Infantry: July 13, 2002

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: The 7 July UK Telegraph reported that several unnamed senior British Army officers are calling for the Government to scrap the fault-prone SA80-A2 assault rifle, after several of the 5.56mm bullpup rifles failed to fire during operations in Afghanistan. Also, troops have complained that the rifles are not balanced, the optical sight easily steams up so it can't be used and it can't be fired by the left-handed.

The officers fear that the SA80-A2, which recently underwent a $140.2 million (92 million) upgrade, will wind up costing British soldiers' lives. In June 2000, 200,000 of the 330,000 SA80 rifles and machineguns issued to the Services were to be withdrawn for re-engineering. Director of Infantry Brigadier Seymour Monro also called for the immediate replacement of the SA80 Light Support Weapon (LSW, the light machinegun version of the SA80) in July 2000, after criticism of its performance during the Kosovo campaign. He declared it inadequate for close combat, because it needed constant reloading and could not provide sustained fire.

The SA80 has already been a costly experiment: individual weapons sell for about $457 (300) and the A2 conversion added $685 (450)-per-rifle conversion. The senior officers want to replace it with the Heckler and Koch 5.56mm G36, versions of which have already being tested by the Special Air Service (who are believed to have used it with great success in Afghanistan). The German and the Spanish military have also allegedly signed contracts to equip their armed forces with the G36. - Adam Geibel

For more information online, see the MOD Briefing - SA80 Modification Program at http://news.mod.uk/stories/2001/oct/sa80qa.doc 


 


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