The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) is set to invest an initial amount of £5.4m to upgrade the British Army’s standard SA80 combat rifle as part of efforts to equip soldiers with enhanced equipment.
Under the MoD’s Mid Life Improvement (MLI) project, the army’s existing SA80 A2 handheld assault weapon will be upgraded to the improved SA80 A3 model by German defence manufacturing company Heckler & Koch.
The enhancements to be carried out on the rifle have been designed to ensure that the weapon remains in service until 2025 and beyond.
The investment will help retain approximately 20 highly skilled job opportunities at the company’s small arms factory in Nottingham, UK.
Initially, 5,000 weapons will be modified under the MLI project, with additional weapon upgrades expected to be carried out in the future.
UK Defence Minister Guto Bebb said: “This multi-million-pound upgrade will give our army a lighter, more hardwearing, better-camouflaged combat rifle so our soldiers can perform on the frontline of some of the most dangerous locations across the world.”
Modifications to the weapon will involve painting it with a more durable ‘flat dark earth’ coloured Cerakote coating that would help minimise both the visual and infra-red impact. This will provide operators with better camouflage capability in a range of environments.
In addition, the new coating will provide the British Army with resistance against all weather conditions and abrasion.
The A3 variant is designed to be 100g lighter than the SA80 A2 rifle and features a more streamlined foregrip for easy handling.
It also features a bracket to secure new low light sights that can clip on or in front of the day sight.
These sights are smaller, lighter and require fewer batteries, with effective operation in low light or night conditions.