Attendees of the Army’s 2019 Maneuver Warfare Conference held at Ft. Benning, GA, just got their first look at Textron Systems’ entry for the Next Generation Squad Weapon program.

NGSW is the Army’s highly ambitious small arms project which could very well see the Army finally move on from 5.56 NATO for a new standard rifle cartridge in 6.8 mm, as well as a replacement for the M4 carbine and the M249 light machine gun.

Textron’s booth at the conference included both the NGWS-R and the NGSW-AR prototypes for the program, ahead of an official debut and product reveal scheduled by the company for the upcoming Association of the US Army Annual Meeting & Exposition next month.

At first glance, Textron’s prototypes seem to precisely fit the requirements that the Army put forward in the program’s Prototype Project Opportunity Notice. The PPON calls for a rifle and an automatic rifle (i.e. a light machine gun) chambered for 6.8 mm that can be rigged up with a removable suppressor or a flash hider as needed.

Textron's NGSW-R prototype, which aims to supersede the M4 in Army service (U.S. Army photo by Markeith Horace, Maneuver Center of Excellence, Fort Benning Public Affairs Office)
Textron's NGSW-R prototype, which aims to supersede the M4 in Army service (U.S. Army photo by Markeith Horace, Maneuver Center of Excellence, Fort Benning Public Affairs Office)

The layout of Textron’s NGSW-R (rifle) — which will ultimately compete to supersede the M4/M4A1 carbine — appears to be very similar to the AR-15 platform and bears some visual resemblance to an earlier prototype from Textron — the company’s 6.5mm Cased Telescoped Carbine . A bolt catch, a topside charging handle, and a thumb-accessible fire selector all sit mostly where one would expect to find them on the AR.

A Picatinny rail for optics and lasers runs the length of the handguard, which features a number of M-LOK attachment points and the receiver to the charging handle. It’s currently unclear what purpose the bump in front of the magazine well serves, but that will likely be revealed at the AUSA expo.

The NGSW-AR (automatic rifle) is the successor to the now-defunct Lightweight Small Arms Technologies machine gun program. Textron’s submission for the NGSW-AR appears to be a reworking of its LSAT prototype, albeit chambered for a new caliber with a few visual differences, including a new stock.

Textron's NGSW-AR prototype, which could possibly replace the M249 in Army service (U.S. Army photo by Markeith Horace, Maneuver Center of Excellence, Fort Benning Public Affairs Office)
Textron's NGSW-AR prototype, which could possibly replace the M249 in Army service (U.S. Army photo by Markeith Horace, Maneuver Center of Excellence, Fort Benning Public Affairs Office)

Textron’s NGSW-AR uses a full-length upper rail, only sectioned in two portions due to the placement of the gun’s feed tray. Both the extendable stock and the bipod the automatic rifle prototype comes with appear to maintain compatibility with the NGSW-R, as per the picture.

The Army will be pitting Textron’s NGSW prototypes against competing models from Sig Sauer and General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems.