The United States Army awarded contracts to six firms to design a replacement for the aging M249 squad automatic weapon. The M249 has a distinguished service record that spans four decades and was used in a number of wars around the globe. Weighing 22 lb and firing the 5.56 NATO cartridges at over 600 rounds a minute, it is a highly portable machine gun that allows soldiers to lay down heavy suppressive fire on the enemy.
The army’s efforts to find a futuristic replacement for the M249 are a part of its Next Generation Squad Automatic Rifle (NGSAR) initiative and come under its soldier lethality modernization priority. The need for such a weapon has been identified after the assessment of several action reports. The NGSAR will combine the firepower of a machine gun with the accuracy, precision, and mobility of an assault rifle. It would dramatically improve the soldiers’ survivability, lethality, and accuracy. The army released a prototype opportunity notice (PON) with a view to attract manufacturers and replace the existing M249.
The PON document stated that the weapon, inclusive of a bipod, suppressor and a sling, must not weigh more than 12 pounds and must not exceed the maximum length of 35 inches. Additionally, it must have a sustainable rate of fire of 60 rounds a minute for 15 minutes with having to change the barrel.