The Army’s Next High-Tech Assault Rifle Will Pack A Punch Like A Tank

The United States Army is planning for decades of hybrid wars across multiple domains — space, cyberspace, air, land, and, maritime.

Back in October, we dissected the Army’s latest Training and Doctrine Command report, which highlights the next round of hybrid wars could start somewhere around 2025 and last through 2040.

Currently, the Army is in a transitional period before the next round of wars begin. In doing so, the Army has made it clear that it will replace its legacy M249 SAW and the M4 Carbine, with a lightweight and higher chamber pressure assault rifle.

It now appears the Army has selected a new high-tech assault rifle that can release a high rate of specialty designed bullets with as much chamber pressure as an M1A2 Abrams tank, to pierce through the world’s most advanced body armor.

The LSAT (Lightweight Small Arms Technologies) light machine gun is a powerful weapon produced by the AAI Corporation, an aerospace and defense development and manufacturing firm, located in Hunt Valley, Maryland. Textron acquired AAI in 2007 and currently operates as a unit of Textron Systems Corporation.

Textron provides more information about the LSAT light machine gun: 

Col. Geoffrey A. Norman, force development division chief at Army HQ, told Task & Purpose, “the service plans on fielding a Next Generation Squad Automatic Rifle (NGSAR) — the first version in the Army’s Next-Generation Weapons System that chambers a round between 6.5mm and 6.8mm — as a potential replacement for its 80,000 M249 SAWs starting in fiscal 2022 rather than the original target date of fiscal 2025.”

Norman said the NGSAR will weigh less, shoot farther, and pack more punch than any the military’s existing small arms. More importantly, the colonel harped on the fact the chamber pressure of the weapon is far superior than any other light machine gun in the world, which means, a bullet from the machine gun can penetrate the most advanced body armor from around 600 meters. Norman hopes this high-tech weapon will be integrated into a fire team or squad “that fires a small bullet at the pressure equivalent to what a tank would fire.”

“The chamber pressure for the standard assault rifle is around 45 KSI [kilopound per square inch], but we’re looking for between 60 and 80 KSI … the chamber pressure when an M1 Abrams tank fires is on that order,” Norman told Task & Purpose. “We’re looking to reach out around 600 meters and have lethal effects even if the target is protected by body armor.”

Norman told Task & Purpose that the new lightweight machine gun is in trial tests by the Soldier Lethality Cross-Functional Team at Fort Benning, Georgia. Soldiers are testing the advanced weapon with a 7.62mm XM11158 Advanced Armor Piercing (ADVAP) round. The army is split between the 5.56mm and 7.62mm round but wants to find a happy medium between both.

“The challenge of the 5.56mm is that it doesn’t have enough mass [to defeat enemy body armor],” Norman said, referring to Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley’s April 2017 testimony before lawmakers on the Army’s growing ammo problem.

“But the challenge with 7.62mm ammo is that it has too much mass and not enough propellant. The right solution is somewhere between the two, where you have enough mass to penetrate but you’re still moving fast enough,” he added.

Task & Purpose says the Army has spent a great deal of time searching for the next generation of assault rifles: 

But the real heart of the NGSW program is the fire control system, developed independently from the receiver and chamber. While the Army has spent years evaluating off-the-shelf options for soldiers’ next assault rifle — see the Interim Combat Service Rifle program aborted in November due to weight concerns rather than budget jousting — Norman characterized the proprietary fire-control system as a miniaturized version of the systems utilized by ground vehicles and aviation platforms.  

“We’re exploring several options to ensure that what the gun aims at, it actually hits,” Norman said. “The system will adjust and potentially only fire when the muzzle will line up with its target. It will take into account atmospheric conditions, even automatically center the weapon using an internal system. We’re looking to get these capabilities ready as soon as possible.”

Task & Purpose further states the hard release of the light machine gun is in 2022: 

The Army’s hard target of a 2022 fielding may seem ambitious, especially given the maddeningly batshit nature of defense acquisition. But the service isn’t the only one putting the NGSW in the crosshairs: According to Norman, the Corps is also interested in adopting the NGSAR alongside the M27 and M1101 CSASS sniper rifle the Army has eyed in recent years. And with the campaign against ISIS in close-quarters environs like Iraq and Syria winding down, soldiers and infantry Marines could use the range and the punch of the system sooner rather than later.  

“We’ve got support from Congress and the Secretary of Defense as part of our close combat strategic portfolio review,” Norman told Task & Purpose. “We’re not going to replace all 80,000 SAWs right away — but the intent is to get this AR variant out to infantry squads as soon as possible.”