Ground Warfare

Next Generation Squad Weapon (NGSW) Tested at US Army Cold Regions Test Center

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Next Generation Squad Weapon (NGSW) Tested at US Army Cold Regions Test Center

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Next Generation Squad Weapon (NGSW) Tested at US Army Cold Regions Test Center
Next Generation Squad Weapon (NGSW) Tested at US Army Cold Regions Test Center

It is vital that military equipment work wherever in the world American Soldiers need it, and extreme cold is a weather condition troops have had to contend with frequently in American history. From Korea to Afghanistan, the lives of American Soldiers have frequently depended on properly functioning equipment in inhospitably frigid environments. This fact led to a multiweek test of the Army’s Next Generation Squad Weapon (NGSW) at the U.S. Army Cold Regions Test Center (CRTC) at Fort Greely, Alaska early this year. The XM7 and XM250 are successors to the M4 rifle and M249 light machine gun that American forces have used for decades. The new weapons boast improved accuracy and range, weigh less, and fire with less recoil even though it’s 6.8 millimeter round is larger than the two legacy weapons’ 5.56 mm cartridge.

Next Generation Squad Weapon (NGSW) program – XM7 assault rifle and XM250 machine gun
Next Generation Squad Weapon (NGSW) program – XM7 assault rifle and XM250 machine gun. The XM7 and XM250 are successors to the M4 rifle and M249 light machine gun that American forces have used for decades. (Photo by SIG Sauer)

“The big idea behind this weapon is for close-combat forces. It’s a capability gap-filler for infantry and special forces, not necessarily an M4 replacement. It gives them a different tool. It has adjustable modes of operation where it can act like a red dot or close combat optic. It also has a corrected aimpoint: it has a ballistic calculator and range finder built in, so if you range a target it takes into consideration your environmental conditions, the distance to target, and the attitude of the weapon to ensure first shot accuracy. We were fortunate to have some pretty substantial cold weather for the duration of the test. The last urban rifle marksmanship course we did was -54 degrees Fahrenheit when we started, so it was incredibly cold,” said Steven Prewitt, test officer.

XM7 gas-operated magazine-fed assault rifle
XM7 gas-operated magazine-fed assault rifle. The XM7 assault rifle is poised to be a powerful replacement for the M4/M4A1. (Photo by SIG Sauer)

“We knew it was going to be extremely fast-paced and that usually means there will be changes. We settled on 16 data collectors, which meant one data collector per three soldiers. 14 went out in the field, and two stayed in house to do quality assurance on the data and write test incident reports. It was an endurance challenge for data collectors from the desert. It’s rare for data collectors to be out in the field in temperatures below -50 degrees, but they did it without complaints. They got every bit of data, and I am so proud of every one of them,” said Monica Gaschler, senior data collector.

“We had an organic troop, which was nice. We had the entire leadership from the company commander on down. The Soldiers really got to experience what a long, cold day was. Every day they went out one week it didn’t get above -20. The next week it was hovering in the -30 to -40 range all day, every day. We’ve got a lot of data that is informing decisions. It’s very fortunate that we had a good block of cold to test this equipment, especially something as prominent as the NGSW is going to be. It has definitely been a successful test,” said Isaac Howell, senior test officer.

XM250 gas-operated belt-fed light machine gun
XM250 gas-operated belt-fed light machine gun. The XM250 designed by SIG Sauer for the U.S. Army’s Next Generation Squad Weapon Program in 2022 to replace the M249 light machine gun. (Photo by SIG Sauer)

Even when outfitted with a flash suppressor, the XM7 weighs less than 10 pounds. The new weapon has a standard rifle scope with an etched reticle, but also much more. Soldiers from the Army’s 11th Airborne stationed at Alaska’s Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson supported the testing. The soldiers and testers utilized the weapons in rigorous scenarios, from static and kinetic ranges at Fort Greely and Fort Wainwright to maneuver live fires and ultimately a 72-hour simulated mission across CRTC’s vast ranges. All the while, a team of 16 data collectors recorded information in the weapons’ battery life, hit-miss data on targets the soldiers engaged, and a variety of human factors data involving utilizing the weapons in extreme cold. Extreme cold was a coveted commodity for this test, and the weather forecast delivered beyond the highest hopes of the testers. The majority of data collectors who supported the test traveled from Yuma Test Center in Arizona, which like CRTC is under the command of U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground.

Next Generation Squad Weapon (NGSW) Tested at US Army Cold Regions Test Center
U.S. Army Cold Regions Test Center staged a multiweek test of the Army’s Next Generation Squad Weapon (NGSW) early this year. (Photo by Sebastian Saarloos)

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