* The Army has whittled down the competition to replace its legacy M4 carbine and M249 squad automatic weapon to three companies, each with starkly different designs.
The service's next-generation squad weapon program has been one of the service's most high-profile soldier lethality efforts. Besides new weapons, the program also includes the development of a new 6.8 mm round that is expected to be more lethal than the current 5.56 mm NATO ammunition.
In August, the service awarded other transaction authority agreements to Sig Sauer, General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems and Textron Systems, which are all providing prototypes for soldier evaluation.
Once the Army receives prototypes for a new fire control system in January, the service will pair it with the weapon systems for testing in April, according to Brig. Gen. Anthony Potts, the head of program executive office soldier.
"What we had to do with all the vendors, is demonstrate that they meet the threshold of capability that we need in the weapon systems," Potts said at the Association of the United States Army annual meeting in Washington, D.G "We know that all vendors that have been selected to move forward meet those thresholds."
National Defense spoke to each company participating in the next-generation squad weapon program to examine their bids.
Ron Cohen, Sig Sauer president and CEO, touted the company's experience in small arms as one of its biggest assets. Rather than partner with subcontractors, Sig is making the rifle, the machine gun, the ammunition and silencer for the program, he noted.
"If Sig is chosen, then we are the least amount of risk because we make all of the ingredients under one roof," he said. "Anything that the Army would want to make changes in, or to evolve, we have it."
The company's bid is based off its MCX firearms line and has a folding stock capability, he said. The machine gun has a 16-inch barrel and the rifle has a 13-inch barrel.
Soldiers won't need additional training on the weapons because the overall designs are similar enough to the legacy systems, but provide increased lethality and range, Cohen noted.
"We didn't pair a right-side drive on the car," he said. "They still sit in the same seat, they still have the steering wheel on the gas pedal. ... It goes farther. It has more velocity and it's lighter weight and it has better ergonomics than they do now, but nothing that they have to retrain themselves to use."
On the rifle, the company...