Author: Frank Woods
So, we’ve all heard about it; The hot topic of discussion this past week in Tactics & Applications on Facebook and the Lightfighter.net forum (and everywhere in the firearms industry sphere, really) was the US Army’s adoption of the SIG Sauer MCX-SPEAR submissions for the NGSW-R (Next Generation Soldier Weapons-Rifle) program, to replace the venerable M4A1 and its 5.56x45mm intermediate cartridge.
The rifle, now tentatively referred to as the XM5 (which will change to M5 once it’s formally deployed in combat), will serve as the US Army infantry standard issue weapon going forward. A battle rifle as it ships from the factory (and a DMR that rivals CSASS and even SASS ballistic capability, once equipped with the Vortex XM157 1-8×30 NGSW Fire Control optic), the XM5 fires a militarized version of the full powered SIG Sauer .277 Fury cartridge, otherwise known as 6.8x51mm.
Many people have had a lot to say about the subject once the news broke. A good handful of those people are dialed in on the subject and very much know what they’re talking about. However, the majority of people don’t have a clue and are basically speculating based on what they’re hearing other people say, or in accordance with their biases, or both.
While both the supporters and detractors of the program make valid points in their own right (which we’ll explore), the sea of speculation and hearsay remains turbulent. Our job here is to navigate those choppy waters and comprehensibly translate what it is the Army selected, why they requested it, and where it comes from to begin with.
We did the homework and we’re going to lay it all out for you. This isn’t going to be some handjob of a regurgitated press release that glosses over the same details as everyone else so we can check the box and say we talked about it on our blog. We’ll look at the history of the MCX-SPEAR, where the NGSW program came from and why, and we’ll compare the new rifle to existing weapons that the XM5 has been compared to, and some of the points for and against the approach to the NGSW-R.
By the time this is over you’ll be able to fully appreciate the advantages the XM5 provides over any of the potential ICSR candidates as well as the M4A1. Let’s get started.
SECTION 1: History & Background
(Skip to SECTION 2 if you’re not interested in this stuff)
There’s a few background details we have to cover if we’re going to understand why the XM5 was developed and eventually adopted with an entirely new caliber along with it.
1.1: Origins & CSASS: The SIG MCX-SPEAR started its life originally known as the MCX-MR, back in 2014 into 2015. It was the large frame bigger brother to the MCX Virtus (where the MCX Rattler is the little brother). Originally chambered in 7.62×51 NATO, the MCX-MR was eventually submitted for the US Army’s CSASS solicitation. However, it was not selected, and the contract was awarded to Heckler & Koch, whose HK417/G28 submission was chosen to become the M110A1 CSASS (and later, the M110E1 SDMR also). This would not be the last time the HK417 & MCX-SPEAR were considered for the same role in the squad/fireteam.
The MCX-MR (top) was the protoform of the MCX-SPEAR, and originally submitted for the US Army CSASS solicitation, which was ultimately awarded to the HK417 submission (bottom).
In layman’s terms: The MCX-SPEAR aka XM5 has been in development for quite some time, with a goal of delivering greater terminal effect on farther away targets since its inception.
1.2: Near Peer Concerns: We’ve previously touched on the topic of Near Peer threats, in a different article (see SECTION 5). To recap briefly,
“Simply put, it refers to militaries belonging to foreign countries (or “peers”) that nearly match the US military in warfighting technology and capability, or would potentially be a considerable adversary in war. In this particular context, it refers to the small arms and related technology at the infantry level: Weapons & ammo, body armor, night vision, etc.
The last two decades of GWOT taught our military and government leaders a lesson or two about preparing to fight yesterday’s war, as they’d tend to do in the past. Now they look ahead, to who we might end up fighting in the future. Given the landscape, the options are less resembling guerrilla irregulars, and more uniformed military Near Peer threats.”
In truth, it’s not like the Near Pear concerns ever went away among DOD leadership; It was never not a concern. Despite our being wrapped up in a COIN (counter-insurgency) effort against entrenched irregulars for the last two decades, the great power competition never ended. While Russian involvement in Syria during the Arab Spring incidents and the Battle of Khasham (via the Wagner Group) serve as the most recent reminders of the near peer threat and capability, DOD leadership always knew that one day, our COIN activities would end, and our military would have to return to focusing on LSCO (Large Scale Combat Operations), or our capability against other formal state militaries, AKA near-peer threats.
Russian & Chinese modern military capabilities are the two foremost examples of Near-Peer threats on the DOD’s radar.
The development of the MPF (Mobile Protected Firepower), a next gen light tank meant to provide heavy weapons capabilities for light infantry formations, is alongside NGSW testimony to the fact that the DOD has remained forward thinking as it pertains to its readiness and capability, despite the lack of an imminent need for it.
For the guy on the ground and relevant to this topic, the Near-Peer threat manifests itself in the form of body armor. The US and its European allies aren’t the only guys rocking hard plates in combat. Our potential enemies have it as well. We need to be able to defeat it, and as far as the technology has developed, right now we can’t.
In his May 17 2017 testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee, Lt. General (Ret.) John M. Bednarek said, “At the start of our current named operations (OIF / OEF, etc), we were shooting enemy combatants wearing T-shirts and baggy pants – a LOT of them. They’re still wearing T-shirts and baggy pants, but now with near level II & III body armor. Our capability to eliminate this threat at medium to long range distance is almost gone. We must have small arms systems that can stop and penetrate this increased enemy protection.”
The next day, Maj. General (Ret.) Robert H. Scales said to the same committee, “The Army now realizes that the varmint gun can’t defeat Russian body armor and is easily outranged by the latest Russian small arms. Senior leaders are now calling for the adoption of a “middle caliber” bullet and a new rifle to shoot it. It’s about time. The problem is that the Army’s turgid acquisition gurus want seven years to develop the new rifle.”
In layman’s terms: Our enemies (especially the more developed ones) possess body armor that the standard issue M855A1 variety of 5.56x45mm lacks the Armor Defeat capability to address, especially at range. So we needed a new cartridge that could defeat body armor from extended distances.
So, how does the XM5 & 6.8x51mm factor into that? The answer is a word you may have heard in the press surrounding the new battle rifle, but might not immediately understand: Overmatch.
1.3: Overmatch: As defined in Chapter 1 of TC 3.22-9, “Overmatch is the Soldier applying their learned skills, employing their equipment, leveraging technology, and applying the proper force to create an unfair fight in favor of the Soldier … This requires the Soldier to understand the key elements that build the unfair advantage and exploit them at every opportunity during tactical operations.”
