforms the existing 5.56mm and 7.62mm rounds for lethality, range and accuracy.
But to take full advantage of that new round and weapon combo, the Army needs a better optic.
And they want more than just nice glass.
The new optic will basically be a computer atop the weapon, calculating range, ballistics, atmospherics, directional information, digital overlay and wireless features to link to devices such as the still-developing Integrated Visual Augmentation System, the Army’s new “do-it-all” goggle expected to begin fielding later this year.
The NGSW-FC will replace the close combat optic, rifle combat optic and machine gun optic. But neither the optic nor the weapon will be “pure fleeted” anytime soon, meaning all soldiers and Marines will get it.
This gear rollout is slated for the close combat forces — special operations, Marine and Army infantry, combat engineers and scouts, primarily.
The Army is scheduled this year to choose between the NGSW prototype offerings from Sig Sauer, a more conventional AR-style design, and the True Velocity/LoneStar Future Weapons, an option which features a bullpup design.
Todd South has written about crime, courts, government and the military for multiple publications since 2004 and was named a 2014 Pulitzer finalist for a co-written project on witness intimidation. Todd is a Marine veteran of the Iraq War.