Apr. 20—SIG Sauer will manufacture the U.S. Army's next generation of rifles and ammunition over the next 10 years after being awarded a $4.5 billion contract.
The new rifles will be the first weapons of their kind in 65 years, said Army Brig. Gen. Larry Q. Burris during a media briefing Wednesday morning at the Pentagon.
"This is revolutionary," he said.
The Army gave the contract to SIG Sauer after two years of intensive soldier and technical tests, said project manager Col. Scott Madore. The initial contract will be for $20.4 million to develop the production line at SIG Sauer and a small number of weapons.
SIG Sauer, headquartered in Newington, is known for producing weapons for the military and law enforcement. The company is set to increase its manufacturing space by 500,000-square feet and expects to add nearly 1,000 jobs, said Ron Cohen, president and CEO.
"The fielding of the SIG Sauer Next Generation Squad Weapons System will forever change the dynamic of military engagement for America's warfighters with American innovation and manufacturing," he said in a statement.
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the contract reaffirms the role of Granite State businesses in national defense.
"Through this federal contract with the U.S. Army, New Hampshire will manufacture and deliver all Army soldier weapons for decades," Shaheen said in a statement.
Burris said the contract for XM5 rifle and the XM250 automatic rifle came out of a 2017 study on small arms. The goal is to maintain advantage against global adversaries on the battlefield, he said.
"That is more urgent and relevant today than anytime in recent history," he said.
The XM5 Rifle will replace the M4/M4A1, the standard-issue rifle for most units, and the XM250 Automatic Rifle is planned to replace the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon, according to an Army news release.
The new lightweight rifles are expected to improve accuracy, range and "overall lethality."
The contract includes accessories, spares and contractor support. Eventually, other Department of Defense services and foreign countries could use the weapons.
Textron and Lonestar Future Weapons also competed for the contract.
More than 1,000 soldiers and Marines provided 20,000 hours of user feedback, Madore said. Sig Sauer was determined to be the best value, he said.
The process was data driven and based on those who tested the weapon, Burris said. Training is expected to begin in the third quarter of fiscal year 2023, he said.
"The close combat force soldier will ultimately benefit on the battlefield," he said. "The soldier has never seen this full speed of capabilities in one integrated system."
Army Brig. Gen. William M. Boruff, joint program executive officer armaments and ammunition, said the new weapons will provide "an immense increase in capability" for soldiers on the battlefield.
"The new weapon with its increased operating pressure and size allows the Army to significantly increase the performance capability of the ammunition," Boruff said. "These advances allow soldiers at the squad level to deliver improved target defeat at higher energies to advanced threats at extended ranges."
Both weapons fire common 6.8 millimeter ammunition, which offers a "dramatically increased velocity and on-target energy," according to the news release.
"The new ammunition includes multiple types of tactical and training rounds that increase accuracy and are more lethal against emerging threats than both the 5.56mm and 7.62mm ammunition," the release said.
One challenge is training soldiers on the new caliber ammunition, Boruff said. The change requires coordination, combat and training requirements and budgeting for procurement.
"Current ammunition is such that the current availability is almost an afterthought," he said. "You go to your supply point and pick up your ammunition and you go out on the range and fire your 5.62."
He called it a daunting task to build up ammunition supply from zero with no industrial base.
Lake City Army Ammunition Plant in Independence, Mo., will work with SIG Sauer on producing the ammunition.