The components of overmatch are:
- Target detection, acquisition, and identification – the ability of the Soldier to detect and positively identify any suspected target as hostile at greater distances than their adversary. This relies upon Soldier training and their ability to leverage the capabilities of their optics, thermals, and sensors.
- Engagement Range – provide the Soldier with weapons, aiming devices, and ammunition capable of striking and defeating a threat at a greater range than the adversary can detect or engage the friendly force with effective fires.
- Limited Visibility – provide the Soldier to make operations during limited visibility an advantage through technology and techniques, and compound their adversary’s disadvantages during those conditions.
- Precision – provide a weapon and ammunition package that enhances the Soldier’s consistent application of shots with a level of precision greater than the adversary’s.
- Speed – the weapon, aiming devices, and accessories a Soldier employs must seamlessly work in unison, be intuitive to use, and leverage natural motion and manipulations to facilitate rapid initial and subsequent shots during an engagement at close quarters, mid-, and extended ranges.
- Terminal Performance – ensures that precise shots delivered at extended ranges provide the highest probability to defeat the threat through exceptional ballistic performance.
For our purposes, we’re going to focus on Engagement Range, and Precision. We already covered Terminal Performance in the previous section regarding body armor and the capability to defeat it.
If you’ve made it here to the TASKER Network, chances are you’re more familiar with Overmatch and the desire for that capability than you might realize. Put simply, as Eric Graves said it to me once, if you don’t have it, “it’s like fighting a boxer with longer arms than you.” Put short, overmatch is effective fire on the enemy at a greater range than the enemy is capable of doing the same with their weapons.
In layman’s terms: You ever been playing a video game or watching a movie where you or the main character are stuck behind cover and pinned down by a sniper or a machine gun from a distance beyond the ability of fighting back? Sucks right? Yeah, that’s overmatch. The enemy had it, you didn’t. See? You knew what it was.
You learned what overmatch was the hard way when you first met these two. Yeah, you ‘member.
In terms of numbers, the DOD has figured our desired overmatch capability to be the enemy’s effective range + 20%. So if you take the published effective range of the M4A1 of 500m (as opposed to the 300m the Army Infantry is more often trained for), and pretend the 50/50 odds of hitting a point target at distance are in your favor, and weigh it against the published effective range of Russia’s AK-74M, which is also 500m, then we don’t have overmatch. We have parity. Ideal overmatch capability would be a published effective range of at least 600m.
But who’s really going to split hairs between these two? The AK-74M wasn’t what the DOD was worried about when they looked at the degree of overmatch capability we lacked and said “We have a problem.” That honor belongs to the 7.62x54R, and foreign body armor.
In the case of the former, our boys dealt with overmatch via effective range a lot during the GWOT. The enemy figured out that if they engaged us from beyond 300m using the farther reaching 7.62x54R weapons they had (SVD or PSL sniper rifles and PKM machine guns), it become more difficult for our guys to put effective fire on the enemy’s position and neutralize the threat when using the 5.56 M4A1. They could effectively engage us farther away from where we could effectively engage them. This is where the desire for the aforementioned M110E1 SDMR came from. It wasn’t all 5.56’s fault; it can hang past 300m in the arms of a properly trained professional, but unfortunately those types are few and far between in the infantry compared to the general fare. It was thought, therefore, that a 7.62×51 solution at the squad level would fill the capability gap. More on this in a moment.
“Why the hell would we spend money on a new rifle and ammo to address a distant threat directly when we could just call in an airstrike or a fire mission?”
The easy button answer is that in a combined arms fight, fire mission assets (Indirect, CAS, etc) aren’t always available. Sometimes they’re tasked with higher priority missions, sometimes the weather isn’t permitting, sometimes the element is out of range. So in the meantime, one idea that led to the XM5 and 6.8×51 round was giving the boots on the ground the capability to solve that problem on their own.
So between the fact that we lacked overmatch, or the ability to reach out and touch someone farther than our enemies were capable of doing the same to us, and that M855A1 lacks Armor Defeat capability, this left some in the DOD feeling… alarmed, you could say. The facts said what they did, and Army leadership wanted to slap a band-aid on that shit right now. But NGSW as a program was still five years away from completion.
What could we do in the meantime? Enter the short lived concept of the ICSR.
1.4: ICSR: The concept of the Interim Combat Service Rifle, so named as to its intent, was an idea inspired in part by General Mark Milley (Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) during his testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee in May 2017. As per Eric Graves, General Milley stated there:
“…the Army has concerns about body armor penetration. He said, “We recognize the 5.56mm round, there is a type of body armor it doesn’t penetrate. We have it as well. Adversarial states are selling it for $250.” He went on to say, “There’s a need, an operational need. We think we can do it relatively quickly,” and went on to say, “The key is not the rifle, it’s the bullet.” GEN Milley sated that they’ve done some experimentation at Ft Benning and they have a solution. When asked by Sen King if it would require a new rifle, GEN Milley responded, “It might, but probably not.” GEN Milley went on to explain that the “bullet can be chambered in various calibers, it can be modified to 5.56, 7.62.” We believe he is referring here to the Enhanced Performance Round projectile found in the M855A1.
GEN Milley specifically mentioned a 7.62mm round later in his testimony to Ranking Democrat Jack Reed of Rhode Island when asked if this new cartridge would be interoperable with NATO. GEN Milley stated he believed it was, but would prepare a formal answer for the committee. GEN Milley also informed Senator Reed that the new 7.62mm round could be in production within a year or two. GEN Milley went on regarding the choice of 7.62mm, testifying, “This idea that in the Army, that everyone needs the same thing all of the time is not necessarily true. There are some units, some infantry units, that are much more likely to rapidly deploy than others and conduct close quarters combat, that we would probably want to field them with a better grade weapon that will penetrate this body armor that we are talking about.”
So, in light of this, the ICSR was meant to function as a hold-over interim solution, to provide increased precision and terminal effect at distance while the NGSW program was still in development. The solicitation to the industry to provide COTS (Commercial Off The Shelf, as in stuff the industry is already selling at retail) options was made in early August 2017. Milley liked the idea because the M855A1 variety of 5.56x45mm did not possess desired armor defeat capabilities against Near-Peer body armor (the Russian body armor produced as a part of its Ratnik program in particular). The ICSR would have been an about face return to the Battle Rifle, as the desire was for it to be chambered in 7.62x51mm, M80A1 in particular, reversing course in the process of replacing the M4A1.
