SCAR sniper support rifle approved


Photo courtesy of FNH

The MK 20 Sniper Support Rifle has been approved for full-rate production.

The FN rifle is a variant of the Special Operations Forces Combat Assault Rifle (SCAR) family. Fielding is expected to start in mid-May 2011.

Three variants of the Special Operations Combat Assault Rifle, or SCAR, were approved July 30 for full-rate production. They were:

  • The MK 16 SCAR-Light: A 5.56mm ambidextrous combat assault rifle that boasts three different barrel lengths – a standard 14-inch barrel, a 10-inch close-combat barrel and an 18-inch sniper variant.
  • The MK 17 SCAR-Heavy: A 7.62mm ambidextrous combat assault rifle with a 13-inch, 16-inch or 20-inch barrel and a 20-round magazine. Both variants are gas-operated, short-stroke piston systems. All barrels are tightly attached to a monolithic receiver and will reportedly take less than five minutes to switch.
  • The MK 13 grenade launcher: A telescoping buttstock allows the weapon to be used independently, or it can be mounted under either SCAR rifle using a trigger adapter and dual-locking clamp. It fires all types of 40mm grenades with an effective point range of 100 meters, and 300 meters for an area target.

The bulk of production will likely fall to the heavy, long-rifle variant as special operators wait to see what comes of the Army’s solicitation for a new carbine.

The cost per weapon is unclear. Manufacturer FN Herstal was awarded a 10-year indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity contract for SCAR development in 2007, and the contract said cited $11.1 million already invested in the weapon’s initial operational test and evaluation and low-rate initial production. The contract is expected to be completed by 2014.

The first 600 of 1,800 SCARs were fielded in April 2009 to units of the 75th Ranger Regiment.

Development of the SCAR began after a study by U.S. Special Operations Command in February 2001 determined the M4A1 design was “fundamentally flawed.” The shorter barrel and gas tube “led to alarming failures of the M4A1 in operations under the harsh conditions and heavy firing schedules common in SOF training and operations,” according to the findings, which are contained in a June 2010 Congressional Research Service report.

The command in 2004 evaluated 12 weapons from nine manufacturers, ultimately choosing FN Herstal to produce the modular weapons system. What followed was a rigorous three-year testing of reliability, accuracy, safety and ergonomics in urban, maritime, jungle, mountainous, desert and winter environments.

SCAR weapons spent more than 2 million rounds of ammo, making it “the most heavily tested weapons system in the history of small arms,” according to the congressional report.

“No other current so-called modular weapons system has endured even a fraction of this degree of strenuous testing, and none are in use by U.S. forces,” the report said.

The result is a chrome-lined, hammer-forged steel barrel that will give each weapon a service life of more than 15,000 rounds, according to the manufacturer.

More than 80 percent of the parts are common to all variants, including common upper receiver and stock and trigger housing. This modular design is an effort to reduce training costs and life-cycle support, while its open architecture allows future modifications.


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A Navy brat who spent eight years in the Marines (two years aboard the carrier Independence). Worked in journalism in Eastern North Carolina through the latter part of the 90s, then became editor of Air Force Times in 2000. Stayed there five years, then took a break to finish some school. Now back in the game with Navy Times.

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