Reports that the British Army was firmly considering moving away from suppression in favor of precision in infantry fire-fights surfaced at a specialist Soldier Technology conference in London in early 2016 and at a Future Soldier Technology conference this spring more detail surfaced. One of the current underlying British Army’s mantras is ‘Fight Light’ and in this context casting some weapons types might make sense.
Both the 5.56mm L86A2, generally known as the Light Support Weapon, and the 5.56mm L110A3 Light Machine Gun, the FN Minimi, will be withdrawn from service at the end of the current fiscal year (i.e. by April 2019), along with the M6C-640 60mm mortar. It has been stated that to partially compensate for this reduction in firepower of the infantry section the number of 7.62mm L129A1 Sharpshooter rifles could be increased, but to date there is no sign of an order being placed for more of these, and it has also been hinted that the hand-held mortar will be replaced by another system currently under evaluation.
The L86A2 LSW is basically a heavy barrel version of the L85A1 (SA80A1) assault rifle produced by Royal Ordnance in the 1980s and modified by Heckler & Koch to A2 standard from 2001. First operationally deployed to Saudi Arabia on Operation GRANBY in 1990 and fired in anger in 1991 on Operation DESERT SABRE in Kuwait and Southern Iraq, the weapon had the advantage of using the same 30-round magazine as its assault rifle sibling, but this was also one of two main disadvantages when used for laying down suppressive fire as magazines had to be repeatedly changed.
Following its mid-life upgrade, the A2 version of the LSW was intended to serve until at least 2015 but in 2003 the heightened pace of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan caused the British Army to initiate an Urgent Operational Requirement for a new belt-fed weapon with a replaceable barrel capability, the lack of which was the second disadvantage of the LSW, able to lay down a sustained rate of 5.56mm supporting fire. The L110A3 Light Machine Gun, known commercially as the Para version of the 5.56mm FN Minimi, was the new weapon procured and this proved to be a popular choice with infantry sections.
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British Light Machine Gun L110A1 | OUT OF SERVICE