However, there were a few problems with this idea. Although a number of options were entertained, it was the safe guess that the same HK417 configuration as the M110A1 CSASS & M110E1 SDMR would be utilized for the ICSR, for the fact that the Army had just finished getting through the CSASS down select the year before, and then used the same base configuration for the SDMR. So it made sense that while they were buying HK417s anyway, they’d just… buy more, and put different optics on them. We’ll be proceeding as though this was the plan but either way, it doesn’t matter what rifle they would have picked for the ICSR, because in any case the rifle would have been heavier than the M4A1, and the ammo would have been both heavier and lesser per soldier. We’ll look more into soldier load weight later on.
This is how the M110E1 SDMR integrates into the squad now…
…and this is how the squad might have looked had the decision been made to go forward with the ICSR.
On top of the added weight and lesser ammo, there was a more glaring concern that pretty much defeated the purpose of the whole concept in the first place: Despite the increased effective range, in terms of terminal ballistics M80A1 was incrementally better than M855A1 at best, yet still not good enough for the impetus behind the ICSR: It still lacks Armor Defeat capability, measured against the aforementioned Ratnik body armor. So the trade off didn’t weigh out right:
Weight Increase ❌
Lacks Armor Defeat ❌
Extended effective range ✅
With this in mind, the sense that the juice wasn’t worth the squeeze was apparent to many who were both heavily involved in maximizing warfighter potential with the M4A1 & M855A1, as well as keenly aware that the expense didn’t make sense with NGSW coming around the corner, to say nothing of the logistic and training challenges this would have incurred. When news of the ICSR solicitation broke, word went out. I remember watching it play out among friends in the industry. Phone calls were made, posses were formed; I wish gun control legislation was as fast and easy to rally up current and retired government employees to defeat. In late November 2017, just under four months after the solicitation had been announced, the ICSR was killed in its crib, having been formally cancelled.
In layman’s terms: Replacing the M4A1 with a heavier rifle and either less ammo or even more weight if matching round count with 7.62x51mm, in exchange for an incremental increase in terminal performance at range, wasn’t worth the cost or hassle in implementing, especially when the new new the Army had already tasked the industry with developing was going to arrive sooner than later.
There needed to be more. Now, that something more has arrived. This concludes the historical section of the article. Everything else from here will move a lot faster and have more pretty pictures for you guys with the attention span of a gold fish. Now that we’ve covered the concerns that led to the XM5’s development, we can get into the fruits of that effort and start looking at what it is, and the capability it provides.
SECTION 2: System
In this section we’re going to cover some technical details to outline what the Army is getting out of its new standard issue rifle, before weighing it against comparable (yet still insufficient in terms of capability) alternatives.
2.1: XM5 Configuration
We already know where the MCX-SPEAR came from developmentally. The configuration details of the XM5 package are as follows:
- Barrel: 13″, 1/7 twist
- Muzzle Device: SIG Sauer Clutch-Lok Shouldered QD flash hider for SLX suppressor – Size 7.62MM
- Suppressor: SIG SLX, 7.62MM (QD)
- Stock: Magpul SL-M
Of the stock, Duane Liptak of Magpul said: “They [SIG] wanted absolute minimum weight and size to meet requirements, and that’s actually where the SL-M came from.”
The magazine pictured in all photos of the XM5 is the Lancer L7AWM 20rd magazine. Per Eric Graves, “It’s because the projectile destroys the front of Polymer magazines [like the PMAG] as the ammunition is loaded into the chamber. SIG says they are working on a new mag, but not sure of the status.” That being said, Duane Liptak did also state, “It [the XM5] will also likely have the .277 Fury PMAG at some point,” insinuating that such a thing (not unlike the proprietary 6.8 SPC PMAG they make for LWRCI’s SIX8 product line) is already in development, and will likely be based off of their existing PMAG 20 & 25 LR/SR Gen M3 7.62/.308 magazines. Perhaps maybe the D-50, even. Hmm.
The suppressor weighs 19.4oz, or 1.21 lbs.
The rest of the basics can be found on the SIG website.
2.2: Optic (XM157)
Although a lot was covered by the Vortex Podcast episode that featured the XM157 1-8x30mm Fire Control optic (formally: Sight, Computerized, SAFC M157), certain details remain scarce. The one everyone’s been talking about? The weight. We’ve got an idea of that and a few other interesting details that give a better understanding of what for all intents and purposes looks like the Pillar of Autumn parked on top of a rifle. Which is to say, it looks heavy.
One friend of mine was messing with it today, as a matter of fact. He said it felt lighter than the new USMC SCO (Squad Common Optic), the Trijicon VCOG 1-8x. Said VCOG weighs 2 lbs on the nose, so if the XM157 felt lighter than that, given that it too is a 1-8x LPVO at its core with the extra ballistic engine up top, that’s impressive. For it to be that noticeable of a weight difference, I’d figure it was about 1.75-1.85 lbs. Right about the same weight as a Razor HD Gen II-E 1-6x or Gen III 1-10x is a Geissele or Badger Ordnance C1 mount (1.75 to 1.79 lbs). Not bad.
As a matter of fact, the XM157 even made an appearance at the Quantified Performance Lightfighter 16 match we sponsored last month. There, employees of Vortex that participated in the match brought it to the firing line for a little show and tell, mounted to a Knight’s Armament SR-25. I asked another participant about it, and he said it was really cool for the capability it provides in package as lightweight as it is.
The XM157 contains a LRF (Laser Range Finder), and both VIS(ible) & IR lasers onboard. Meaning if you have one of these, all you really need is a white light and and IR illuminator attached to the rifle and you’ve got everything you need, day or dark (although, I don’t know how you activate or toggle either laser at this time.) Should your batteries die, the scope can be used as normal LPVO, as it uses an etched reticle not unlike the Razor HD Gen III series.
As you can see from the video linked above, the LRF is supplementary towards an active reticle with a HUD-like overlay. Wind and elevation holds relative to target range are provided by the LRF via the onboard ballistic engine (ballistic calculator in other words). The actual optic at the LF16 was FFP (First Focal Plane), and the reticle was described as looking similar to the EBR-9-MRAD, although we do not yet know at this time which reticle will be featured.
2.3: Ammo (6.8x51mm)
Commercially known as .277 FURY, the current military name for 6.8×51 is 6.8 CCA (Common Cartridge Architecture); As no DODIC for the ammo exists at this time, it currently lacks an M-number, like the aforementioned M855A1 and M80A1.
