The Textron / AAI NGSW-R assault rifle is being developed by AAI corporation, which is now part of the much larger Textron Systems Corporation, under NGSW-R – “Next Generation Squad Weapon – Rifle” program, funded by US Army.
This highly ambitious program is intended to equip American infantrymen with new rifle and squad automatic weapon / light machine gun, both firing new, high-performance ammunition. Ultimate goal is to deliver squad small arms system, capable to defeat modern body armor at extended ranges and produce improved lethality, compared to existing 5.56mm small arms system. Requirements for NGSW program call for an entirely new cartridge, firing government-designed bullet with caliber of 6.8mm and weight or about 135 grains / 8.8 grams, with muzzle velocities of about 3000 fps / 915 m/s or even faster. These requirements, especially from a relatively short assault rifle barrel, call for very high bore pressures, which in turn would result in powerful muzzle blast and significant felt recoil. As a result, special type of sound suppressor is a must for these weapons, to help to attenuate “magnum” level muzzle blast and tame recoil.
Since particulars of the cartridge design are left out to contenders, Textron NGSW system uses case telescoped ammunition concept, which was developed earlier by AAI Corp for LSAT program. The 6.7mm NGSW telescoped cartridge features cylindrical case made entirely from polymer, and it is noticeably longer than previous 6.5mm and 7.62mm LSAT telescoped case rounds. As is the case with other NGSW entrants, the SIG Sauer and General Dynamics, no specifications of the new cartridge or weapon are published yet, as of late 2019.
Current plans call for NGSW program winner to be announced by 2022, but with previous similar programs like SPIW, ACR or OICW in mind we shall wait and see for the results. At the present time all NGSW contenders are still in prototype form.
Textron NGSW-R assault rifle is broadly based on the research and development work, done by AAI during the LSAT program. It uses gas operated action with vertically moving cartridge chamber. Fresh rounds are loaded into the chamber from the rear, empty cases are pushed forward from the chamber by next rounds, and then ejected out of the gun to the right. Loading and ejection is performed while chamber is lowered from firing to loading position by special cam tracks, attached to the operating slide, which reciprocates back and forth behind the breech part of the barrel. Slide is powered by gas piston, located above the barrel. Rearward movement of the slide cocks the hammer and lowers the chamber for reloading; return (forward) movement of the slide is powered by a return spring, located in the butt; it allows the loaded chamber to rise under pressure of its lift springs until it is aligned with the bore, so gun can be fired, and then the cycle repeats itself. Ejection port is positioned on the left, well in front of the magazine, and raises some concerns about possibilities of it being blocked by a left hand of the operator. Ejection port has spring-loaded dust cover. Ammunition is fed from 20-round box magazines, made from plastic, and barrel is normally fitted with specially designed sound suppressor. All sights are installed using integrated Picatinny rail located on the top of receiver and forend.
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