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Special Operations Forces Combat Assault Rifle (SCAR)
Special Operations Forces Combat Rifle (SCR)
SOPMOD Enhanced Carbine (EC)

The Special Operations Forces Combat Assault Rifle provides a family of weapons with ergonomic and parts commonality, thereby enhancing mission effectiveness, reducing training time and logistics down time and Cost. The system was design to be modular with regards to the weapon's barrel and caliber, increasing operational flexibility and reducing the number of weapons required to meet the operational need.

The Mk 16 5.56mm SCAR-Light (SCAR-L) and Mk 17 7.62mm SCAR-Heavy (SCAR-H) were developed to replace the M4A1 carbine, Mk 18 Close Quarter Carbine, Mk 11 Sniper Security Rifle, Mk 12 Special Purpose RIfle, and the various iterations of the M14 rifle in use in the US special operations forces community. There was also a 90 percents parts commonality between the SCAR-L and SCAR-H, including a common upper receiver and stock and trigger housing and the Mk 13 Enhanced Grenade launcher Module (EGLM) could be attached to either model.

The SCAR Program was a direct outgrowth of the Special Operations Peculiar Modification (SOPMOD) Accessory Kit Program. SOPMOD, which began in the late 1990s, was originally planned to include a total of 4 developmental blocks. Among other features, the Block II kit was feature specialized upper receivers for long range and close quarters battle (CQB) with matching optics and noise and flash signature reduction. The long range upper was referred to as the Special Purpose Reciever (SPR), while close quarters upper was referred to as the CQB Reciever (CQBR). Block II also included the development of an Enhanced Grenade Launcher Module (EGLM). By 2001, a development of an Enhanced Carbine (EC), readily configurable in all 3 configurations (standard, CQB, and light sniper/automatic rifle) was proposed for the FY05 time frame as part of either Block III or Block IV.

The individual components, initially intended to be parts of the SOPMOD kit, began to be split off from the program. In 2002, SPR development became separate and complete weapons utilizing the reciever design were designated as Mk 12 Special Purpose Rifles. The CQBR also eventually became a complete weapon, designated as the Mk 18 Close Quarters Carbine.

In 2002, the US Army's Project Manager for Soldier Weapons issued an urgent requirement for the development of a lightweight carbine, to be designated as the XM8, as a replacement for the M4 carbine in regular US Army units. The US Army's Objective Individual Combat Weapon (OICW) contract was subsequently modified to include this weapon. USSOCOM expressed an interest initially in this weapon as possibly fitting the requirements for the SOCOM EC, but the decision was subsequently made to go with a separate design.

Between 2003 and 2004, the ELGM and EC elements were also split from the SOPMOD program, with the latter initially referred to as the Special Operations Forces Combat Rifle (SCR). The SCR was to include carbine, CQB, and light sniper/automatic rifle variants (already referred to as the "Light" and the "Heavy"). It would also include multiple caliber interchangeable sub-modules. Initially, the calibers specified would be the standard NATO calibers of 5.56x45mm and 7.62x51mm, along with the standard Soviet 5.45x39mm and 7.62x39mm cartridges still in use in Russia and widely proliferated. Interested as expressed in new developments such as the 6.8mm Remington Special Purpose Cartridge and heavier sniper cartridges such as a short cased .338 Lapua variant.

Subsequently known as the Special Operations Combat Assault Rifle (SCAR), the weapon was intended to give the special operations force (SOF) Operator a weapon that was specifically designed for SOF by SOF. The SCAR would improve mission performance of SOF by providing them with a reliable and accurate rifle. It would be a weapon of maximized lethality, superior to the M4A1 through versatility, fire control and target acquisition both day and night during CQB and to ranges of 800 meters.

On 5 November 2004, USSOCOM announced that it had selected a weapon designed by FN USA, the US subsidiary of FN Herstal of Belgium as the winner of the SCAR competition. USSOCOM's SCAR Program provided the first, truly modular, and reliable assault rifle designed and built from the ground up for the finest fighting forces in the world. It was intended to be reliable and accurate, and use a variety of calibers, interchangeable components, with the thresholds being the NATO standard 5.56mm and 7.62mm cartridges. This meant that the system was to initially be acquired in 2 configurations: SCAR-Light (SCAR-L) and SCAR-Heavy (SCAR-H). Evolutionary variants such as a sniper and close quarters battle configurations of both types were planned. The SCAR was intended to replace the Mk 11 7.62mm sniper rifle), the 5.56mm Mk 12 Special Purpose Rifle, the SOPMOD's Close Quarters Battle Reciever (which subsequently became the Mk 18 Close Quarters Carbine), the M4A1 Carbine and various iterations of the M14 in use.

The SCAR-L 5.56x45mm assault rifle was expected to serve as the baseline weapon from which a SCAR family of weapons. It was the intent of the SCAR. The SCAR-L was a 5.56x45mm select-fire semi-automatic and full-automatic shoulder fired weapon. SCAR-L was to be the first increment of the SCAR Program's Spiral Development process. It was not required that the SCAR-L be modular for variation in caliber, rather that the SCAR-L be optimized for the 5.56x45mm variants. The SCAR-L would have the ability to interchange different barrel configurations to form 3 variants: Close Quarters Combat (CQC), Standard (S), and Sniper Version (SV).

The threshold requirement for the SCAR-L was for it to be adaptable to the 3 separate barrel lengths for varying mission requirements. The standard barrel would have the length necessary to accurately engage targets to 500 meters while maximizing terminal effects. The CQC barrel would have the length necessary to accurately engage targets to 200 meters while maximizing terminal effects. The SV would have a barrel length optimized to accurately engage targets to 800 meters and beyond while maximizing terminal effects.

The SCAR-H would possess the ability for caliber modularity (open architecture platform), while still being designed around the baseline caliber of 7.62x51mm. Alternate calibers included 7.62x39mm and future enhanced calibers were also to be considered.

After the contract award the SCAR-L was designated as the EX 16 Mod 0, while the SCAR-H was designated as the EX 17 Mod 0. The requirements for interoperability with the EGLM that had been included with the SCAR requirements meant that the winner of the SCAR competition was also selected as the contractor for the EGLM. FN's EGLM design was subsequently designated as the EX 13 Mod 0. By 2007, the 3 weapons had been type classified as standard as the Mk 16 Mod 0, Mk 17 Mod 0, and Mk 13 Mod 0 respectively.

In June 2010, reported that USSOCOM had announced that it was cancelling the SCAR-L component, because the system did not provide enough of a performance increase over existing M4A1 carbines and other 5.56mm weapons in inventory to justify the expenditure. Three of USSOCOM's 4 service components recieved the M4 type from their parent service as a service common equipment item, further reducing cost. USSOCOM intended to continue to purchase the Mk 17 Mod 0 SCAR H and also announced in 2010 the decision to acquire a sniper support rifle variant of the SCAR-H, designated as the Mk 20. FN USA and FN Herstal released pretty releases in July 2010 refuting this claim.

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