Stephen W. Miller – FN America displayed its MK48 Mod 2 Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW) prototype chambered for the 6.5mm Creedmoor (CR) round at the recent Special Operations Forces Industry Conference (SOFIC).
The 6.5mm was recently chosen by the US Army as its selected caliber for its Next Generation Squad Automatic Rifle programme which is intended to replace the current 5.56mm M249 SAW. The MK48 is a version of the SAW that was adopted by the US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) in 2003 to fill the need for a compact 7.62mm medium machine gun.
In offering the 6.5mm CR FN has provided an automatic light machine gun with performance approaching heavier calibers in the proven in service weapon. An FN spokesperson shared that “The 6.5mm is intended to be offered as an upgrade kit that will allow armorers to configure existing MK48 Mod 1 weapons to Mod 2 and 6.5 caliber.”
In addition to the option for chambering to the 6.5mm CR, FN had introduced a number of improvements to the weapon design. A FN release identified these as including “a stock adjustable for length of pull and cheek height, a locking charging handle, improved double-notched sear, improved handguard with 3-, 6- and 9-o’clcok positions, improved bipod and more robust feed-tray.”
The MK48 Mod 2 was developed in response to a SOCOM requirement for a small unit machine gun with increased range and lethality over the 5.59 SAW but also lower weight than the 7.62mm. As it turns out the 6.5mm CR has actually demonstrated better range than the 7.62mmx51.
It also addresses selected areas of the weapon design which have been improved to enhance shooter performance and reliability. The resulting weapon could well be an interesting and strong contender for the US Army Next Generation Automatic Rifle (NGAW-AR) which is to seek proposals later this year. It has the advantages of being a proven weapon, with established logistics, and training.
It could also be attractive since both the Army and Marines have indicated that their ‘new’ squad automatic weapons would not replace all the M249 SAWs currently fielded. SOCOM aims to begin receiving the new weapon in 2019. Given this fielding a MK48 Mod 2 based NGAR would also likely be able to delivered to the US Army far earlier than its required 2022 date.