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75th Rangers will take SCAR to war

May. 11, 2009 - 04:06PM   |   Last Updated: May. 11, 2009 - 04:06PM  |  
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SOCom chose the SCAR system to replace weapons including the 5.56mm M4A1 carbine, made by Colt Defense LLC. (FNH USA)

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About 600 members of the 75th Ranger Regiment will soon take the Special Operations Combat Assault Rifle into battle.

The 600 SCARs are the first of 1,800 that U.S. Special Operations Command began fielding in early April, SOCom spokeswoman Air Force Maj. Denise Boyd told Army Times.

SOCom chose the SCAR system — which consists of the 5.56mm MK16 and the 7.62mm MK17 — to replace weapons including the 5.56mm M4A1 carbine, made by Colt Defense LLC.

The command selected FN Herstal to develop SCAR in 2004 after holding a competition to find a reliable, modular weapon system for its elite forces.

The SCAR has a short-stroke, gas-piston operating system. The upper receiver is aluminum and houses a free-floating barrel for improved accuracy. The lower receiver is polymer to help reduce weight. Both versions can be equipped with different barrel lengths to suit missions ranging from close-quarter fights to long-range shooting.

Operators can chose a 10-inch, 14-inch or 18-inch barrel for the MK16 and a 13-inch, 16-inch or 20-inch barrel for the heavier MK17. Each of these can be changed out by the shooter in minutes, FN officials say. The MK16 uses a 30-round magazine; the MK17 uses a 20-rounder. Eighty percent of the parts are common to both the light and heavy versions to reduce long-term maintenance costs, FN officials say.

The SCAR also includes the MK13 40mm grenade launcher, designed to fit on both the MK16 and MK17 or fire in the stand-alone mode.

Like the M4A1, both versions of the SCAR can fire on full automatic. The conventional Army's M4 carbine uses a three-round burst instead of full auto.

In addition to the M4A1, the SCAR system is intended to replace:

• The MK18 close quarter battle rifle, similar to the M4A1 but equipped with a 10.5-inch barrel.

• The MK11 special purpose rifle, chambered in 7.62mm.

• The MK12 special purpose rifle, chambered in 5.56mm.

• The M14 rifle, chambered in 7.62mm.

SOCom and FN officials do not talk about the cost of SCAR, but the Nov. 5, 2004, initial award for the contract was $634,390. Special operations units from all services will receive the SCAR, but it's unclear when that will happen, Boyd said; commanders are determining how many they will need.

"The intent is to field to operational elements at the beginning of their training cycle and to run the weapons through an entire work-up and deployment in order to determine weapon mix, barrel mix, total number of weapons required," Boyd said.

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