By David Crane
defrev (at) gmail (dot) com
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June 28, 2010
Updated on 7/07/10
Christian Lowe’s been a busy little beaver over at Military.com and Military.com’s military gear blog, Kit Up!, lately. To wit, he’s written two separate articles recently on the cancellation of the MK16 SCAR-L (FN MK16 SCAR-Light 5.56mm assault rifle/carbine/SBR) program.
Christian states in his June 25 (2010) article for Military.com:
In a surprising reversal that follows years of effort to design a one-of-a-kind commando rifle, the U.S. military’s Special Operations Command has abruptly decided to abandon the new SOCOM Combat Assault rifle – the “SCAR,” as the rifle is commonly known – in favor of previously-fielded carbines.
First, we want to state on the record that we think Mr. Lowe does an excellent job over at Military.com. We think he’s a good writer and military reporter. However, the cancellation of the Mk-16 SCAR-L isn’t exactly a surprise to DefenseReview (DR), nor to the people we know in the U.S. military Special Operations (SPECOPS) and Special Forces (SF) communities. First, DR actually discussed the (at that time rumored) precariousnous of the MK16′s footing/existence in our May 20, 2009 article, aptly titled Are the FN SCAR Weapons (MK16 and MK17) Necessary? And do we really need to replace the Colt M4/M4A1 Carbine?. Here’s what your humble correspondent wrote on the Mk-16′s future prospects:
Defense Review recently spoke to one of our professional contacts in the tactical firearms community, and he told us on the phone that the MK16 SCAR-L is for all practical purposes “dead”, meaning that it’s not likely to survive for very long, and that the SCAR weapons are continuing to experience teething problems in the field, i.e. breaking down. We don’t have confirmation/verification on this yet, so it’s just a rumor at this point. Anything’s possible, but we’ve spoken with people in the U.S. military Special Operations community who prefer either the AR-config HK416 (also written HK 416) for a gas piston/op-rod carbine/SBR solution or a good old-fashioned DGI Colt SOPMOD M4A1 Carbine or MK18 CQBR SBR for a DGI solution.
That’s not all we wrote, so we’d recommend that our readers read the whole article.
Second, “abrupt” is perhaps not the optimum adjective one could use to describe the MK16 SCAR-L program’s decapitation, as one of Defense Review’s military contacts informed us that the SCAR program was definitely a dead man walking back in January (2010). We can’t be any more specific than that (well, we could be, but we won’t). However, Mr. Lowe still deserves credit and kudos for breaking the story on the MK16′s official cancellation.
Bottom line, the Mk-16′s demise has been fairly gradual, even if not publicly visible.
The fact is, the Mk-16 program was expensive and consumed a lot of resources for a weapon that didn’t really offer any signficant combat-relevant advantages over the Colt M4A1 Carbine. Specifically, it didn’t offer any lethality or firepower advantage over the M4A1, whatsoever. The FN MK17 SCAR-H (SCAR-Heavy) 7.62mm NATO battle rifle/carbine/SBR (Short Barreled Rifle), however, is a different story, since it’s so much lighter and more modular than a M14/M1A. The FN Mk-17 CQC (Close Quarters Combat) SCAR-H (13″ barrel) variant has a listed weight of 7.7 lbs empty, and the MK-17 LB (Long Barrel) variant (20″ barrel) has a listed dry weight of 8.2 lbs. The problem for that weapon, moving forward, is that you now have competing AR (AR-10-type) 7.62mm designs like the Knight’s Armament Co. (KAC) M110K/SR25K carbine and Lewis Machine & Tool (LMT) .308 Modular Weapon System (MWS) Monolithic Rail Platform (MRP), the latter recently winning the British Army trials over the Heckler & Koch HK417 (also written HK 417).
It’s also been reported to DefenseReview that the FN MK17 SCAR-H can short-stroke if the weapon isn’t properly shouldered, if, for instance, the shooter is firing from an awkward position (unconfirmed/unverified). If true, the problem is potentially solvable via a weaker action spring. Then again, maybe not.
For the record, DR liked the Mk-17 SCAR-H when we fired it at NDIA Small Arms Symposium(s), except for the reciprocating charging handle (we’d prefer a non-reciprocating charging handle) and buttstock. We did not experience a single malfunction with the weapon under range conditions. However, we’d recommend firing it on semi-auto rather than full-auto, due to the weapon’s high cyclic rate of fire (ROF) and light weight, which combine to impede full-auto controllability. We’ve also heard good things about both the MK-17 LB and MK-17 SSR (Sniper Support Rifle) variants with regard to accuracy.
In his Kit Up! piece, Christian writes the following:
Two well-informed industry analysts tell me that SCAR-maker FNH-USA will try to sell SOCOM on the idea of a Mk-17 common receiver that can be turned into a 5.56 or other caliber by switching out part of the lower receiver. So FNH-USA is positioning itself to rescue the Mk-16 through the Mk-17. But there’s no indication that SOCOM is biting.
That sounds about right. DR’s heard the same thing. It’s possible, however, that FNH will have to compete the MK17 in open competition (for a major contract), at some point, whether it be as a caliber-specific (7.62mm NATO) or multi-caliber platform, even for a SOCOM contract, let alone a Big Army contract. It’s also possible that the MK17 will go the distance and land a major contract, but we’re not too sure about it making it as a multi-caliber platform. Anything’s possible, though.
Stay tuned for DR updates on the FN SCAR weapons saga.
In the meantime though, what do you think about all this? DefenseReview is interested in our readers’ opinions and insights on this topic, so please don’t hesitate to comment below. We look forward to reading what you have to say.
Click on the link below to read David Crane’s Fall 2008 “Combat Tactics” magazine article (print article) on the history and development of the FN SCAR weapons family:
SCAR: You want details, you want facts, you want the most complete account
ever published of the four-year development of the Special [Operations] Combat Assault Rifle? Here it is. (Fall 2008 “Combat Tactics” article by David Crane) (PDF Format)
Editor’s Note: “SCAR” stands for “Special Operations Forces Combat Assault Rifle” or “SOCOM Combat Assault rifle”, and “SOCOM” is an abbreviation for “USSOCOM”.
Company Contact Info:
FNH USA Military Training Operations
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