SOCOM Is Doubling Down On The 'Super SAW' Machine Gun

Military Tech

U.S. Special Operations Command plans on continuing to equip operators with FN America’s Mk 46 spec-ops designed M249 Squad Automatic Weapon variant and the beefed-up Mk 48 “super SAW,” doubling down on the two lightweight machine guns adopted nearly 15 years ago amid a major overhaul of the military’s small arms arsenal.


The Department of Defense recently awarded FN America, a South Carolina-based arms manufacturer, a $13.45 million contract to provide both the 5.56mm Mk 46 and 7.62mm Mk 48 light machine guns to SOCOM, The Firearm Blog reports. The contract represents an increase over SOCOM’s $11.5 million deal in 2010 for the two weapons, which FN specially designed for Naval Special Warfare starting back in 2004.

The Mk 46 and Mk 48, though they eclipse their SAW cousin in range, firepower, and ergonomics, have their own unique set of problems. The Mk 48 in particular “had a tendency to lose accuracy due to how much the weapon would shake during sustained firing,” The War Zone observed in May. “There were also problems with overheating and the gas system filling quickly with carbon, the latter issue leading to jamming unless operators thoroughly cleaned the weapon regularly.”

But it’s worth noting that the new contract with FN comes just a few months after SOCOM officials unveiled plans for a so-called “assault machine gun” chambered in 6.5mm Creedmoor, a smaller cartridge than the standard 7.62mm ammo that remains more effective for long-range fire support than the 5.56mm M249 SAW ammo. Here are the details of SOCOM’s new intermediate caliber ammo, per The War Zone:

In testing in 2017, special operators shooting rifles modified to fire6.5mm Creedmoor were twice as likely to hit their targets compared those using control guns in the existing 7.62x51mm NATO cartridge. Special Operations Command also evaluated .260 Remington and collected data on the performance of all three types of ammunition in the FN Mk 20 Mod 0 Sniper Support Rifle, the Knight’s Armament Company M110 Semi-Automatic Sniper System (SASS), and Heckler and Koch M110A1 Compact Semi-Automatic Sniper System (CSASS).

The testing also showed that the 6.5mm versions of the weapons have 40 percent greater range and less recoil than their 7.62mm counterparts. The round was 30 percent less susceptible to wind drift, as well, making it more precise at those distances.

A briefing slide detailing the selection of the 6.5mm Creedmoor cartridgeU.S. Special Operations Command via Soldier Systems

That transition, though initially hinted at in an April 2017 Military Times report, also appears to coincide with the U.S. Army’s long-running push for an intermediate caliber for its own M249 SAW and M4 carbine replacement in the Next Generation Squad Automatic Rifle, albeit chambered in the slightly-larger 6.8mm, as Task & Purpose reported in May. If the Army is whipping together the NGSAR with an intermediate caliber to fix warfighters’ so-called “range gap,” then it follows that perhaps SOCOM might pursue a new “assault machine gun” as well and leave the tried-and-true MK 46/Mk 48 duo behind, right?

Maybe not: SOCOM’s move to reinvest in its Mk 48 arsenal suggests that perhaps weapons planners have managed to identify a combination of existing upgrades to the beloved “super SAW” to accommodate the intermediate caliber — a move that, as The War Zone pointed out, might actually enhance the efficiency of the occasionally buggy Mk 48 or “improve the situation with minimal effort.” Indeed, another briefing slide from SOCOM's ammo update showed the development of an "assault machine gun" chambered in 6.5mm that appears to show the Mk 48.

A briefing slide detailing the timeline for the development of an "assault machine gun" chambered in 6.5mmU.S. Special Operations Command via Soldier Systems

All of this is to say that SOCOM’s super SAW may have picked up some additional bite. After all, the new contract does include upgrades and engineering assistance from FN America, which might suggest that SOCOM plans on rejiggering the super SAW for the next big fight.

SOCOM officials did not immediately respond to request for comment from Task & Purpose, but we’ll update this post with more information as it becomes available.

WATCH NEXT:

U.S. Air Force
(Reuters/Kevin Lamarque)

SEOUL (Reuters) - The United States looks set to break a promise not to hold military exercises with South Korea, putting talks aimed at getting North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons at risk, the North Korean Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday.

The United States' pattern of "unilaterally reneging on its commitments" is leading Pyongyang to reconsider its own commitments to discontinue tests of nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), the ministry said in a pair of statements released through state news agency KCNA.

Read More Show Less
(Courtesy of Roman Sabal)

A deported Marine Corps veteran who has been unable to come back to the U.S. for more than a decade was denied entry to the country Monday morning when he asked to be let in for a scheduled citizenship interview.

Roman Sabal, 58, originally from Belize, came to the San Ysidro Port of Entry around 7:30 on Monday morning with an attorney to ask for "parole" to attend his naturalization interview scheduled for a little before noon in downtown San Diego. Border officials have the authority to temporarily allow people into the country on parole for "humanitarian or significant public benefit" reasons.

Read More Show Less
Jeff Schogol

Navy Secretary Richard Spencer took the reins at the Pentagon on Monday, becoming the third acting defense secretary since January.

Spencer is expected to temporarily lead the Pentagon while the Senate considers Army Secretary Mark Esper's nomination to succeed James Mattis as defense secretary. The Senate officially received Esper's nomination on Monday.

Read More Show Less

U.S. Special Operations Command may be on the verge of making the dream of flying infantry soldiers a reality, but the French may very well beat them to it.

On Sunday, French President Emmanuel Macron shared an unusual video showing a man on a flying platform — widely characterized as a "hoverboard" — maneuvering through the skies above the Bastille Day celebrations in Paris armed with what appears to be a dummy firearm.

The video was accompanied with a simple message of "Fier de notre armée, moderne et innovante," which translates to "proud of our army, modern and innovative," suggesting that the French Armed Forces may be eyeing the unusual vehicle for potential military applications.

Read More Show Less
(New Jersey National Guard photo by Mark C. Olsen)

If you've ever wondered if the Pentagon has ever exposed the American public to ticks infected with biological weapons, you're not alone.

Rep. Christopher Smith (R-N.J.) authored an amendment to the House version of the Fiscal 2020 National Defense Authorization Act would require the Defense Department Inspector General's Office to find out if the U.S. military experimented with using ticks and other insects as biological weapons between 1950 and 1975.

If such experiments took place, the amendment would require the inspector general's office to tell lawmakers if any of the ticks or other bugs "were released outside of any laboratory by accident or experiment design."

Read More Show Less