British Army seeks new assault rifle for its new special operations brigade

The British government has issued a tender for the purchase of an initial batch of about 10,000 new rifles, which will be different from the Army's standard SA80 

British Army seeks new assault rifle for its new special operations brigade

A British soldier taking aim with his SA-80.  Photo: CPL Rebecca Brown/MOD

The British Army is looking for a new assault rifle for its Special Operations Brigade. The British government has issued a tender for the purchase of an initial batch of about 10,000 new rifles, which will be different from the Army's standard SA80. Currently, elements across the UK’s Special Forces are equipped with a mixture of L119A1/A2 carbines and L85A2 rifles. The new rifle will likely be issued to some existing units as well as the new four battalion-strong brigade.

The tender issued by the UK Ministry of Defence on July 26 calls for a rifle system made up of a rifle and a "signature reduction system", namely a suppressor, as well as a suitable optic. According to the Firearm Blog website, the Alternative Individual Weapon (AIW) System will likely be an AR-15 pattern weapon, as the term "Armalite Rifle" is used. The term has been in use since the British Army purchased its first AR-15 and M16 pattern rifles in the early 1960s. The term has also encompassed the C7 and C8s purchased from Diemaco/Colt Canada. The ministry made clear that the rifle will be of standard configurations, "not bullpup, with the magwell in front of the trigger housing," according to the report.

The website said that UK tenders of this sort are especially interesting as they offer a glimpse of doctrine and thinking regarding small arms, as the replacement of the SA80 weapon system is not planned for at least a decade. It will be interesting to see what is submitted and selected. Weapons which fit the broad criteria which may be submitted include the HK416, Colt Canada’s C8, the LWRC IC, SIG Sauer’s MCX or the LMT MARS amongst others – including some strictly non-AR-15 pattern weapons like the BREN 2 or the HK433, the report said. 

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