Mk 46 5.56mm Lightweight Machine Gun
The Mk 46 Mod 0 is a version of the M249 specifically developed to meet the requirements of US Special Operations Forces for a lightweight variant that retains the full functionality and reliability of the standard model. A 4.1 pound weight reduction and a reduction overall length are achieved by utilization of a lightweight barrel and removal of the carrying handle, magazine well, and vehicle mounting lugs. Unique to the Mk 46 Mod 0 is rail system that accommodates optics, lasers, and tactical lights. It also has a forward pistol grip and a detachable bipod.
The Mk 46 Mod 0 significantly increases the organic firepower of Naval Special Warfare/US Special Forces units without impacting tactical load bearing constraints. Substantially lighter than the 7.62mm Mk 43 machine gun and M249 squad automatic weapons previously in use, the Mk 46 is highly reliable and remarkably flexible.
In 1996, Fabrique Nationale announced development of a lightweight version of the M249, which subsequently became known as the M249 Special Purpose Weapon (SPW). The weapon, also sometimes referred to as the M249E4, featured most notably a lightweight barrel and the removal of the magazine feed and vehicle mounting lugs. The weapon was fitted with the standard retractable stock found on the FN Minimi Para and the initial versions of the Short SAW. The weapon's handguard was replaced with a three-sided MIL-STD-1913 rail interface (tri-rail), and offered with a detachable vertial forward grip.
In 2000, Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane awarded FN Manufacturing, Inc. a contract for the delivery of an improved version of the SPW Variant, designated the Mk 46 Mod 0. The Mk 46 Mod 0 differed from the SPW in that it had a heavier fluted barrel and a rail forearm that included a rail interface in the 12 o'clock position. The all-metal retractable buttstock was also replaced by the fixed plastic stock fitted to the M249 for additional weight reduction.
In 2006, Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane awarded FN Manufacturing, Inc. a contract to retrofit and overhaul a number of weapon systems, including the Mk 46 Mod 0. The refurbished weapons were designated as Mk 46 Mod 1s and featured a number of differences, including the use of an improved bipod assembly. The weapon's forearm was again changed to include the standard M249 style heat shield in the 12 o'clock position instead along with the original tri-rail assembly, instead of the Mk 46 Mod 0's 4-sided rail interface.
On 12 April 2010, the Department of Defense announced that FN Manufacturing, LLC of Columbia, South Carolina was being awarded an $11,500,000 firm-fixed-priced, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract for refurbishing and overhauling of machine guns in support of multiple military agencies. The Mk 46 lightweight machine gun (LMG), Mk 48 LMG, and the M240 machine gun would be refurbished and or overhauled to a like new condition so the aforementioned weapons can be used in combat. The Mk 46 LMG, Mk 48 LMG, and the M240 machine gun would be used to support a wide array of US Armed Forces missions. Work would be performed in Columbia, South Carolina, and was expected to be completed by April 2015. Contract funds in the amount of $315,056 would expire at the end of the fiscal year. The contract was awarded on a sole-source basis with the solicitation being publicized on the Federal Business Opportunities Web site. Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division in Crane, Indiana was the contracting activity.
On 29 November 2010, the Department of Defense announced that FN Manufacturing of Columbia, South Carolina was being awarded an $11,500,000 firm-fixed-price, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract for the Mk 46 Mod 1 lightweight machine gun and Mk 48 Mod 1 lightweight machine gun, along with spare and repair parts in support of the US Special Operations Command. Work would be performed in Columbia, South Carolina, and was expected to be completed by November 2015. Contract funds in the amount of $25,000 would expire at the end of the fiscal year. This contract was not competitively procured. Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division in Crane, Indiana was the contracting activity.
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