New British Army Special Operations rifle could influence SA80 replacement. Project Hunter is nearing down select as efforts continue to procure a new weapon system for the British Army’s Special Operations Brigade. The UK’s efforts to acquire a new battle rifle for the British Army’s Special Operations Brigade appear to be moving forward, with Project Hunter thought to be nearing the down select decision, which in turn could inform the eventual wider replacement of the SA80 series under Project Grayburn.
First entering service in the 1980s, the SA80 bullpup assault rifle has gone through a series of upgrades and iterations, with the SA80A2 being created in 2002 following a mid-life upgrade, followed by the SA80A3 in the mid-to-late-2010s. The latest variant, known as the L85A3, has been gradually rolled out across the British Army.
It has been used by UK forces in recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as more distant conflicts such as the first Gulf War and the unrest in Bosnia as part of UN peacekeeping operations, the SA80 suffered through significant jamming and operational failures when employed in adverse environmental conditions, prior to the introduction of the more recent variants.
Manufactured by Heckler and Koch, the SA80 fires the NATO standard 5.56×44 ammunition.
In January 2022 a Parliamentary written response revealed that the UK had a total inventory of 134,912 SA80A2 variants and 17,900 SA80A3 variants, held across defence.
Hunter to influence Grayburn?
Speaking recently at the Future Soldier Technology conference in London, British Army officials confirmed to Army Technology that Project Hunter was nearing down select, and that, in turn, the results of the programme could influence Project Grayburn, which was still in the concept phase.
The timeline for Project Grayburn to begin sifting through the possible options for an SA80 replacement could be around 2025, with a ‘modular’ weapon system potentially an option.
The UK military has in recent years been exploring the potential to introduce new personal weapons systems for use in special operations units as well as regular forces. In mid-2021, a contract notice was issued detailing the planned procurement and support of an Armalite rifle platform Alternative Individual Weapon (AIW) system. (Source: army-technology.com)
FNH UK is presenting a family of weapons, all with a common Receiver, which the company is offering for Op Grayburn, the SA-80 replacement contract. The Editor has fired the whole Range.
The weapons on display included, the SCAR Sub Compact (SC) carbine, the FN EVOLYS™ 7.62 Ultralight Machine Gun, and the FN SCAR®-H MK2 Assault Rifle (7.62X51MM NATO CAL)
FN SCAR®-H MK2 Assault Rifle (7.62X51MM NATO CAL)
The FN SCAR®-H Mk2 STD assault rifle is chambered in 7.62x51mm NATO calibre and is available with barrels of various lengths (13” or 16”) . These barrels are interchangeable in less than 5 minutes.
The SCAR Sub Compact (SC) on display was fitted with the Aimpoint T2 with spacer (32mm). The SCAR H was fitted with the Zeiss 3x30i with FN reticle. As a complement to the renowned FN SCAR® assault rifles, grenade launcher and precision rifles, FN Herstal proposes the FN SCAR®-SC Subcompact Carbine in 5.56x45mm NATO or 7.62x35mm/.300 BLK calibre. Regardless of the calibre, the FN SCAR®-SC is extremely compact and comes standard with a standard telescopic buttstock allowing a 3-position length adjustment. A wide choice of additional buttstock configurations are available to best suit to user morphology and mission at hand.
FN EVOLYS™ Machine Gun Range.
The strapline on the FN web site says that the FN EVOLYS™ fires like a machine gun and handles like a rifle. That description was spot on. The FN EVOLYS™ has an added extra of an anti-recoil absorption pad at the end of the buttstock which by its very description absorbs all the recoil and allows the shooter to keep the machine gun on target for better accuracy. This was the first time that the Editor had fired a machine gun from the standing position. The results were excellent with the lightness and modular design showing through on the handling of the weapon and ability to keep rounds on target during bursts of fire. The FN EVOLYS™ has been developed in two calibres, 5.56x45mm NATO and 7.62x51mm NATO.
FN EVOLYS™ 7.62 Ultralight Machine Gun
The brand new FN EVOLYS™ Ultralight Machine Gun combines the firing capabilities of a belt-fed machine gun with ergonomics and balance similar to an assault rifle, and complements the existing FN machine gun portfolio. The FN EVOLYS™ has been developed in two calibres, 5.56x45mm NATO and 7.62x51mm NATO. The FN EVOLYS™ 7.62, with a weight of approx. 6.2 kilos, is much lighter than current reference machine guns. The sight on the Evolys 7.62mm was the new Elcan Specter DR1.5-6x (7.62).
