In what could be the biggest change in American military small arms in 65 years, the U.S. Army announced a major new contract for Sig Sauer this week. 

The Army's award on Tuesday of a 10-year firm-fixed-price follow-on production contract to New Hampshire-based Sig Sauer, covers the manufacture and delivery of the new XM5 Rifle and the XM250 Automatic Rifle, as well as the weapons' fodder-- the 6.8 Common Cartridge family of ammunition. The big prize of the Army's four-year Next Generation Squad Weapon program, the XM5 is intended to fill the role currently held by the M4 Carbine series while the XM250 will replace the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon, two 5.56 NATO weapons that have been on the frontlines for decades. 

Of the new Sig Sauer rifle and machine gun, the Army said in a companion statement, "Both weapons provide significant capability improvements in accuracy, range, and overall lethality. They are lightweight, fire more lethal ammunition, mitigate recoil, provide improved barrel performance, and include integrated muzzle sound and flash reduction."

The XM5 Rifle, which was submitted as the Next Generation Squad Weapon-Rifle, is designed around Sig's MCX platform and is chambered in the new hybrid 6.8x51 round. It has AR-style ambidextrous ergonomics that Sig designed for a seamless transition from legacy weapons to the new system. 


Sig Sauer NGSW-R XM5 rifle MCX Spear
The Sig Sauer entry for the NGSW-R, now the Army's XM5 Rifle. Sig's MCX Spear series carbine aims to be the Army's NGSW-R, replacing the M4. Standard features include a fully collapsible and folding stock, rear and side charging handle, free-floating reinforced M-LOK handguard, fully ambidextrous controls, and a quick-detach Sig Next Generation suppressor. (Photo: Sig Sauer)


It is select-fire and runs on 20-round magazines, with the 6.8mm round offering better than 6.5CM performance out of a barrel just 13 inches long. 


The XM250, submitted as the Next Generation Squad Weapon-Automatic Rifle, is Sig's Lightweight Belt-Fed Machine Gun. Also chambered in 6.8x51, Sig says it doubles the effective range and is 40 percent lighter than the current M249 while maintaining belt-fed operation. In addition, it brings reduced felt recoil and increased accuracy to the table as well. Like the XM25, it has ambi AR-style controls. 


SIg Sauer LMG 6.8 XM25 NGSW-AR
The Sig Sauer entry for the NGSW-AR, now the XM250 Automatic Rifle. Sig's Lightweight MG is a belt-fed general-purpose weapon intended to become the Army's NGSW-AR, replacing the M249 while hitting the scales at 40 percent lighter and with a round that has double the effective range of 5.56. (Photo: Sig Sauer)


The Sig Sauer 6.8x51 Hybrid Ammunition is a lightweight cartridge designed to handle higher pressures resulting in increased velocity and terminal performance. Using Army-provided projectiles and Sig's in-house designed cartridges, the Army says the new ammo "includes multiple types of tactical and training rounds that increase accuracy and are more lethal against emerging threats than both the 5.56mm and 7.62mm ammunition."


NGSW 6.8x51mm Sig Hybrid Ammunition
Both platforms use Sig's 6.8mm hybrid ammunition, which is billed as offering a significant reduction in weight over traditional ammo while offering better performance and greater penetration. (Photo: Sig Sauer)


The closest thing in the Army's recent history to the shift seen with the NGSW program was when the service, in 1957, selected the 7.62 NATO-chambered M14 rifle and M60 machine gun to replace the .30-06-caliber M1 Garand and M1919 machine gun.