By any measure, the level of professionalism and training of its members, the sophistication of its tactics and its equipment, or simply its successes, the U.S. military is the finest armed force in the world. And while the majority of the military is made up of conventional forces, the cold, hard realties of today’s unstable post-Cold War world demand that some missions employ unconventional forces.
That is where America’s Special Operations Forces (SOF) come into play. Often referred to as “the tip of the spear” of our armed forces, they include components from each branch of the U.S. military, and these forces have gained even more recognition since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, synchronizing planning of global operations against terrorist networks.
To help ensure that the SOF groups from each of the branches of the military are trained, organized and equipped in a concerted manner, the U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) was created just over 20 years ago. Its purpose was to bring all these specialized forces under a single banner.
As a result of their radically varied missions, USSOCOM forces employ a broad range of firearms in a variety of chamberings, and some were not fully suited to all tasks. In 2003 USSOCOM approved a Joint Operational Requirements Document (JORD) to search for a new selective-fire rifle. The purpose of the program, titled SCAR (SOF Combat Assault Rifle), was to develop a new rifle “designed for SOF by SOF,” with operator input required in the initiation, generation, testing and selection of the new system.
The requirements called for a system chambered in 5.56x45 mm NATO or 7.62x51 mm NATO (and others in some cases) in a variety of configurations. As a result, the SCAR needed to not only be adaptable to multiple chamberings, but also multiple configurations. Reliability, durability and accuracy were important considerations in the design as well.
In response to the JORD, manufacturers offered submissions to the SCAR trials. Out of these trials emerged an offering from a company well versed in producing firearms for the U.S. military—FN Herstal. “FN won the full and open SCAR competition because we showed up with a weapon that met, and more often exceeded, USSOCOM’s requirements. And this was not just an existing weapon that we tweaked to compete; the FN SCAR was built from the ground up, combining some of the best features from numerous weapon designs all aimed at the primary requirements of modularity, reliability, accuracy and durability,” said Gabe Bailey, FNHUSA’s marketing director for Combat Rifles & Technical Support. In fact, the company, which produces the GAU-21, M16s, M249 and M240 variants for the U.S. military, knows how to produce high-quality firearms to the most stringent specifications. FN has also broken new ground with some of its more innovative offerings, like the top-loading P90 personal defense weapon and bullpup-configured F2000 rifle.