FightLite Reveals Next Generation Squad Automatic MCR and Lightweight Polymer Ammo.
FightLite® Industries, a division of ARES Defense Systems® Inc. located in Melbourne, Florida announces a development program for next generation, lightweight polymer ammunition to work in conjunction with its patented Dual-Feed™ Squad Automatic MCR® (Mission Configurable Rifle).
In a radical departure from the directions of both case telescoped ammunition and conventional polymer ammunition, FightLite® is pursuing an innovative development strategy for a 5th generation hybrid cartridge that is projected to lighten ammunition weight by up to 30% and deliver reduced ammunition cost, while also supporting legacy infantry weapons and machine guns.
There are millions of 5.56mm and 7.62mm NATO weapons in both the US military and around the globe where users stand to benefit from a significant reduction in ammunition weight without sacrificing performance or reliability. FightLite® Industries and its parent organization ARES Defense have been very successful with their outside-the-box approach to problem solving in the small arms business during the past 20 years.
The company’s flagship weapon is its 8.5 lb. select-fire Squad Automatic MCR® that shares the excellent ergonomics of the M4A1 and feeds reliably from both M27-linked ammunition belts and standard M16 magazines at operator discretion. Featuring reliable gas-piston operation and a tool-less quick-change barrel system; the patented MCR® is the lightest and most portable belt fed machine gun in the world. Suppressor and grenade launcher capable, its select-fire operation allows soldiers and contractors to quickly and accurately engage both point and area targets. And when coupled with FightLite’s finalized 5th Gen lightweight cartridge, the MCR® and FightLite® ammo combination will represent the lightest 5.56mm automatic rifle with full combat load available anywhere.
The select-fire FightLite® MCR® is derived from the ARES-16 AMG-2™ (Assault Machine Gun) that was selected for testing by the US Army’s Soldier Enhancement Program (SEP) and includes product enhancements that were made to the AMG-2™ following experience with M855A1 EPR ammunition and earlier military testing done during the Army’s AEWE Spiral H experiment at Fort Benning.
Such enhancements include further weapon weight reduction and simplification, a square shaped feed roller housing, a heat treated steel feed plate that reduces feed ramp wear from M855A1 steel tipped projectiles, refinements in the breech bolt lug profile, a reinforced charging handle assembly, the company’s highly effective RipBrake™ muzzle compensator, and a proprietary method of mitigating cookoff risk while maintaining a select-fire, closed bolt system of operation that is more accurate and user-friendly than standard open-bolt light machine guns.
Some additional key elements of the MCR® are that it shares a 52% part commonality with existing NSN components already in the government system and the core technology can retrofit to any MIL-Spec AR15, M16 or M4 type lower receiver; meaning that it is rearward compatible to the very first Colt Mod. 01 (M16) manufactured in 1960. These accomplishments reduce a military’s logistical footprint and costs including spare components and operator and armorer training. Additionally, the dual-feed MCR® permits squad automatic rifle users to operate during the assault with 100 and 200 round magazines of M27-linked ammunition, but also retains the ability to reliably feed from 4179 STANAG (M16/M4) magazines from other squad members should linked ammunition run low during combat.
“The Army and some of our commercial customers have been interested in lightweight ammunition for quite some time, so our R&D team is pretty excited about the progress we’re making to finally solve the elusive lightweight ammunition equation for conventional rifles and machine guns,” says Geoffrey Herring, CEO of ARES Defense Systems®. “We’re aware that various iterations of polymer cased ammunition have been introduced to the commercial market during the past several years, but we also know some of the setbacks they’ve experienced along the way such as ballistic underperformance, case melt, moisture absorption, case separation or deformation, and catastrophic failures when the heat or pressure is up. Most of the polymer ammunition manufacturers are employing first through third generation technology which can be predisposed to fail when subjected to rough handling, temperature extremes, environmental conditions, and the pressures necessary for full ballistic performance of modern rifle ammunition.”
Brass cased ammunition has been relied on for over 150 years and has presented many challenges for the arms industry to find an alternative material that accomplishes everything that a standard brass case does. In addition to providing a convenient capsule to house the bullet and components, keep the powder dry and reliably feed into the chamber, it is also a critical gas container that keeps the shooter safe from the 50,000-70,000 psi chamber pressure when the round is fired. When the malleable brass case expands against the chamber wall during obturation, it performs as a mechanical brake reducing bolt loading and embeds many impurities from the chamber such as grit, carbon or unburned propellant into the case body which is then extracted from the chamber in a semi self-cleaning arrangement. Since brass is an excellent thermal conductor, it also absorbs and removes with each shot a small amount of heat generated by the friction of the projectile traveling down the bore. It can be stored for extended periods of time and can tolerate temperature extremes such as freezing cold, rough handling, hazardous environmental conditions and water submersion. But some of the biggest strikes against it are weight and cost, and depending on the individual manufacturer the 12 to 20 step manufacturing process necessary to fabricate a single cartridge.
FightLite® isn’t sharing any proprietary details at this stage about the (5th Generation) construction methods being privately developed in house with IRAD until its patents for the hybrid technology are solidified. But the FightLite® R&D team is systematically addressing and overcoming the hurdles that have plagued early players in the lightweight ammunition space and is confident in its decision to pursue development of a lightweight cartridge that will also support legacy weapons in the US arsenal and NATO countries, and other users around the world.
“Our company’s approach to product development has always been to invest in inclusive technologies that benefit a greater consumer base as exemplified by our MCR® being rearward compatible from today’s production M4A1 to the very first M16’s that the Army ever purchased. To date, our company has produced and delivered thousands of dual-feed MCR® type upper receiver assemblies and rifles throughout the US and overseas, so we’re very comfortable with our product, its capabilities and the ability to produce it,” says Herring. “The primary objective for developing polymer ammunition is to additionally lighten the soldier’s ammunition load by at least 20% and we think that our hybrid case will be able to achieve that while maintaining safety and ballistic performance and also supporting legacy systems. We’ve already accomplished significant weight savings for the soldier with our squad automatic MCR® which currently weighs 50% less than the current M249 and is 3-times more accurate as verified by US military testers during live fire exercises. In fact, our gun was so effective at improving the squad’s speed and mobility during our participation in the Army’s AEWE Spiral H experiment that there is soldier support on record for adding two additional weapons to the current 9-man squad for a total of two of our guns per fire team.”
No firm date is being stated at this time for delivery of FightLite® 5.56mm hybrid ammunition to market. In the interim, FightLite® Industries and its parent organization ARES Defense Systems® will continue supplying its customers with its commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) Squad Automatic MCR® and AMG-2™ weapons which can currently use almost any of the billions of rounds of 5.56 NATO ammunition stockpiled throughout the world. Once the R&D cycle on FightLite® 5.56mm hybrid ammunition is completed, the company will likely either seek mass production of the ammunition through established high-volume ammunition producers or consider licensing its next generation squad automatic rifle (NGSAR) and ammunition technology to one of the USA’s larger prime defense contractors.