The automatic rifle has evolved considerably from its rather single-minded battlefield role to become a modular infantry-level system. This approach has been seen in designs prior such as the Stoner 63 of the 1960s and several more modern offerings since. Ares Defense Systems has developed their new Ares-16 family as just that - a single solution of modular design that can be modified to fulfill a variety of battlefield roles including that of assault carbine, assault rifle and light machine gun. In many ways the Ares-16 is a further evolution of the globally popular AR-15/M4/M16 family of automatic weapons complete with its classic M16-styling. The patented receiver unit is officially configurable as a sub-carbine, carbine, assault rifle, Designated Marksman Rifle (DMR), assault machine gun (magazine- or belt-fed) and mounted machine gun. With its lightweight construction, the Ares-16 family provides the balance of the more compact M4 Carbine with the firepower inherent of a larger Light Machine Gun (LMG) such as the M249 SAW (Squad Automatic Weapon) - more or less in the body of the M16.
The Ares-16 family is headlined by the Ares-16 "MCR" ("Modular Combat Rifle") which is the base assault weapon form. It sports a familiar M16-style receiver unit the angled, ergonomic pistol grip, forward-set magazine well and collapsible butt stock. The magazine well accepts the standard M16-style curved magazine and is chambered for the 5.56x45mm NATO (.223 Remington) cartridge. There is a section of MIL-STD 1913 rail across the top of the receiver for the mounting of optics to couple with the standard front and rear iron sighting devices. The handguard shrouding the barrel at the receiver is perforated for proper heat dissipation and also sports sections of rail for additional accessories to be mounted in the form of laser aimers, tactical flashlights and even an adjustable bipod (for the fire support role). The barrel is interchangeable (marketed as a "quick change" design) to suit operator tastes and mission requirements and comes in lengths of 12", 16.25" and 20". Barrels are furthermore capped by and M16-style slotted flash suppressor and can be fitted with a sound suppressor for clandestine work. Due to its use of lightweight alloys, the lightest configurable Ares-16 form is a handy 7.5lbs. With the 16.25" barrel in place, the weapon measures 34.55" long (876mm). The action is of a gas-operated, open-bolt design using a short stroke tappet which allows for a rate-of-fire between 625 and 1,000 rounds per minute out to 600 meters. To maintain the flexibility of preceding M4/M16 marks, the Ares-16 also supports an underslung grenade launcher to broaden the tactical flexibility of the standard infantryman.
The AMG-1 ("AMG" = "Assault Machine Gun") is the belt-fed, Light Machine Gun (LMG) version of the Ares-16 family. It is fed through the NATO standard M27 linked ammunition belt. All other functions of the rifle remain the same including barrel length options, rate-of-fire and the gas-operated action. The AMG-2 is also a belt-fed design but also supports feeding from M16-style detachable box magazines. All of the Ares-16 weapons support select-fire though management along the receiver side.
The Ares-16 family is recognized as a "One Weapon, Any Mission" solution according to Ares Defense. Its use of the standard 5.56mm NATO cartridge certainly opens it up to many current and former US arms allies and its commonality of parts with other members of the Ares-16 family certainly broaden its logistical appeal to those forces considering procurement of the weapon is number. The design's multirole features could prove of some value in the fluid, largely urban, fighting fronts being encountered today.