“Is this 6.8 SPC II?”
No. This is an entirely different cartridge. The only thing they have in common is the projectile diameter is the same. Otherwise, 6.8 SPC II is otherwise known as 6.8x43mm.
The 6.8x43mm was an attempt to bridge the gap between 7.62×51 and 5.56x45mm. As popular of an initiative as it became in the industry (to the point that HK spun up a variant of the HK416 chambered for the round, and Federal even developed a cartridge called XM68), and through limited LE adoption, the 6.8x43mm never really panned out beyond niche applications and eclectic interests, for a variety of reasons. Chiefly among them, it was half-assed in terms of ballistic structure. They took a heavier cartridge (85-120gr vs the 5.56x45mm’s 55-77gr common varieties) but left it with the same pressure as 5.56 (55,000 PSI). So it didn’t have enough oomph to really take advantage of that heavier cartridge. With the bang of a 5.56×45 round and the added weight of the larger projectile, the ballistic trajectory suffered, and therefore so did its efficacy and potential for widespread adoption.
The other half to said ass would have been taking said heavier cartridge and putting more boom behind it to get the total package in improved ballistic capability to achieve overmatch in Engagement Range, Precision, and Terminal Performance, like we spoke of earlier.
Enter the .277 FURY: With a bonus of familiarity due to having the same cartridge length (51mm) and parent case (brass shell) as 7.62 NATO, and a chamber pressure of 80,000 PSI, it was engineered proper to do what 6.8x43mm never could.
The 6.8x51mm achieves what the M80A1 intended for the ICSR could not by providing extended effective range through external ballistics. Its Threshold (or minimum accepted) Estimated Effective Range is 600m, which achieves the overmatch we spoke of earlier against foreign standard issue weapons. Its Objective (or ideal) Estimated Effective Range is 1200m, which is quite impressive a capability coming out of a 13″ barreled battle rifle. While I say “ideal,” it’s worth noting that such dreams can become reality as new and additional variations of the existing .277 FURY ammo are developed.
Not wanting to be too speculative, a friend and I decided to figure out as close of a ballistic capability approximation as possible. Said friend was extremely helpful in his contributions and assistance in writing this article, though he wished to be quoted anonymously; his understanding of the NGSW program however is considerable.
We took the numbers for the 150gr .277 FURY ammo out of a 16″ barrel off of SIG’s website (linked above) and plugged them into the AB ballistic calculator, and we’re surprised by our findings: 6.8x51mm remains supersonic beyond 1000m, with only 8 mils of drop at that distance (12ft less than 7.62x51mm at the same distance with the 135gr cartridge). As long as you could see your target and the wind wasn’t giving you a hard time, you could hit that with an elevation hold all day if you train and practice and do your part.
Of course, while most of the detailed information in regards is classified, it is confirmed via the Army’s adoption of .277 FURY that it successfully provides Armor Defeat capability against near peer body armor. All together, it certainly checks the box for providing the desired Overmatch capability the Army sought.
“We have soldiers carrying far too much, and that’s been the case for MANY, many years. That needs a serious look. Our dudes are overloaded.” – Anonymous Source
So one concern many have voiced that we spoke on earlier is the burden of less ammo per magazine (20-25 rounds vs 30), thus necessitating additional magazines of albeit heavier ammo adding to the already cumbersome load of gear and equipment our soldiers are made to carry. While the numbers for the weight of the 6.8x51mm cartridge aren’t published by SIG, we were able to figure it out backwards using information provided by the Army’s requirements for the NGSW ammo contract.
In particular, we know that the Army wanted the NGSW ammo to be at least 20% lighter than the M80A1 7.62x51mm cartridge. Knowing this, we went and found out how much the M80A1 cartridge weighed, and did some math. Here’s what we found:
M80A1 weight: 366.06gr/.052 lbs per round/cartridge.
We went with the .277 FURY 150gr Cartridge since it uses the same bimetal casing as the Army’s version of it. So if you figure that it’s at least 20% lighter than M80A1 as per Army criteria, here’s what we get after subtracting:
6.8x51mm 150gr weight: 292.84gr/.041 lbs per round/cartridge.
Subtract 15gr from that total if we want to account for the alternative 135gr .277 FURY projectile, and we’re left with:
6.8x51mm 135gr weight: 277.84gr/.039 lbs per round/cartridge.
So how did SIG pull it off? As they explained at SHOT 2020, 6.8x51mm clocks in lighter than M80A1 because the case wall is thinner at the steel portion on the bottom there, which they chose to do since the Army doesn’t reload brass anyway.
All in all, the ammo isn’t as heavy as some would have suspected initially. Watch what happens when we start loading it up into different magazines, with consideration towards the weight of the soldier’s load.
SECTION 3: Comparative Analysis
Real quick, let’s see how the XM5 and a full load of 6.8x51mm stacks up against some 7.62x51mm rifles that were in consideration as ICSR candidates, and compare how heavy the new kid on the block is (or isn’t).
3.1: XM5 vs SR-25/M110K2
Although tried and true, the SR-25 has a few disadvantages against the XM5. Although it could be rebarreled to 6.8x51mm, the upper receiver isn’t optimized for the increased chamber pressure (60-70,000 vs 80,000 PSI). To do so would require a redesign of the upper receiver and chamber to augment it for such use. This is testimony to the AR platform showing its age; when Eugene Stoner initially designed the AR-10 back in the 1950s, today’s overmatch and armor defeat capabilities weren’t a concern of the battlespace of the era. Therefore, as it stands currently, the AR platform is currently disqualified from the 6.8x51mm game. Then there’s the whole heavier ammo with lesser effective range and no armor defeat capability, but we already covered that.
Perhaps KAC could have developed a competitive alternative to the SIG MCX-SPEAR based on the architecture of their AMG machine gun. Both it and the carbine version of the SR-25 above have a similar barrel length, with plenty of exposed barrel left over to chop it down to 13″ like the XM5’s; the size is otherwise comparable. Given KAC’s deep roots of design philosophy that trace all the way back to Eugene Stoner, and for the fact that both the AMG and LAMG are evolves versions of the Stoner 63 concept, I have no doubt that a mag fed version of either belt fed could have been developed towards the NGSW program.
