The SA80 Assault Rifle disclosure follows a similar embarrassment earlier this week, when it emerged that Tornado GR4 jets were unable to drop precision bombs. Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon denied British forces were working with "lousy equipment", as he insisted the latest problem could be solved. SA80 rifles are set to be recalled after evidence showed the were liable to jam in extreme temperatures. And because the weapon was designed by Royal Ordnance when it was state-owned - the repair bill is now expected to be footed by the Minstry of Defence.
The SA80 Assault Rifle family was designed and produced (until 1988) by the Royal Small Arms Factory at Enfield Lock. In 1988 production of the rifle was transferred to the Royal Ordnance's Nottingham Small Arms Facility (later British Aerospace, Royal Ordnance; now BAE Systems Land Systems Munitions). The upgrade program, committed in years 2000 - 2002, was completed by the famous Heckler&Koch, whichwas then owned by British Royal Ordnance company (German investors bought the HK back in the2002). the SA80 IW also appeared in the shortenedCarbine version, and inthe manually operated L98A1 rifle, which got its gas system removed and a larger cocking handle attached. This weapon is available in two versions, L85A1 Assault Rifle and L85A2,the latter being fitted with additional Picatinny rail on the right side of front grip base.
The current L85A2 Assault Rifle rifles are recognized as reliable and very accurate,especially when using standard issue SUSAT telescope sights. The drawbacks ofthe L85A2 are somewhat poor balance (which can be improved with installation of HK-made 40mm underbarrel grenade launcher), right-side only extraction and rearward placement of the fire mode selector.
The L852A1 and L852a2 Assault Rifle With the NATO trials complete, the 5.56x45mm round was selected by the organization as the standard ammunition set. As a result, the L85 was reconfigured to utilize ammunition standard and the SA80/L85A1 system as seen today was born. The bullpup layout allowed for a shortened design without sacrificing much to overall functionality for an assault rifle type. Ammunition capacity is provided through a 30-round curved magazine. An integrated carrying handle is also provided as are iron sights.
The L22A1 Carbine Assault Rifle to some extent, the M4's problems could be addressed by adopting a much more compact 5.56 mm weapon: which means a bullpup. One already in service is the British Army's L22A2 Bullpup Assault Rifle, a short-barrelled version of the SA80 intended for AFV and helo crews. This is certainly short at only about 555 mm overall, but it is heavy and in any case is not available for anyone else to purchase: the last SA80s were made some 20 years ago and the L22s were adapted from existing weapons.