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U.S. Army Is Officially Ditching The M4 Rifle For Something Much More Powerful
A US soldier aims his rifle at a shooting range during a Stress Shoot test of the 2018 Best Warrior Competition at Camp Casey in Dongducheon, north of Seoul, on April 10, 2018 US 2nd Infantry Division held the annual competition where 24 soldiers competed in a variety of events testing them both physically and mentally.
JUNG YEON-JE/AFP via Getty Images

The U.S. Army is officially ditching the M4/M4A1 carbine for a new service rifle that fires a much more powerful projectile that will be critical to the U.S. Army’s ability to outgun emerging near-peer competitors like China.

The U.S. Army announced last month a 10-year contract with Sig Sauer to manufacture two Next Generation Squad Weapon (NGSW) variations: the XM5 Rifle, which will replace the M4/M4A1 carbine; and the XM250 Automatic Rifle, which will replace the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon.

Both the M4/M4A1 carbine and the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon relied on firing the 5.56x45mm NATO cartridge. The new NGSW rifles will fire a new 6.8x51mm cartridge that are more accurate and are more lethal against emerging threats than both the 5.56x45mm and 7.62x51mm ammunition.

“Both weapons provide significant capability improvements in accuracy, range and overall lethality,” the U.S. Army said in a statement. “They are lightweight, fire more lethal ammunition, mitigate recoil, provide improved barrel performance, and include integrated muzzle sound and flash reduction.”

The NGSW rifles will also be paired with a game changing fire control system that will give U.S. soldiers a major advantage on the battle field.

“The XM5 and XM250 will be paired with the XM157 Fire Control, a ruggedized advanced fire control system that increases accuracy and lethality for the close combat force,” the statement continued. “The XM157 integrates a number of advanced technologies, including a variable magnification optic (1X8), backup etched reticle, laser rangefinder, ballistic calculator, atmospheric sensor suite, compass, Intra-Soldier Wireless, visible and infrared aiming lasers, and a digital display overlay. It is produced by Sheltered Wings Inc. d/b/a Vortex Optics, Barneveld, Wisconsin.”

The contract was awarded to Sig Sauer after several companies competed 27-months for it.

The new 6.8x51mm cartridge “uses a patented lightweight metallic case designed to handle pressures higher than conventional ammunition, resulting in dramatically increased velocity and on-target energy in lighter weapons,” the company said in a statement. “The U.S. Army’s procurement of the NGSW System marks the beginning of an era where combat weapons are coupled with a suppressor as standard issue equipment.”

U.S. Army Brigadier General Larry Q. Burris said that their goal to win on the modern battlefield is to achieve “a clear, decisive and sustainable overmatch against our near-peer adversaries.”

He said that the need to overmatch “near-peer adversaries” was more pressing today than at any other time in recent history as Russia is fighting a war in Europe and China is increasingly becoming aggressive throughout the Pacific.

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