Alternatively, according to Jack Leuba of Knight’s Armament Company, “KAC wanted to avoid the service-life problems that would be present with a continuous diet of over-proof round pressure, so elected to avoid ammunition in that elevated pressure range. Given the accepted reduced expectation of service-life [barrel and parts life otherwise], it would be reasonable to assume that KAC may, at some point, release systems in the 6.8 common caliber with some minor changes to the M110/SR-25 architecture.”
3.2: XM5 vs SCAR MK17 & HAMR
While the best SCAR has a slight weight advantage going for it by virtue of its polymer trigger module (lower) and stock, it still lacks the effective range, armor defeat capability, and weight advantage of 6.8x51mm. That’s not to suggest the SCAR couldn’t be re-barreled for it or handle its increased PSI; Apparently FNH submitted an upsized version of its HAMR variant of the SCAR for the NGSW-R program, but for whatever reason it didn’t get picked.
Next to nothing about said NGSW-R HAMR is known other than the fact it exists. There’s no published data on it. But if that thicker barrel profile is any clue, it’s a safe guess that the larger NGSW-R HAMR is heavier than the 7.7 lbs MK17 CQC posted above.
Although it’s brand new, it helps that the XM5 doesn’t have a reputation for beating itself to death or eating optics. This can be attributed to the fact that the MCX-SPEAR was designed from the ground up over ~7 years, and isn’t merely an afterthought of a hastily upsized MCX VIRTUS. Depending on who you ask, the XM5 is considered everything the SCAR MK17 could have (and moreover, should have) been.
3.3: XM5 vs HK417/M110A1
Heavier ammo, lesser effective range, lack of armor defeat capability, blah blah blah. You already know. Besides also being a heavier rifle all together, another detail counting against the HK417 is the lack of spare parts availability HK earned a reputation for when it came to supporting the HK416s utilized by our SOF units. Now multiply that by all the Infantry and Cav/Scouts that are supposed to get the XM5. Logistical nightmare indeed.
There’s nothing to suggest a 13″ barreled “Assaulter” version of the M110A1 like the HK417A2 couldn’t have been conjured up; all it really would have taken would have been for Bill Geissele to design a shorter version of his HK417 rail already on the M110A1. This would have brought the weight down some to comparable or perhaps even less than that of the XM5. As to whether said permutation of the HK417 would have been able to handle the increased chamber pressure of the 6.8x51mm, I haven’t the slightest idea. But if being a witness to HK’s Teutonic Space Magic has taught me anything, HK would have found a way. Why they didn’t endeavor to do so, I do not know.
3.4: Combat Load
So we’ve got the weight of the ammo figured out by comparison, let’s figure out what the combat load (or, the ammo the soldier wears on their person) will look like with the XM5, and how that compares to what it would have been with any of the aforementioned alternatives.
A loaded 30 round M4 magazine weighs one (1) pound. The combat load for the M16 & M4 is seven (7) magazines, or 6 + 1 in the rifle, for a total of 210 rounds at seven pounds.
As it turns out, the combat load isn’t determined by the number of rounds or magazines, but by weight. Don’t ask me where the 7 lbs figure came from, I don’t know and nobody I know has been able to tell me beyond that it’s a weird bean counter nerd sort of thing they were never dialed in on. But we’ll use the M4 combat load as our control. Let’s run the numbers:
20rds M80A1 (130gr) = 1.04 lbs
20rds 6.8×51 (150gr) = .83 lbs
20rds 6.8×51 (135gr) = .78 lbs
SR-25 mag empty: 4.3oz/.27 lbs
SR-25 mag full: 1.31 lbs
7 lbs load: 5.34 magazines (107 rounds)
SCAR mag empty: 9.375oz/.58 lbs
SCAR mag full: 1.62 lbs
7 lbs load: 4.32 magazines (87 rounds)
HK417 mag empty: 5.44oz/.34 lbs
HK417 mag full: 1.38 lbs
7 lbs load: 5 magazines (100 rounds)
XM5 mag empty: .35 lbs
XM5 mag full (150gr): 1.18 lbs
XM5 mag full (135gr): 1.13 lbs
7 lbs load (150gr): 6 magazines (120 rounds)
7 lbs load (135gr): 6 magazines (120 rounds)
At a smidge past the weight of a loaded M4 magazine (1 lbs vs 1.13 or 1.18 lbs), you can pretty much stick to the same 6+1 loadout for a total of 140 rounds minimum at roughly 8 to 8.25 lbs for the XM5. Pop MOLLE tabs, switch out M4 mag pouches for 7.62 mag pouches, and go.
All together, you’re looking at a loaded weight of 9.5 lbs for the XM5. Once upon a time, the M16A2 standard issue rifle when empty weighed 7.79 lbs, with a loaded weight of 8.79 lbs. That was as it came, so you can imagine that number went up when the M16A4 and all of its accoutrements came into play.
Granted, the round count would drop 70 rounds from 210 to 140. But you’ll notice I said “140 rounds minimum.” I don’t know a single combat veteran that didn’t bring extra mags and ammo with them when they went outside the wire. Theoretically, the round count wouldn’t really be as much of a problem as the marksmanship discipline and training doctrine to conserve ammo in a protracted gun fight; in other words, training to not pull the trigger as many times while engaging enemy combatants, and to prioritize accuracy and precision.
For academic purposes, 210 rounds of 6.8x51mm would make for 10.5 magazines, at a total load weight of 12 to almost 12.5 lbs depending on ammo variety, which is almost double the standard combat load of the M4A1, without accounting for any extra mags beyond that.
This is what guys are concerned about when they start talking about soldier load weight becoming further hindered on top of everything else they’re made to carry, which we’ve already acknowledged is too much to begin with right now. Once that ball gets rolling, other questions start getting asked, like: Do we really need to replace every M4 with an M5? Is there an imminent Near-Peer threat that justifies the cost, implementation, and extra weight? Does every member of the squad need an M5? We go into that next.
SECTION 4: Deployment Theory
As ever, before anyone starts to debate the best way to implement new acquisitions like this, the first question we have to ask is: What’s the intended use? The answer is as easily discovered as it is unfortunately vague: It depends.
Obviously the DOD was concerned about overmatch and Near-Peer threats capabilities, and that needed to be addressed. Between 6.8×51, the XM5, and the XM250 (the LMG that will replace the 5.56 M249 SAW, and uses the same ammo as the XM5), it has been addressed. But when we say “What’s the intended use?” we’re not talking about warfighting in general, but rather, WHICH warfighters are going to be using the new stuff. There has been much debate in regards.