Thermoteknix shares latest advancement in night-time defence
Thermoteknix is showcasing its latest advancement in night-time defence at Eurosatory 2022, a system that brings together augmented reality (AR), thermal imaging and ATAK (Android Team Awareness Kit) capabilities. Thermoteknix’ Augmented Reality Tactical Interface Module (ARTIM) is able to display AR in thermal mode (or without thermal), while also displaying Blue Force Tracking and target information from ATAK or another central command system. Thermoteknix released a prototype of ARTIM in 2021. ARTIM delivers heads-up situational awareness to the equipped user during outdoor on-the-move operations. ARTIM mounts to the back of the helmet to track where the user is located and where they are looking, receiving/publishing networked PLI (Position Location Information) data, and rendering an augmented reality overlay to the user. Data is displayed by the Thermoteknix ClipIR XD – a thermal imaging clip-on device mounting on an NVG, providing not only augmented reality data but also thermal imaging fusion. The system delivers heads-up navigation and tracking of friendlies, using GPS and digital terrain elevation data (DTED) to deliver accurate visualisation of geo-spatial information. ARTIM integrates with most digitalised soldier systems and secure communication networks to offer real-time data sharing and instant situational awareness for collaboration across teams and agencies.
“Thermoteknix is committed to delivering state-of-the-art thermal imaging technology that is designed and manufactured in the UK and plays a crucial role in equipping troops around the world, who operate in the most challenging of environments,” said Thermoteknix Managing Director, Dr Richard Salisbury. “ARTIM is the latest technology from our R&D team which is transforming battlefield technology and we continue to develop world-leading solutions that enhances military technology advantage.”
Thermoteknix is working with military forces and civilian law enforcement agencies around the world to integrated ARTIM and ClipIR XD Thermal Clip-on Systems into their night-time resources to enhance situational awareness and threat detection capabilities at low light or no light situations. The ClipIR XD Thermal Clip-on System converts existing monocular or binocular night vision devices by fusing thermal imaging and night vision technologies to provide superior tactical advantages compared to standard night vision or thermal imaging alone. The UK MoD has already procured over £3m worth of thermal and AR capabilities from Thermoteknix for the British Army. Thermoteknix designs and manufactures specialist defence and security solutions, including thermal imagers, night vision, fused night vision and target location systems, used by military and civil security forces around the world.
Excelitas Technologies Showcase Night Vision, Thermal and Fused Sighting, Surveillance and Target Location Solutions.
Excelitas Technologies® Corp., a leading industrial technology manufacturer focused on delivering innovative, market-driven photonic solutions, highlight its broad offering of components, modules and system solutions for night vision, thermal and fused sighting, surveillance and target location applications requiring the highest quality and reliability.
Featured products for dismounted operators include:
- DRAGON C12-XR Uncooled Thermal Weapon Sight: The DRAGON C12-XR is a high-performance multi-role system that delivers extended range performance in a compact, lightweight and rugged package. This uncooled thermal weapon sight is well suited to longer-range sharpshooter and machine gun support weapons, particularly platforms with restricted rail space.
- EAGLE Binocular Night Vision Goggle: A rugged binocular night vision goggle, EAGLE provides users with enhanced night situational awareness and maneuverer capability in a lightweight package. Additional options include an external battery pack, helmet mount and filters for signature reduction, daylight training and retro-reflection reduction.
- PHOENIX-S Cooled Thermal, Long-Range Sniper Sight: Designed for the most demanding ground-based sniper operations, PHOENIX-S delivers battle winning capability by allowing early and rapid detection, recognition and identification of targets at extended ranges even in zero light conditions. It offers integration with a wide range of small arms weapon systems and optical day scopes achieved by the in line configuration. PHOENIX-S is a fully digital architecture, with a wide range of system set up and configuration options to the user accessible via a simple menu system.
- TALON Fused Weapon Sight – Image Intensifier / Thermal Imager: TALON is a dual-channel optically fused weapon sight product that provides the dismounted close-combat user with an enhanced, multi-waveband detect / recognize / identify capability. TALON is a fully qualified military weapon sight specifically designed for short- and medium-range surveillance and target engagement.
- DRAGON H12 Handheld Thermal Surveillance and Target Location System: An intermediate range multi-function surveillance and target location system, DRAGON H12 provides warfighters with the ability to detect, locate and communicate enemy locations and other targets of interest on the battlefield. DRAGON H12 is a high-performance sight for medium to long range applications that enables 24 hr. surveillance and target location capability within a lightweight and rugged platform.
SMARTSHOOTER develops a new maritime application for the SMASH fire control system. Israeli company SMARTSHOOTER is now in the advanced stages of developing and evaluating a new maritime application for the SMASH systems.
The maritime application aims to address the challenges of shooting accurately at sea due to the instability caused by both the waves as well as target movements. The new SMASH maritime application will minimize the impact of platform and target movements and time the shot release to increase hit accuracy. It can be used against maritime targets as well as drones. The application is currently undergoing an operational evaluation and has already shown excellent results in preliminary testing.
Michal Mor, SMARTSHOOTER CEO, “At sea, the instability caused by the waves and the target movements make shooting accurately extremely challenging. Therefore, we took the challenge of developing a maritime SMASH application, understanding that the added value of our fire control capabilities is even higher in the maritime environment.”
SMASH Family of fire control systems uses AI, computer vision, and advanced algorithms to ensure precise hit capabilities, enhance forces’ situational awareness and lethality and reduce collateral damage. Fielded and operationally deployed by friendly forces worldwide, including the IDF, the US special forces, the Indian Navy, and forces in east Asia, the SMASH Family of Fire Control Systems enables the platoon to be smart, precise, and connected.