The U.S. Army has selected Wisconsin-based Vortex to supply as many as a quarter-million optics for the country's planned Next Generation Weapons platforms. 

The 10-year contract, announced late last week, covers the production and delivery of up to 250,000 XM157 Next Generation Squad Weapons-Fire Control systems. The NGSW-FC will be the common sight for the Army's new NGSW-Rifle, set to replace the M4 Carbine in front line service, and the NGSW-Automatic Rifle, the intended replacement for the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon. 

"The NGSW-FC system is a ruggedized fire control that increases accuracy and lethality for the Close Combat Force," says Program Executive Office (PEO) Soldier, the Army organization tasked with rapid prototyping, procurement, and fielding of equipment for its soldiers. "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."

Vortex Next Generation Squad Weapon – Fire Control (NGSW-FC)
The Vortex NGSW-FC has a direct view 1-8x30 magnification and combines a laser rangefinder and ballistic computer in an overlaid display for increased first-round hit probability. Even if the high-tech add-ons take a dirt nap, the backup etched reticle should still allow the sight to work as akin to an LPVO. (Graphic: PEO Soldier)

The contract minimum is set at $20 million, with a fantastic $2.7 billion maximum mentioned if all options are taken, pointing to a unit price for each NGSW-FC optic as being in the neighborhood of $10,800. However, it should be noted that, going past the sights themselves, the contract includes supporting accessories, contractor support, spare parts, repairs, and engineering efforts, likely pointing to a significantly lower per-unit cost than the basic math would imply.

Vortex's prototype sight, delivered for soldier feedback and technical performance testing last year, faced off against an optic developed by L3Harris, who teamed up with scope maker Leupold. Notably, Leupold recently won a contract from the Army to provide a version of their Mark 5HD 5-25×56 scope for the service’s new Precision Sniper Rifle (PSR) program, separate from the NGSW initiative.

L3Harris Next Generation Squad Weapon – Fire Control (NGSW-FC)
L3Harris Next Generation Squad Weapon – Fire Control (NGSW-FC) had a 1-6x magnification with an eye-safe laser and onboard ballistics/atmospheric features. (Graphic: PEO Soldier)

The contracting agency was Picatinny Arsenal, in New Jersey, on behalf of Project Manager – Soldier Lethality, and comes immediately after Winchester-Olin was given a $20 million contract to plan to produce 6.8mm ammo at the Army's Lake City Ammunition plant in Missouri. Both NGSW platforms use a common 6.8mm cartridge, planned in a variety of ammunition types including General Purpose, Special Purpose, Reduced Range, and blank. 

With the ammo being set up for production and the optics package selected, all that is left for the NGSW program is to announce the winner of the contract for the weapons themselves. The current contenders for that award, as listed by the Army, are SIG Sauer, General Dynamics – OTS, and Textron Systems. An award is likely sometime in the coming weeks.

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