INFANTRY WEAPONS - SECTOR REPORT 2010
In-Theatre Close Quarter Battle
In the Afghanistan close-quarter battle (CQB) non-standard issue .45-calibre pistols
are being used instead of 9 mm systems whose ‘stopping’ power or lethality has
been questioned. Also, some operators are choosing to carry 7.62 mm assault rifles
in place of issued 5.56 mm weapons, for the same reason. However, these each
carry their own risks when it comes to a round passing through bodies and causing
unintended injury or death to ‘background targets.’
Lessons learned in-theatre are also shaping requirements for many country’s small
As part of the larger Integrated Soldier System Project, the Canadian Small Arms
Replacement Project 2 (SARP2) is aimed at replacing the existing 5.56 mm Colt
Canada C7 and C8 assault rifles.
The programme is designed to provide weapons for the army, navy and air force and
may also include replacement high-powered hunting rifles for the Canadian Rangers.
Phase one of SARP2, which is due to run between 2012 and 2015, will see the
procurement of a pistol to replace the 9mm Browning; a Ranger rifle; an under-slung
grenade launcher replacement for the 40 mm M203; and a combat shotgun
requirement. The second phase, which is planned from 2015 to 2018, includes a
personal defence weapon (PDW) to replace the H&K 9 mm MP5s bought for the
navy and special operations forces (SOFs).
Other Canadian requirements include boarding party weapons for the navy, hand
grenades and breaching systems for method-of-entry teams. The final phase will be
from 2018 to 2022 and will see the replacement of the infantry assault weapons.
The Canadian Forces are also working in partnership with the US Department of
Defense’s (DoD’s) Lightweight Small Arms Technology (LSAT) programme to
develop an assault rifle that can fire both caseless telescoped and cased telescoped
ammunition, which is currently in development. The Canadians have not yet decided
if they will continue with 5.56 mm ammunition.
The Czech Ministry of Defence (MoD) is to issue an international tender for the
selection of a new assault rifle for the Army of the Czech Republic (ACR).
The requirement is for approximately 6,000 assault weapons and CZK2 billion
(US$112 million) has been allocated for this procurement between 2009 and 2014.
Indigenous small-arms manufacturer Ceska Zbrojovka Uhersky Brod is expected to
offer its CZ 805 family of modular assault rifles, which are currently under
Potential bidders may include MPI Group, which will offer the Colt Canada M4
carbine, Heckler & Koch, which would offer variants of the G36 assault weapon
family as well as the HK416 carbine, and FN Herstal, with a variant of the FN Special
Operations Forces Combat Assault Rifle-Light (SCAR-L).
A new personal defence weapon, the Skorpion Evo III, has been launched onto the
export market by the Czech small-arms manufacturer Ceska Zbrojovka (CZ). The
development of the CZ Skorpion Evo III was started as a private venture in 2003 and
was preceded by extensive tests of different design options. The new weapon has
completed factory testing and it is expected to begin production in 2010.
FELIN-equipped troops will carry FAMAS 5.56 mm assault rifles, FN Minimi 5.56 mm
light machine guns or FR F2 7.62 mm precision rifles.
Israel’s next-generation assault rifle, the 5.56 mm Tavor TAR-21, is likely to become
the Israel Defence Force’s (IDF’s) main infantry weapon, having overcome
development problems. The IDF is receiving an initial order for 15,000 TAR-21 rifles
placed in 2003. The weapon is intended to equip four infantry brigades.
The IDF has so far received about a half of its order of 15,000 Tavor rifles and
eventually intends to acquire an additional 40,000. India procured 3,000 TAR-21
rifles for its special forces in 2002 and placed an order for an additional 1,000 rifles in
2008. Other customers of the TAR-21 include Thailand, which received 15,000 rifles
with an option of procuring an additional 30,000; Georgia; and the Philippines.
The Micro Tavor (MTAR-21), now designated as the X95 assault rifle/submachine
gun, was selected to equip IDF special forces.
Older Galil rifles as well as Uzi submachine guns are refurbished at the IWI facility
outside Tel Aviv and have sold to numerous customers, mostly in Asia, Africa and
Latin America. IWI is attempting to enter the US and Australian market with its
Negev 5.56 mm gas-operated, open-bolt, selective fire light machine gun.
The Swedish defence procurement agency (FMV) is planning a procurement
programme to replace its existing stocks of Ak5 (Automatkarbin 5) 5.56 mm assault
rifles, which are undergoing a second upgrade programme. The requirement is to
procure a modified off-the-shelf 5.56 mm assault rifle. The ‘Ak6’ programme, as it is
known, is scheduled for 2019 and 2020. Currently, the Swedish armed forces
operate the 5.56 mm x 45 Saab Bofors Dynamics Ak5 (also known as the CGAS)
which is a derivative of FN Herstal’s FNC assault rifle. In 2006, the FMV awarded
Saab Bofors Dynamics a SEK260 million (US$40 million) contract to upgrade its
existing Ak5s to Ak5C configuration. A four-year programme is due to be completed
in 2010 with a total of 1,500 upgraded weapons being delivered to Swedish forces
The SA80A2 L85A2 assault rifle replacement programme is due to commence
around 2020, but meantime, the U.K. MoD is under-taking a number of upgrades to
the existing A2 variant to bring it up to A3 configuration.
The British Army’s 5.56 mm Light Machine Gun (LMG) or Minimi, has been criticised
for not being accurate and effective beyond 200 metres. The MoD is considering
fitting a longer barrel alongside the bipod foregrip, which is already in service with the
L85A2 assault rifle, Picatinny tri-rail handguard and Picatinny top cover.
