The new Special Forces combat assault rifle (SCAR) meant to replace a hodgepodge of weapons currently used by U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) is undergoing its field assessment phase, the last step before full-production and battlefield deployment.
Available as the MK-16 or MK-17, (accepting 5.65 and 7.62 NATO ammunition respectively) the SCAR is a highly modular system designed to adapt easily to future upgrades and new ammunition. The weapon, produced by the Belgian company Fabrique Nationale Herstal (FN), with replace the Colt M4, long a source of bitter gripes throughout the SF community due to its lack of punch and high jam rate (PDF).
Featuring a short stroke gas piston system, its ambidextrous layout, telescoping, folding butt stock and adjustable cheek piece aim to please even the fussiest of commandos.
But it was the interchangeable, chrome-lined, steel barrels, the switching-out of which can, in minutes, effectively shrink the SCAR from carbine length to submachine gun, that most impressed Special Forces operators interviewed by Military.com on the firing line in Northern Virginia recently.
"That's the best part of this weapon," one soldier told Military.com. "When we deploy, we usually go with just our M4s. But if we're on an operation where we need an overwatch or we're observing at a distance, the M4 doesn't do us much good until it's too late."
Both the Mk-16 and Mk-17 accept barrels measuring from 10 inches for close-quarters assault work to 18-inch sniper units.
SOCOM has ordered about 18,000 SCAR variants for its troops, including a limited run of about 1,200 rifles already in production, FN USA told Military.com.