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Columbia plant in the running to build Army's next-gen weapon

Updated: Jul. 16, 2018 at 8:49 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - It's been a military mainstay since the eighties. It combines firepower, accuracy, and maneuverability into a single package, but the Army wants a replacement for this light machine gun called the M249 SAW.

It could be a Columbia manufacturer that gives the Army - and the world - just that.

"FN America is absolutely wonderful to have here in the Midlands. They provide a lot of jobs and, obviously, provide our soldiers everything they need to sustain themselves on the battlefield," said Dan Beatty, the Chairman of Military Outreach for the Columbia Chamber of Commerce.

To Beatty, FN America is a company he can brag about. It's headquartered in Virginia but does its manufacturing at its Columbia plant on Old Clemson Road, where it employs close to 500 people. 

"FN Manufacturing builds a wide array of weapons from pistols, automatic weapons, sniper weapons, and everything in between," he said.

Back to the Army's request for a new machine gun, FN has been tapped as one of five companies that'll design a prototype - in hopes of winning the Army over - and winning a contract to make them.

"That's absolutely huge and a great benefit to the Midlands - great opportunity for jobs," Beatty said.

Insiders say the new gun would give FN more predictability and more consistency - factors that could help the manufacturer become an even bigger player in Columbia.

FN, in a press release, said it's ready to deliver a solution to the Army that is truly next generation.

It'll have a year to develop two prototypes.

The Army is looking for a weapon that is smaller, lighter, and more accurate.

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