By the end of this summer, the Army plans to pick three vendors to build prototypes of the weapons that will replace the M16/M4 and the Squad Automatic Weapon for both soldiers and Marines, both in a new, common cartridge.
In the coming weeks, officials will release the official “prototype opportunity notice” with detailed expectations of the new weapons family, including not only the new caliber but also what it wants from the weapons’ fire control system.
Companies will then have between two and four months to submit their samples for Army officials at Program Executive Office Soldier, Crew Served Weapons to evaluate.
At the same time, submissions for a SAW replacement, which was part of an earlier effort that helped lead to this approach, will undergo test-firings in July. That will then close the previous prototyping.
Once officials select the three vendors in late summer, officials said, they are expected to have 27 months to mature and finalize the weapon.
That means the long-awaited replacement for the basic weapons at the core of Army and Marine squad firepower could be ready for troops by 2021.