Textron [TXT] has received a prototype development contract from the Army to develop a new weapon system for its Next Generation Squad Automatic Rifle (NGSAR) program, which is intended to replace the over 80,000 M249 Squad Automatic Weapons (SAW), the company said on Wednesday.

Under the deal, officially awarded June 25, Textron is tasked with developing an NGSAR weapon system prototype based on its Cased-Telescoped Weapons & Ammunition portfolio to be delivered to the Army in 12 months.

Army's M249 Squad Automatic Weapon light machine gun
Army’s M249 Squad Automatic Weapon light machine gun

“We are excited about the opportunity to build on our success with Cased-Telescoped Weapons and Ammunition and bring that forward to this specific prototype opportunity,” Wayne Prender, Textron’s vice president of applied technology & advanced programs, told Defense Daily. “It’s a very aggressive timeline to a deliver a new weapons system, but we’re confident we can succeed in it.”

Textron is one five companies that will develop NGSAR prototypes for the Army, which aims to find a new light machine gun that is smaller, lighter, has increased lethality, an ammo system of less than 20 pounds and utilizes an integrated fire control system.

“Army leaders have publicly testified for years that soldiers have to carry far too much weight.  Reducing weight of the weapon and the ammunition are key goals and they will be pretty sizable,” Andrew Koch, a Textron spokesperson, told Defense Daily.

Senior Army leadership have previously testified that NGSAR will be critical for developing lethality that is able to overcome current soldier weapons’ ability to penetrate adversaries’ body armor.

“These weapons systems, ours and other prototypes, will better inform the Army about the tradespace that’s available,” Prender said.

The Army is expected to make a quick downselect decision on moving to the Engineering, Manufacturing & Development Phase for one of the six companies’ NGSAR prototypes following the conclusion of the 12-month development period.