4.1: Deployment Strategy
ALL THE OVERMATCH: Is every M4A1 and M249 in the armory being replaced with the NGSW developments?
There’s two schools of thought regarding this. In terms of overmatch, this would provide a huge capability gain, giving the entire squad DMR capability. We’ve covered why and how this is beneficial; 7.62x54R will no longer be an unfair advantage in the enemy’s deck.
The rollout if all Infantry and Cav/Scout personnel are issued the new NGSW implementations
From what I’ve been told, it is the US Army’s intent for the M5 to be the standard infantry weapon for close combat forces (infantry, scouts/cav) by 2023, and they will be equipped with either the SIG TANGO6T 1-6x24mm LPVO, or the M157 Fire Control computerized sight.
Phased in by order of brigade, this would entail an aggressive rollout strategy, regardless of any conflict or lack thereof we find ourselves in. Not unlike the FGM-148 Javelin anti tank weapon, which had been developed during the Cold War, but was procured and issued throughout the Army after the fact, despite lack of an imminent near-peer tank threat.
Although the idea of the M5 as a DMR has been brought up, if everyone has the M5 there’s no need for a squad designated marksman if the whole squad has the same capability (the same way how if everyone is holding a “recce rifle,” nobody has a recce rifle, it’s just the General Purpose Rifle); doctrinally speaking, the SDM does not exist outside of a Stryker BCT. So the role would basically go away when everyone has the same rifle. The proponents of a fleet wide rollout say therefore that the M5 is NOT selectively replacing the M110E1 SDMR on limited basis while M4A1s remain in service as standard issue weapon.
Some guys are true believers when it comes to fleet-wide implementation of NGSW:
“Big Army is worried about overmatch right now. That’s why the investment in long range Artillery, the Army did it smart and improved the munition to hit 60K out unclassified with tube Artillery in the 155mm flavor. We are going back to deterrence set by classic overmatch.
Everyone talking crap about this weapon system and what it brings to the table aren’t thinking analytically. OEF I and Operation Anaconda showed a capability gap in Afghanistan. That’s why the reliance on DM personnel with longer hitting rifles. The average engagement in mountainous regions were anywhere from 400-800m. That’s where the 7.62x54R reigned supreme because those belt feds out ranged an M4. Imagine ordinary rifleman being able to help suppress a machine gun with individual weapons then bringing the belt feds into the fight? I see why the Army is picking this weapon and caliber.
This program is exactly why we’re going away from that rifle being used as a DMR role. It doesn’t work. Just because of what’s going on in the Ukraine doesn’t mean that’s not what the Army wants. I’m now speaking from my combat experience in Afghanistan. The DMR role didn’t work for the conventional Army. The CALL specified operations where that capability gap didn’t fair well.
The Army adapts or it dies. Those not willing to adapt should just retire or get out. It’s either evolve or retire/get out. This rifle is intended for the close fight. Combat Arms as a whole. The US Army’s strategy after insurgency is classic over match. It doesn’t matter what’s going on in the world. The Army wants over match, it’s getting over match.”
Eric Graves put it more succinctly:
“The reality here is that the train has left the station and the Army is all in. If this got cancelled, we wouldn’t get a new rifle or a new anything for decades. There’s a history of development programs that never went anywhere: SPIW, ACR, OICW, IC, all cancelled and never finished with a successful selection. That couldn’t happen again. At some point you’ve got to modernize. When Congress is giving us their attention and the money, that’s the time to get it done. Strike while the iron is hot.
I’m concerned about the added weight to the soldier load, I’m concerned about the lesser amount of ammunition, and everything’s a trade off. But the gains outweigh the losses here.”
SELECTIVE ROLLOUT: Wouldn’t it make more sense to issue the NGSW weapons on a limited basis to specialized personnel like the squad designated marksman and the automatic rifleman? This question has been asked often and by many once the NGSW selection news broke, myself among those people.
For some, equipping only the Squad Designated Marksmen and Automatic Riflemen with the M5 & M250 makes more sense.
There’ve been a few arguments made in favor of this approach:
Knowing there’s already a noted disparity in the training that exists now with the M4A1 and hitting targets beyond 300m, one point brought up was that it didn’t make sense to give everyone a rifle that’s harder to shoot and less rounds to make those shots with.
Once you start doing the math and running the numbers, the cost/benefit analysis starts to become skewed.
I’m joined by those that think we’re most likely going to see SDMs rocking the M5 and the Automatic Riflemen rocking the M250 in quantity, both being able to provide overmatch and maneuver capability in their own right from a greater distance, even if everyone else in the squad is slinging M4A1s with M855A1, which is not only easier to control, but also avoids shit canning what we already have large quantities of in inventory.
This is honestly not very different from what we’d already been doing with 5.56 guns accompanied by 7.62×51 guns, except now it’s 6.8x51mm in the case of the latter. In a word, the transition would be seamless. If anything, as much as it pains me to say, 6.8×51 may in fact be a death knell for 7.62×51, including any weapon made for it originally that has since been re-barreled for 6.5 Creedmoor (pursuant to SOCOM interests). That being said, it stands to reason that all the tech advances pursuant to NGSW development would or theoretically could be retroactively applied to 5.56 & 7.62, and the weapons that fire them, to increase their longevity while increasing their capability and therefore utility.
Otherwise, the implications are that EVERYONE will have to not only be trained up on but also issued higher quantities of the new, bigger weapon with the new, heavier, higher recoil and higher priced ammo, that they’ll then ALL have to figure out how to get familiarized on. In a world where women are being welcomed into combat arms roles, you start to see where everyone getting a battle rifle could become problematic.
These weapons bring a higher cost per trigger pull, to say nothing of the increased difficulty they’ll introduce to marksmanship, and for what? To punch armor worn by guys that just got rocked by people using Soviet era hand-me-downs with lesser materiel resources? A-zone hits are still A-zone hits after all.
We have the stand off capability now. In my unqualified opinion, although “sparingly” isn’t the word I’d use to describe this limited rollout, “sensibly” certainly fits.
Then there’s still load weight and mobility to consider.
