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Modern infantry weapons – the weak link in today’s defence forces?

Contributor – Richard de Silva

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Further to our recent research in defence sector developments and market trends globally (see our infographic for the rundown), has been exploring the boots-on-the-ground assessment of modern infantry and specialised small arms and light weapons.

Still the most vital part of both basic and specialised infantry kit, the standard assault rifle is something that will naturally be the focal point of perpetual military and manufacturing evualation and innovation. And yet, major rehauling of infantry weapon programmes established 20+ years ago is rare, despite – in some cases – the existence of an obvious need.

One example includes our report on the Australian SAS member lambasting the Steyr F88, the stalwart weapon of choice of the standard Aussie Army. The SAS have long refused to use it because of its reported difficulties, so why has it taken so long for the Army to consider a “significant” modification or even a suspected overhaul?

Talking to the industry, SMEs and enthusiasts through our social channels, it became clear that there’s a feeling that small arms investment has taken something of a global backseat to the development of armoured vehicles, airborne platforms, and naval carriers.

“In the last few years – ever since the Cold War, really – small arms haven’t changed all that much,” says security operator Juergen Nieveler.

“At most, we’ve seen older weapons get modernised a bit – the HK416 being a modernised M4. There have been some improvements on associated gadgetry (thermal sights, ballistic computers, better strap-on grenade launchers), but the last really original new design in that field was the H&K G11, and that was in the late 80s.”

“Ergonomics is still one of the biggest problems,” chimes in Giao Nguyen. “Most firearms are designed around right-handers. Fully ambidextrous designs [are in the extreme minority]. Some designs allow for reconfiguration to better serve lefties but those configurations do not serve righties.

“The other pressing and unsolved problems are sight pictures and recoil control. Both of these revolve [around] how weapons are held and operated. These two issues have not changed for centuries. Solve these two and you’d revolutionise infantry weapons.”


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