The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) is seeking a close quarter battle (CQB) sighting system that can be used on the L7A2 General Purpose Machine Gun (GPMG) to enable operators to undertake CQB scenarios when using the GPMG weapon system.

According to a 16 October Public Information Notice (PIN), the UK MoD will bring the L7A2 CQB sight into service through the Support Weapons Enhanced Sighting System (SWESS) project. The sight, destined for British Army use, will be “in-line” and useable in all light conditions, the PIN stated.

The programme value is thought to run up to £20m ($24.37m), with a maximum of six industry vendors being invited to participate, states the MoD.  

The project to procure a GPMG CQB sight began in November 2022 when the UK MoD’s Dismounted Close Combat Project Team awarded framework agreements for the following sighting system variants for use on the GPMG: SWESS Light Night Sight: Zero-light (thermal) sighting system; SWESS Light In-Line Sight: Zero to day light (thermal in line with direct view optic) sighting system; and SWESS Light Battlesight – Quick acquisition day optic.

Within the original SWESS Light Framework competitions the MoD stated industry would be invited to re-tender for the three framework agreements at periodic intervals within the seven-year contract duration. This would allow industry to make available the most up-to-date capability for the British Army, states the published PIN.

The original timeline for the CQB procurement envisaged a Dynamic Pre-Qualifier Questionnaire issuance in July 2023, followed by an invitation to tender in August. It was anticipated that evaluation of requirements using loaned trial systems would take place in September/October, with a framework award in November.

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Following the outcome of the competition, the contract to deliver the system is scheduled to begin in Q1 2024, concluding in Q1 2029.

A history of the GPMG

According to the British Army, the L7A2 GPMG is a 7.62mm x 51mm belt-fed GPMG that can be used as a light weapon and in a sustained fire (SF) role.

In the SF role, mounted on a tripod and fitted with the C2 optical sight, it is fired by a two-man team grouped in a specialist machine gun platoon to provide battalion-level fire support. In SF mode, the GPMG, with a two-man crew, lays down 750 rounds-per-minute at ranges up to 1,800m.

The GPMG can be carried by foot soldiers and employed as a light machine gun (LMG). A fold-out bipod is used to support the GPMG in the LMG role. Versions of the GPMG are mounted on most British Army vehicles and some helicopters.

In service since the 1960s, the GPMG was manufactured by Manroy Engineering in the UK, which in 2017 was acquired by FN Herstal to form FNH UK, a subsidiary of Belgian weapons OEM FN Herstal.

The British Army is embarking on widespread modernisation of its infantry-carried small arms, and recently awarded a deal for a new battle rifle for the UK Special Forces and Ranger Regiment. It is thought that this award could inform an eventual replacement for the SA80A3 infantry rifle currently in service, under Project Grayburn.