US Army Replacing M249 SAW with More Lethal Weapon
Its re-emphasis on conventional, long-range warfare has compelled the U.S. Army to begin looking for a new squad-level light machine gun firing a more lethal bullet to longer ranges to replace the existing M249 Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW) in service since 1984.
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The army has designated this replacement light machine gun as the Next Generation Squad Automatic Rifle (NGSAR).
Its PM Soldier Weapons unit has announced the launch of a single incremental program to replace the M249 in Brigade Combat Teams (BCT) and select support units during the next decade. NGSAR is one of the Army's budget priorities.
The army wants NGSAR to "combine the firepower and range of a machine gun with the precision and ergonomics of a carbine, yielding capability improvements in accuracy, range, and lethality."
In addition, the new weapon will be lightweight and fire lightweight ammunition with improved lethality, an indication that a heavy 7.62 mm round might not be in favor with the army.
The army expects NGSAR to help reduce the heavy load carried by soldiers that have a significant negative impact on their mobility, survivability, and firing accuracy.
It said soldiers will employ the NGSAR against close and extended range targets in all terrains and conditions. NGSAR will achieve overmatch or fire superiority by killing stationary, and suppressing moving, threats out to 600 meters and suppressing all threats to a range of 1200 meters.
The army's requirements also stipulates the NGSAR should be compatible with the Small Arms Fire Control system as well as legacy optics and night-vision devices.
The army, however, didn't specify caliber for NGSAR, but the wording of the requirements indicates this weapon should have a caliber between 5.56 mm and 7.62 mm. The M249 fires a 5.56×45mm NATO round.
The need to replace the 5.56 mm round comes from combat reports indicating it delivers less killing power than the 7.62 mm rounds fired by the Russian weapons such as the AK-47 arming insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In addition, the appearance of new body armor developed by Russia and China that can withstand the 5.56×45mm NATO round is also a concern.