Ares Defense of the United States produces the impressive Shrike 5.56 "Advanced Weapon System" (AWS). The Shrike 5.56 shares a high percentage of commonality in parts with the M16A4 model of the M16 family as well as its shorter carbine cousin - the M4A1 Carbine. From the outset, the weapon was designed by Geoffrey A. Herring to allow the operator in-the-field the firepower of the M249 SAW (Squad Assault Weapon) with the portability of the standard automatic assault rifle (the M16). The system can be converted to fire from the standard M16 30-round STANAG magazine, the 100-round Beat C-Mag ammunition drum or the M27 belt-link common to the M249 SAW (Squad Assault Weapon) in either 100- or 200-round "soft" and "hard" containers respectively. When fitted as such, the Shrike 5.56 is the lightest belt-fed machine gun in its class anywhere in the world - weighing in at a very manageable 7.5lbs fully-loaded. All this is made possible by the patented Ares Defense System, Incorporated "common receiver group".
The Shrike 5.56 comes in varying barrel lengths of 13, 16 and 20 inches with the 16-inch length being the standard option. The weapon is chambered for the 5.56x45mm NATO cartridge while the action is of a gas-operated piston (short-stroke tappet). Rate-of-fire is listed at between 625 and 1,000 rounds per minute while the barrel is air-cooled. The Shrike 5.56 can be set to semi-automatic and full-automatic fire as need be.
The original prototype (and proof-of-concept design) was known under the designation of EXP-1 while the improved form became the EXP-2. The EXP-1 was displayed to public sometime in 2000 and characterized by her revised M249 handguard as well as a Stoner 63-type quick-change barrel latch. The EXP-2 made use of the Picatinny rail handguard and incorporated more M16 parts to the firing action. The quick-change barrel was in line with that of the M60 GPMG. "Shrike 5.56 03A" was the designation used for the third-generation production models which sported slight improvements and revisions while being marketed as a more robust and reliable form.