The Fabrique Nationale FN SCAR (Special forces Combat Assault Rifle) will feature prominently in the future of the United States Army. It is designed as a modular weapons system from the get-go, meaning that she can be modified to suit the operators' interests and the mission at hand by way of adaptable rail systems and interchangeable barrels and components. Couple this with the SCAR's innovative short-strike, gas-operation and the automatic rifle is one of the more advanced and adaptable operational rifles in the world. The SCAR family will consist of two major production variants made up of the MK16 in 5.56mm (SCAR-L, Mk 16 Mod 0) form and the MK17 in 7.62mm (SCAR-H, Mk 17 Mod 0) form. The SCAR was selected by SOCOM (Special Operations COMmand) to replace the long-standing Colt M4A1 modular automatic rifle. An initial contract valued at $634,390 was awarded to the Belgium firearms firm of Fabrique Nationale on November 4th, 2004, with manufacturing to be handled by FN Herstal USA of Columbia, South Carolina.
The SCAR initially faced off in a July 2007 "future assessment" competition held by the United States Army. The weapon was pitted against the existing M4 Carbine, the impressive Heckler & Koch HK416 modular system and the previously-forgotten Heckler & Koch XM8 developmental combat rifle. The SCAR came in second to the XM8 but bested the HK416 and M4 Carbine in the 60,000 rounds of ammunition that were test-fired.
In 2008, the FN SCAR was yet again the object of attention, this time competing against four other rifles in the United States Marine Corps Infantry Automatic Rifle (IAR) competition. The competition sought to fulfill a requirement for a new squad automatic/light automatic rifle. The SCAR proved its mettle and was selected for an initial purchase batch of 6,500 examples to be delivered over a span of five years. This particular form of the SCAR rifle was of note for its use of a mixed open-closed bolt operation - the first of its kind in the SCAR family line.
The SCAR was fielded in an initial batch of 600 weapons sometime in April of 2009 for use under the SOCOM banner. These were given to the 75th Ranger Regiment special forces group for in-the-field, live fire evaluation of the SCAR system through all aspects of warfare. In all, some 1,800 are expected to be delivered.
The SCAR features a short-stroke, gas-operated piston operation. Her upper receiver is made of aluminum. The barrel sports a free-floating action within the upper receiver and is available in varying lengths depending on the operator's needs (10-, 13-, 14-, 16-, 18- and 20-inch barrel lengths are provided). The lower receiver is constructed of light-weight, heavy-duty polymer. The system breaks down into five major components comprised of the magazine, the lower receiver, the buttstock assembly, the bolt carrier group/upper receiver and the frame/barrel component.
The SCAR 16 series will include three subvariants making up the family line. These are designated as the SCAR 16 CQC, SCAR 16 Standard and the SCAR 16 LB. She is a selective fire weapon system with three available free-floating barrel lengths and are chambered to fire the 5.56x45mm NATO standard cartridge from a curved STANAG 30-round M16-style magazine. Each is fitted with the A2 series flash suppressor and all controls are said to be ambidextrous. The SCAR 16 line makes use of the MIL-STD-1913 optical rail and showcases a further three more rail systems for the addition of accessories such as laser sights and flashlights. The stock, made of polymer, can fold over the side of the receiver for an even more compact fitting. Visual differences between the three automatic rifles are subtle with the barrel protrusion being the most defining characteristic. The SCAR 16 CQC features a stubby barrel system capped by the flash suppressor while the SCAR 16 LB sports the longest barrel length of the three. Approximate barrel lengths for the SCAR 16 series are 10-, 13.8- and 18-inches.
The SCAR 17 series includes the SCAR 17 CQC, SCAR 17 Standard and the SCAR 17 LB variants. These are all chambered to fire the longer-range 7.62x51mm NATO standard cartridge from a straight 20-round magazine. Like the MK16 group, the SCAR 17 will feature three free-floating barrel lengths, the A2 flash suppressor, the MIL-STD-1913 rail system and three additional accessory rails. The polymer buttstock will be foldable over the side of the receiver as in the MK16 and feature adjustable settings. All controls will be ambidextrous. As in the MK 16, the most discernable difference between the three MK17 rifles will be barrel lengths, led by the short SCAR 17 CQC and trailed by the long-barrel SCAR 17 LB. Approximate barrel lengths for the SCAR 17 series are 13-, 15.7- and 19.7-inches.
The SCAR is intended to replace the M4A1 carbine, the MK11 sniper, MK12 SPR, MK14 sniper and MK 18 CQBR rifles in service with SOCOM. It may also be marketed in a police and civilian guise as the 16S(Light) and 17S(Heavy). Production of these particular systems will be handled at a plant in Fredricksburg, Virginia. However, according to the FNH USA website, the SCAR family is currently only available to military and law enforcement services.