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“Based on the success of the Next Generation Squad Weapons (NGSW), we are interested in learning more about the possibilities in the state of technology for next-gen medium and next-gen heavy machine guns that would be used to potentially replace our legacy systems,” David Oatley, product director for crew served weapons at the Army’s Program Executive Office Soldier, said Friday at the National Defense Industrial Association’s Armaments, Robotics and Munitions conference.
“Our systems have been around for a very long time, and we expect that we will want to increase that capability at some point in the future,” he added.
The Marine Corps is working with the Army on its “next generation machine gun” effort, but is also interested in the .338 Norma Magnum machine gun that U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) is developing, said Christopher Woodburn, deputy for the Maneuver Branch at the Capabilities Development Directorate at Marine Corps Combat Development and Integration.
“Right now, we are working with SOCOM to assess a .338 Norma Mag [machine gun] as a potential replacement for the M240s that we have in our rifle companies,” Woodburn said at the NDIA conference. “We are seeking to increase the lethality, both range and effects, within our rifle companies without impacting our mobility.”
The .338 Norma Magnum round can hit targets out to ranges of 1,500 meters, compared to the M240 machine gun in 7.62 x 51mm, which has an effective range out to approximately 800 meters.
Woodburn added that it could take at least three-to-five years before the Marine Corps is ready to make a fielding decision on the .338 Norma Magnum machine gun effort.
Army maneuver officials at Fort Benning, Georgia, are conducting a Platoon Arms and Ammunition Configuration Study (PAAC) that will help guide decisions about future weapons programs, such as the next generation machine gun effort, said Col. Rhett Thompson, director of the Soldier Requirements Division at Benning.
The PAAC study is scheduled to be complete by early fiscal 2024, Thompson said. Currently, the Army is not evaluating any new machine gun technology for the effort.
“We don’t really know what those systems would look like,” Oatley said. “We don’t have a new requirement for those yet, but we are interested in understanding what is available at this time.”
Part of the decision to officially pursue a machine gun modernization effort will depend on the outcome of the NGSW effort, said Col. Scott Madore, who runs Project Manager Soldier Lethality.
The Army is currently testing NGSW prototypes from General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems Inc.; Textron Systems; and Sig Sauer Inc. If all goes well, the service hopes to begin fielding a rifle and automatic rifle version of the NGSW, chambered for 6.8mm in late 2022, officials say.
“I think a lot of the decisions are going to be made when it comes to the next generation machine gun once we see the demonstrated performance of the 6.8mm in the Next Generation Squad Automatic Rifle,” Thompson said.
“That would determine, do we need a next gen machine gun beyond the 6.8mm capability?” he added, pointing out that the Army would then have to figure out “how that new machine gun would sit inside the formation.”
— Matthew Cox can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.