LONDON — The British military is turning to the ArmaLite rifle to boost the lethality of some of its specialist forces, according to a deal announced Sept. 7.
An initial £15 million ($19 million) order for 1,620 KS-1 weapons has been placed by the British, with options to procure up to 10,000 systems at a total cost of £90 million over the next decade.
The weapons will initially be fielded by the British Army Special Operations Brigade (ASOB), but Royal Marine Commandos are also in line to get the weapon as part of a wider modernization of their capabilities.
To be known as the Alternative Individual Weapon System, or L403A1, in British service, the weapons will be manufactured in the United States by Knights Armaments, but assembled in the U.K. by Macclesfield, northwest England-based arms company Edgar Brothers.
The British company is responsible for sourcing and assembling the sub-systems that make up the weapon.
British Army Ranger regiments are scheduled to start receiving the new rifle by the end of the year.
The L403A1 is the latest variant of the SR-16 ArmaLite assault rifle fitted with a muzzle signature reduction system and an improved optical sighting system developed by Vortex Optics of Wisconsin.
The magnified optic enables users to engage threats from greater distances while the signature reduction system helps mask the weapon from detection.
The weapon replaces the SA80/L85 series of rifles and Colt Canada L119s currently used by the Rangers and elements of the Royal Marines.
British Army program official Lt. Col. Gareth Davies said the new L403A1 weapon is a significant step up in capability.
“It offers a marked increase in lethality, and the system includes one of most capable day sights currently available. Importantly the weapon system will be further enhanced by our newest generation of night optics, with which the ASOB are already equipped,” he said.
Purchase of the weapons comes as the British are in the early phases of a program, known as Project Grayburn, to replace thousands of SA80 rifles used by the military.
Andrew Chuter is the United Kingdom correspondent for Defense News.
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