Special ops use Belgian gun in Afghan war
An unconventional Belgian assault rifle is emerging as the favorite of U.S. special operations forces looking for more firepower to turn the tide in Afghanistan.
The Special Operations Forces Combat Assault Rifle — also known as SCAR — is intended to redress the shortcomings of the M-4, an updated version of the M-16 which has been in service since the mid 1960s.
The U.S. military's workhorse rifle did well in Iraq, where much of the fighting was in urban settings. But its light rounds have underperformed in Afghanistan.
An Army study found that the M-4s 5.56mm bullets don't retain enough velocity beyond 1,000 feet to kill an adversary. NATO commanders say U.S. firepower cannot always respond adequately to Taliban sharpshooters firing from 2,000 to 2,500 feet.
The SCAR, manufactured by Belgian gunmaker FN Herstal, fulfills a specific special operations forces requirement for an easily modifiable rifle that can be used for both urban combat and for extended-distance shooting. It accommodates not just the two main Western rifle calibers — the L-model for the light 5.56mm rounds and H-model for the heavier-hitting 7.62mm rounds — but also barrels of different lengths in both calibers. Many of the components can be interchanged between the two models, and both versions allow soldiers to quickly switch barrels.
The U.S. Special Operations Command, based in Tampa, first tested the SCAR in Afghanistan in 2009.