4.2: Second & Third Order Effects
We’ve discussed the ramifications of a heavier weapon that shoots heavier ammo at the individual level as it pertains to the weight of the soldier load. The last time the NGSW topic came up in Tactics & Applications, prior to the XM5 & XM250 selection announcement, Chuck Pressburg had the following commentary to offer:
“…I don’t know the context of the alleged complaints from the close quarter elements about overmatch. I do know that in AFG, if the enemy let you get within 300 meters of them, that they considered it a tactical error. The PK/RPG to AK ratio of that insurgent force was sometimes over 50%. Numbers skewed way beyond western task organizations. This is simply because they had a healthy respect for American lethality inside of 300, so they selected stand off weapons based on that fear. So, if your Mk18 and EOtech combo left you wanting, it was because you failed to realize that if you could get a muhj in your sights under 300 meters, that muhj had fucked up. So we are largely talking apples and oranges here. It’s not an accurate comparison to talk overmatch/lethality between service rifles based on a conflict where the majority of the fighters used medium machine guns and rocket launchers.
I don’t support NGSW because of the weight increase to soldier’s load alone. The capability increases are significant, but the reality is that we have already greatly overloaded the soldier. Look at the Ukrainians, look at what they are NOT carrying on their kit. Think about how far a dismounted Anti-armor hunter-killer team can move overland with only two plates in a carrier, an ifak, 2 or 3 extra mags for their rifle, and a panzerfaust3, NLAW, or RPG-7 and ammo backpack? Think about what we would have a US soldier carry? The operational range of our dismounted patrols will be significantly less even though the patrol’s technical capabilities will be much higher.
What good is meshed networks, holo lenses, sensor fusion, and fire-controlled AP ammunition kinetic weapons if the village that needs to be liberated from a mechanized incursion and snap TCP is 6KM away and American small unit leaders realize they can’t make it 6km overland in enough time to effect the outcome without somebody falling out of the movement from orthopedic injury, or dehydration due to over exertion? Go back and research the 2006 conflict where the Izzy’s moved on southern Lebanon. Look at the photos of what the soldiers looked like moving toward the fight, and what they looked like returning from the fight just 3 days later. Weight matters and honestly it might be the most important factor in dismounted operations. Getting approach, and fighting loads down to a reasonable level should be our top priority, not giving soldiers heavier weapons with heavier ammo. We are seeing now that HE kills. Small arms are almost an afterthought against motorized/mechanized forces.
Would I like NGSW for DM work where I was out hunting dismounts? Sure, but I would probably be dressed like a Uk’r with a phone in my pocket in a faraday bag, a couple mags in my back pockets, a set of plates, and a water bottle in my cargo pocket. Light is right, stick and move.
My dress for fighting in the city might be completely different…
Eric [Graves], regardless of wording [“close combat forces” vs CQB elements, where the two had been confused], the question still remains: Who thought they were outranged by an enemy’s service rifle? If the engagement distances because of enemy TTPs and terrain result in longer than expected engagement distances, then beefing up on DM capability would be required probably. But the fact remains that an across the board replacement for the close combat forces (let’s call a spade a spade, maneuver BCTs) is a gross overloading of our dismounts when few of them have the specific task of direct fire engagement at extended distances. Does the kid humping 3 switchblades and a launch tube need a battle rifle, assault rifle, or PDW? How about the person carrying the multipurpose control unit that runs the UAV’s, loiter munitions, and other systems for the platoon? What about the grenadier? AT? Assistant gunner for the medium machine gun?
I was honestly shocked when we adopted a squad DM rifle in a different caliber than the rest of the squad. We obviously learned that niche weapons and ammo CAN create logistical challenges (WWII squad with subguns, M1 garand and carbine, 1913, BAR, Flamethrower, etc), but now it seems that we are totally fine abandoning the optimized DM rifle/cartridge and forcing single caliber within formations. The M4A1 isn’t going away, it will just become a POG gun… until we see the close combat force begging for them back to use as PDWs for people carrying a lot of shit.
We still haven’t figured out that body armor destroyed our entire Light Infantry Division concept and doctrine. We don’t have Light Infantry anymore. At best they are a motorized hybrid and the two events that signaled the death of Light Infantry was the loss of air assault capability by pricing it out of existence with expensive airframes and upgrades, and the loss of overland mobility by destroying soldier’s load.
An element that has no tactical mobility is a useless element. When we gave up the ability to pick up and put down squads in tight LZs with a massive fleet of utility helicopters, we forced them to fucking walk and sustain themselves with large rucks of their own supplies. When we added body armor, soldier ICOMs, Mil grade GPS, and now meshed networks, increased power requirements, and unmanned systems, the weight of three or more days of food, water, ammo, sleep systems, and environmental clothing, shifted to carrying C4I and fighting systems. The human soldier can no longer carry fighting AND sustainment loads now that the current fighting load is the same weight as both loads previously. This ties down dismounted elements whose sole purpose was to be nimble in slow-go/No-go terrain. Instead we are trying to buy 2 vehicles for every damn squad. A JLTV for running the roads, and a Chevy mule for overland approach. It’s all madness, but a necessary evil. Our soldiers will never again be able to be untethered from support vehicles of some kind.
The Russians figured this out long ago with the Airborne BMD. And we should’ve been asking ourselves prior to IEDs even entering our vernacular, “Why in the fuck are the Russians investing so heavily into air droppable APCs? Don’t they realize how many more planes they will require?”
We should’ve been asking WHY. We figured out that answer quickly although later than most would’ve liked when we became an occupation Army fighting an active insurgency.
We are WAAAAAAY off the subject of NGSW, but my comments center around MY concerns based off my experiences and they are that I DON’T CARE WHO WINS [the NGSW contract]. Soldier’s load and tactical maneuver lose.
At this point we’ve probably already lost, despite things like Personal Protective Equipment Posture (P-PEP) and we will just have to modify expectations and tactics. It’s no difference than if the Army replaced a Tank with a 200 Mile fuel range with a newer one that had a bitchin main gun, fire control, and armor package, but only had a 100 Mile range. The strategic and logistical planners would have to account for the new limitations and plan for more frequent resupply and that briefs well during the tank’s development when people are calling bullshit on range… but it doesn’t help the unit in the fielded tank when the enemy gets a vote and severs their supply line.
“We will fly in ammo, batteries, rations, and water daily for your 5 day, 60 kilometer dismounted sweep of this valley…” shit briefs well until the MANPADS show up and you’re hiding under a small patch of shade with all your gear off and trying not to vomit from the heat cramps, knowing that you have over 70 men in your Battalion who are worse heat casualties than you and your element is completely out of water. I saw that very thing happen in Iraq. They air assaulted in, and as their guys started dropping like flies the following day, nobody could even reach them by ground to cart off the dudes with legitimate heat stroke, because the routes were so heavily IED’d. An entire Battalion of Paratroopers stuck in place unable to move, their entire tactical operation cancelled and evacuation of their heat casualties and resupply or water became their entire mission. Tragic, but completely fucking avoidable.
