On Dec. 8, 2009, Alliant Techsystems (ATK) announced receipt of a $5.8 million contract from the Crane Division of the Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) for the production of Mk. 318 5.56mm and Mk. 319 7.62mm caliber cartridges.
The new Mk. 318 Mod 0 Cartridge, Caliber 5.56mm Ball, Carbine, Barrier; and the Mk. 319 Mod 0 Cartridge, Caliber 7.62mm Ball, Rifle, Barrier will optimize the performance of the Mk. 16 5.56mm and Mk. 17 7.62mm Special Operations Forces Combat Assault Rifles (SCAR).
According to service planners, initial justification behind the two new cartridge designs can be traced back to the Mk. 262 Mod 0 ammunition and Mk. 12 Mod 0/1 Special Purpose Rifle that was initially fielded to U.S. special operations forces late in 2001. Early debates reportedly involved the effectiveness of the ammunition/weapon match in specific close quarter battle (CQB) scenarios.
Those observations prompted an April 2002 “terminal study” of all fielded 5.56mm ammunition – including M855, Mk. 262, M193, M995, and commercial off the shelf 87 grain – with that study followed by creation of a Joint Service Wound Ballistics Integrated Project Team.
Those events coincided with the SCAR Joint Operational Requirements Document, which included a requirement for “enhanced ammunition” with specific characteristics including: shot to shot/lot to lot consistency; accuracy not to exceed two MOA (minutes of angle); performance against intermediate barriers like auto glass and doors; cost as close to current rounds as possible; and terminal effects in CQB and behind barriers.
The enhanced ammunition program was funded in July 2005 with a development contract awarded to ATK in September 2006.
The design concept reportedly includes the front portion of the bullet helping to defeat intermediate barriers while the solid copper back of the bullet provides penetrator effect. Additionally, a “short barrel propellant” was also designed for the new cartridge configuration.
As summarized in the recent ATK announcement, “The 5.56mm and 7.62mm products chosen by Crane were optimized under a development contract to complement gun maker Fabrique Nationale Herstal’s (FNH) newly released Special Operations Combat Assault Rifle (SCAR) weapon system. The SCAR emerged from U.S Special Operations Command (USSOCOM)’s Special Operations Forces Combat Assault Rifle program and is highly modular for easy adaptability to future upgrades and enhanced ammunition designs. The contract ammunition is also compatible with existing 5.56mm and 7.62mm weapons systems and utilizes ATK’s unique barrier defeat projectile. This feature ensures proper functioning through barriers commonly encountered during warfare. ATK led the cartridge development contract for the Mk. 318 and Mk. 319.”
“ATK’s ammunition will play a significant role in ensuring the Crane Division of the Naval Surface Weapons Center can perform its duties,” said ATK Senior Vice President and President Armament Systems Mark DeYoung. “This successful development effort demonstrates the design and production engineering strengths within our business to achieve our goal of meeting customer requirements. This is a clear example of how well our company works with emerging technologies to design programs that fit with market needs.”