Meanwhile, the MoD is preparing to evaluate US Ordnance’s M60E4/M43 and FN
Herstal’s 7.62 mm Minimi as part of its LMG requirement. The MoD is seeking
procurement of 190 LMGs and ancillaries in a deal worth between £10 million and
£20 million. A lighter and more mobile weapon system with greater stopping power
than the 5.56 mm Minimi LMG has been called for by British troops operating in
Afghanistan. Both the 5.56 mm Light Support Weapon and Minimi LMG have come
in for criticism for lacking sufficient stopping power. The UK is considering following
the US with the development of a lighter .50-calibre machine gun.
A request for information (RfI) was released in May 2009 for a “close-quarter
lethality” weapon, aimed at providing a 5.56 mm system for use in “confined” spaces.
For CQB scenarios, conventional UK forces have access to the 5.56 mm L22A2
carbine, a short-barrelled version of the SA80A2 assault rifle as used by armoured
units and the Army Air Corps.
However, the MoD is looking to acquire 300 weapons in a contract worth around
EUR7.25 million (US$10.3 million). A modified off-the-shelf weapon is expected to
be selected. Weapons trials had been due to start in December 2009 but the status
of the programme is currently uncertain
UK forces are also to receive a semi-automatic 7.62 mm x 51 mm ‘sharpshooter’
weapon to combat Taliban forces engaging beyond the maximum effective range of
the 5.56 mm L85A2 assault rifle. In a US$2.5 million deal the UK MoD has
contracted Law Enforcement International (LEI) to supply 440 LM7 semi-automatic
rifles. This UOR stems from calls from troops for a weapon that they can
comfortably patrolled with and can engage contacts out to 800 metres. This will be
re-designated the L129A1 and it will be manufactured by Lewis Machine & Tool
Company in the United States, with deliveries expected to begin in early 2010.
The MoD is also considering procurement of a more powerful 40 mm round for the
Heckler & Koch (H&K) underslung grenade launcher to provide “more powerful
A replacement is also expected for around 20,000 Browning 9 mm pistols over the
next few years. This follows a UOR which saw an undisclosed number of 9 mm SIG
Sauer P226 pistols delivered to UK forces in Afghanistan. The P226, designated the
L105A2, will be considered in the procurement of a new combat pistol as well as in
the role of a personal defence weapon.
The US is believed to be finalising plans for a request for proposals (RfP) for a
replacement programme for 5.56 mm M16 rifles and M4 carbines. An alternative
being considered by the US Army is modernisation of the existing Colt Defense M4
carbine, as there are approximately 500,000 weapons currently in service with US
Army requirements include improvements to individual weapon performance in the
areas of accuracy and dispersion, reliability and durability in all environments,
modularity and terminal performance. H&K has confirmed that it will offer its 5.56
mm HK416 carbine for the replacement programme. Other companies expressing
interest include: AAI, Armwest, Barrett, Bushmaster/Remington, FN Herstal,
Polytech, KAC, POF, Precision Reflex, Robinson Armament, Sabre Defense, SIG
Sauer, Smith & Wesson, Superior Tooling and Troy Industries.
The US Army’s RDECOM has been supporting the development of the Lightweight
Small Arms Technologies (LSAT) programme since 2004. It has developed its own
light machine gun (LMG) with performance equal to or better than the 5.56 mm M249
Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW), as manufactured by FNM. System
demonstrations are due to be completed by September 2011, culminating in the
conclusion of the second LSAT contract, worth around US$28 million. The original
contract, for a similar amount, ran from April 2004 until September 2008 and was
worth around US$27 million.
A total of eight LMGs are being manufactured for the tests. Future versions of LSAT
could include a medium machine gun, comprising an intermediate calibre which
could replace both the 5.56 mm SAW and 7.62 mm medium machine guns, as well
as the .50-calibre heavy machine gun.
Other variants include sniper rifles, personal defence weapons and pistols, with the
latter in 9 mm or .45-calibre
The US Marine Corps (USMC) has selected Heckler & Koch (H&K) Defense to
supply its 5.56 mm Infantry Automatic Rifle (IAR). It is believed that the HK416 IAR
variant has been preferred to two offerings from Colt Defense and FNH USA’s SCAR
variant. The contract will require up to 6,500 weapons by the end of 2010.
The US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) is also planning to equip the whole
US special forces community with FNH USA’s Special Operations Forces Combat
Assault Rifle (SCAR) in 2010, following a limited user-evaluation programme in 2009.
Sniper rifles are proving immensely popular on operations in Afghanistan and the
issue of Accuracy International’s .338-calibre L115A3 sniper system to UK forces
has “increased range and lethality” for British snipers.
Accuracy International has plans to unveil a new series of sniper rifles in response to
such increasing requirements. In 2010, the company will launch the AX-series:
higher capacity, modular bolt-action and semi-automatic weapons in 7.62 mm, .300-
calibre Winchester Magnum and .338-calibre systems. The move is part of a
response to the U.S. DoD’s requirement for a Precision Sniper Rifle (PSR), which will
now be fielded across the tri-services in the US along with increasing requirements
for longer precision weaponry capable of engaging targets at ranges over 1,000
The move follows development of Accuracy International’s semi-automatic AS50 .50-
calibre (12.7 mm) anti-materiel rifle, initially developed for evaluation by the US Navy
Sea, Air and Land (SEAL) special forces teams and which has now been short-listed,
along with Barrett Firearms Manufacturing, for the UK MoD’s Long-Range Precision
Anti-Structure (LRPAS) Sniper Requirement.
21st April 2010