When you lose the ability to maneuver and become fixed, you lose, or at the very least can’t win.
Just the random thoughts of an old man yelling at the clouds…
…I believe that they will adopt a 6.8 belt fed LMG as the SAW replacement. I’ve stated publicly that the USMC putting all their eggs into the AR basket was short sighted. With three fire teams, I think a 2 ARs and 1 LMG would have been a better option. Beltfeds can provide better suppression for the fire and movement to close with and assault an enemy. ARs continuously run short at critical moments of exposure and vulnerability to the supported assault.
Plenty of people watched the procurement of the M27, they saw that the test plan was stacked to favor a DMR over an LMG. DMRs get it done for KNOWN, and can be effective for LIKELY, but consistently falls short in suppressing SUSPECTED/Possible locations. Maybe the Army could convince itself to ignore that fact like The Corps did, but I doubt it.”
Tore Haugli (of the Norwegian Army, retired) added the following:
“Overmatch is fine, but it can be hard to actually exploit. If the fields of fire in the AO you are in are shorter, it will be harder to take advantage of the increased effective range.
The enemy also conducts their own TLP’s, and can choose where and how to fight in order to deny you the advantage of the increased effective range.
I don’t think all lessons learned or lessons identified from the Middle East or Afghanistan should directly influence near peer operations.”
Suffice it to say, there’s a lot to say on the subject once you really start getting into the weeds (as the length of this article has demonstrated). There’ve been quite a few discussions and debates on the subject in Tactics & Applications and Lightfighter this past week that, although at times heated, became quite thought provoking with many valid points made by those among the informed, both for and against.
So, are you thinking about getting your cloner on and purchasing an MCX-SPEAR?
SECTION 5: Commercial & Conclusion
5.1: Commercial Availability
So if you’re thinking of shelling out the $8,400 to grab an MCX-SPEAR (the last 400 coming from the fact that it’s a two stamp gun between the 13″ barrel and the suppressor that comes with it), you’re probably wondering also what your clone correct options will be for attachments. Here you go:
“…and you can too!” Except for the M157. Maybe.
I don’t know if Vortex is planning to take the M157 to retail (I didn’t watch the whole podcast video but I remember hearing it was mentioned at some point), though I imagine it wouldn’t be cheap, and chatter suggests it would cost more per unit than the MCX-SPEAR bundle all together. Alternatively however, the above slide shows all the in-house SIG developed accessories you can pair with the MCX-SPEAR to be all matchy matchy in the meantime. I don’t know whether or not the ROMEO8T was picked up by the US Army, so I’m not implying as much, but I know some people get off on everything coming from under the same roof if that’s an option.
Let’s tally everything up for all the people moaning and groaning about how heavy the NGSW package looks all together:
- Rifle: 8.4 lbs
- Suppressor: 1.21 lbs
- Optic: ~1.8 lbs
- Weapon Light: 5.3oz/.33 lbs
- IR illuminator: 3.1oz/.19 lbs
- Loaded Magazine: 1.13 to 1.18 lbs
TOTAL SYSTEM WEIGHT: 13.06 to 13.11 lbs
WITHOUT WML & IR LIGHT: 12.54 to 12.59 lbs
12.5 to 13 lbs, all told. Probably not the most attractive idea for the “Ounces equal Pounds…” regurgitators, but whatever. I’ve heard some exaggerate 14 lbs, I’ve heard some act like there aren’t weapons that have been in the arsenal for decades that aren’t heavier or comparable to that. I remember when 5.56 ARs could get to being that heavy during the 2010s. And I’m not saying it’s not heavy, it is. But I understand now better than I did a week ago, that the XM5 brings more to the table than comparable alternatives. The point is, it’s not unheard of for small arms to weigh as much. At the very least, I think it’s lighter than a Mk. 14 Mod. 0; that I remember being 14 pounds, when paired with a Leupold Mark 4.
“But didn’t you just say all that about the ICSR not being worth the extra weight and the logistics and training hassle?”
…in exchange for an incremental increase in ballistic performance, yes I did say that. Trust me, I love me some battle rifle in a rain blessing romanticized way, I wanted the ICSR to work, I was rooting for it. But math is math at the end of the day.
I will admit, I’ve talked some shit about SIG’s product offerings in the past. The rolling updates to hardware rendering initial release versions of the product obsolete and incompatible with current production components paired with using the customers as beta testers (I hope they don’t try that shit with the Army), the way the P320/M17 was handled, how the TANGO6T 1-6x was a thinly veiled copy of the Vortex Razor HD Gen II 1-6x (though I’d say they recouped the loss on that one), and the whispers of SIG’s relationship with Holosun that allegedly facilitated an electro-optic industrial revolution for the Chicoms, I didn’t trust them. Their approach felt sneaky and underhanded. I’m not exactly doing a 180 on those sentiments either.
For what it’s worth, I have no plans to purchase an MCX-SPEAR, bundled with a suppressor or otherwise. I’m sitting on a stack of 7.62 ARs that will hold me over long after my hair goes gray, that have way more logistic and aftermarket support. Plus I don’t have a near-peer threat to concern myself with having overmatch capability; were that to change, the aforementioned fact that A-zone hits are still A-zone hits does not change.
But the XM5 feels different. Because this time we know it wasn’t a rush job. It’s been in development for nearly a decade, for the most important customer SIG could hope to have landed.
The M4, and later M4A1, was selected and replaced in my lifetime. It was the mainstay of a conflict many of us lived through in our adolescence through adulthood. It was also one of the longest serving service rifles in our nation’s military history. It will have a special place in many hearts until the day they stop beating. But one day in the near future, the XM5 will become the M5, and take the M4A1’s place (even if only in part), and if the Army does as they say they intend, it’s not going anywhere. So I suppose I’m getting comfortable with seeing it for the next decade or two or three, or however long it takes us to develop directed energy weapons anyway.
I hope you enjoyed this piece. I wrote it because I got annoyed with the uninformed conjecture hinged on hearsay and bias that outnumbered the informed and factual input. So I decided to collect it all here and make it easy to distribute. This was a fun piece to work on, and I enjoyed learning more about what the NGSW program entailed and what came of it, while also reminiscing on the industrial developments over the years in the meantime.
Stay in this L.A.N.E.
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