The U.S. Army’s Next Generation Squad Weapon program (NGSW) is continuing despite the COVID pandemic. The Army recently awarded contracts to two optics companies to produce a next-gen optic for its new weapon systems that.

Vortex Optics and Leupold & Stevens, Inc., partnered with L3Harris Technologies, will each deliver 115 production prototypes to the Army for the Next Generation Squad Weapon Fire Control (NGSW-FC) Program.

The production-ready prototypes of the NGSW-FC optics will then be submitted for trials and evaluations, after which, the selected model will replace the traditional direct view optics currently used by the Army.

“Leupold is excited to be teaming with L3Harris to deliver the highest-quality optical solution to the U.S. Army. We are the top manufacturers in our respective fields,” says Bruce Pettet, President and Chief Executive Officer for Leupold & Stevens, Inc., in a release.

“Leupold brings more than a century of optical expertise and unrivaled domestic manufacturing capacity to the table, and L3 has a proven track record of performance with high-volume government contracts for night vision, electro-optics, and laser aiming devices,” he adds. “The U.S. military requires the very best, and this partnership will deliver it—with optics that are designed, machined, and assembled in the United States.”

The NSGW-FC provides an integrated approach to targeting by combining range-finding capability, ballistic computation, and environmental sensors that increase the probability of accurate targeting while decreasing the time to engage a threat.

The optic ultimately selected for the NGSW-FC will support many of the current and future weapon platforms utilized by the Army. The program was launched in January 2019 and, in the Army’s words, it’s looking for a fire control unit

“to provide a ruggedized fire control that increases accuracy and lethality for the dismounted warfighter on the battlefield. Capabilities are achieved through integration of advanced technologies to provide a fire control system consisting of a direct view optic, ballistic calculator, atmospheric sensor suite, and laser range finder. Combining these features with an in-scope digital overlay produces an adjusted aim-point for the Soldier within the field of view.”

The idea is that the new optic will allow soldiers to stay on their weapon without consulting multiple instruments to obtain a firing solution.

Vortex Optics officials said recently that its fire-control prototype combines a 1,000-meter laser range finder, ballistic computer, and atmospheric sensors.

“L3Harris is proud to offer the U.S. Army a revolutionary fire control solution that will increase soldier lethality and enhance situational awareness,” says Lynn Bollengier, President, Integrated Vision Solutions, L3Harris in a press release, “Our solution leverages nearly 30 years of expertise in fire control technology, enabling faster identification and target acquisition, ensuring soldiers achieve overmatch capability on the battlefield.

“Additionally, we have teamed with Leupold & Stevens to integrate their superior optical assemblies and high volume, domestic manufacturing capabilities to ensure we meet the high quality and capacity requirements set forth by the Army to field this technology alongside the Next Generation Squad Weapons program,” Bollengier added.

As far as the actual guns go, the Army is currently testing NGSW prototypes from General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems Inc., Textron Systems, and SIG Sauer for the final phase of the NGSW program, which will ultimately replace the 5.56mm M4A1 carbine and the M249 squad automatic weapon in close-combat units with a new automatic rifle and rifle chambered for a more powerful 6.8mm round.