TYR Tactical

British Army Seeks New Special Operations Brigade Rifle

Earlier this year the UK Ministry of Defence announced the formation of a “Ranger Regiment” which will be the core of a new Army Special Operations Brigade.

One interesting feature of this new unit is that it will not be issued the SA80 bullpup pattern L85A3 currently standard issue for UK forces. Instead, the MOD has issued a tender for a “Armalite Rifle (AR) platform Alternative Individual Weapon (AIW) System.” Sure, it’s a new rifle for the Bristish Army, but this isn’t as big of an issue as some might claim, considering certain UK Special Forces units already use several alternative rifles and the Royal Marines have adopted the Colt Canada C8.

The AIW system will consist of:

1. A Rifle System (comprising of a Rifle and Signature Reduction System); and

2. An Optic System

The AIW system will be a 5.56mm Armalite Rifle (AR) platform, optimised for use with L15A2, a 62gr 5.56×45 NATO ball round, equivalent to SS109. For the purposes of this tender, an AR platform is defined as being gas operated with a rotating, locking bolt.

The rifle should have a non-reciprocating charging handle.

The rifle’s controls are to include: a magazine release, working parts release and a rotating selector lever that incorporates a safe setting.

The rifle is to have a standard configuration, not bullpup, with the magwell in-front of the trigger housing.

The rifles upper and lower are to be mated using industry standard pivot / takedown pins located at the front and rear of the lower receiver.

Signature Reduction System: The Signature Reduction System is to be detachable, to enable the operator to configure the Rifle System to meet operational requirements.

Optic System: The Optic system is to complement the Rifle and should be ballistically matched to the stated ammunition nature and supplied barrel length.

Offerors, which are referred to as Economic operators, may only submit a Rifle System from one OEM and an Optic System from one OEM. The Rifle and Optic do not have to be the same OEM.

This is a relatively short notice tender. Economic operators only have until 18 August to submit their basic proposals. The MOD will then evaluate proposals and select a maximum of six Economic operator systems to evaluate with a minimum quantity of 88 and maximum quantity of 528 AIW per type.

The MOD states that anticipated delivery of the trial AIW Systems to a UK MOD Location is required by December 2021 or March 2022 at the latest.

One successful economic operator will be awarded a contract for the Rifle and One successful economic operator will be awarded a contract for the Optic. This could be the same economic operator being awarded the contracts for the Rifle system and Optic system to enable the Authority to procure the Full Operational Capability (FOC) circa 3,000 systems with options for the Total Fleet Requirement circa 10,000 Systems for a period of 10 years.

16 Responses to “British Army Seeks New Special Operations Brigade Rifle”

  1. Rob says:

    My money is on more Colt Canada L119A2s that are already in use or HK 416s.

    • Ryan Snow says:


      The British already have completed rigorous trials on the Colt Canada C8. But if they choose to take something else it might also be the the LMT MARS-L due to their relationship with LMT after procurement of the Sharpshooter. Note that the LMT beat the HK 417 in the contract for that designation.

      Hk416 would be cooler though

  2. Hodge175 says:

    Isn’t there a relationship with the SAS and the MCX, but Colt Canada or HK 416 since it’s so popular with other European Armys

    • Cuvie says:

      Haven’t heard anything about SAS using the MCX yet.
      The Metropolitan CTSFOs have been using them

  3. corsair says:

    Why not utilize what’s in the UK Special Forces Support Group kit?

  4. Riley Bignell says:

    I shot on a combat shooting team with the C8 and always found it lacking. We had a few HK416 and we all loved shooting the 416. I hope the British can see some sense and choose something a little better than the C8

  5. Ken says:

    This is a badly written requirement ..the description isnt clear ….they have stated they want a armalite rifle platform…..that can use 5.56 ball. But which one…..ar15 ar18 ar10?….2 of them had reciprocating charging handle. They shouldnt have then stated that in the requirement that they want a non reciprocating charging handle. FN scar SC and CZ 806 or FB grot would technically meet the minimum entry requirements for the tender as it’s not clear. I think it’s because they definition for “AR” wrong…it should be “assault rifle” and not “armalite rifle”. They have even used the word “should” which in contract terms can mean “doesn’t need to”. This means even the FN scar l or galil ace n or arx160 would be eligible. Also they have not specified what type of magazine they expecting….are they expecting the rifle to use a proprietary magazine or a magazine in the British inventory….such as the magpul emag or lancer magazine. This requirement is badly written and should be withdrawn

    • SSD says:

      This isn’t confusing to the companies who are answering it and AR does not stand for “Assault Rifle”.

  6. Ken says:

    In the actual contract document In the link it says. “The AIWsystem will be a 5.56mm Armalite Rifle (AR) platform, optimised for use with L15A2, a 62gr 5.56×45 NATO ball round, equivalent to SS109.
    An AR platform is defined as being gas operated with a rotating, locking bolt”.

    “Armalite” technically is a brand name just like coke or Pepsi or McDonald’s burger king. It’s the same as “Kalashnikov” or “Heckler & Koch”. They have further defined armalite rifle as an abbreviation “AR” as gas operated with a rotating locking bolt….but this can equally apply to a Kalashnikov or a heckler & Koch….This is incorrect and makes it ambiguous.

    So if I am employed in IWI, FN, CZ or FB or Berretta and I see this invitation to tender and be interested in putting a submission in….I would immediately ask for clarification as the company I work for produces…gas operated rotating bolt rifles and the term “should have a non reciprocating charging handle” would also need to be clarified. I could submit a scar L or ARX160.

    Bidders are entitled in UK law to put in legal challenges if they feel they have been unfairly excluded. This has happened before to other countries. I believe Glock put in a legal challenge against US army contract for the MHS contract because they didn’t fully test the pistol side by side ….albeit wasn’t successful…..but also HK put in a legal challenge against the German defense ministry when they lost out to Hanel mk556 for the g36 replacement and was successful. I can easily see a bidder putting in a legal challenge at second stage or at contract award which can cause legal cost and would force a re run of the competition. These firearms companies ..unless they are state owned or have state funded programmes or big commercial firearms sales struggle to stay afloat ….so its a worthwhile contract to win.

    For example ….if my bid was rejected at the first hurdle I would immediately put in a Freedom of information request to see which rifles were excluded and if supposedly all non ar15 style rifles were excluded including mine……I would raise a legal challenge. Which may force the tender to be cancelled. This is not uncommon in defence procurement. Ever wondered why defence competition projects are stopped and restarted…..wasting taxpayers money.

    Although it may not be immediately obvious these glaring errors have to be picked up early to avoid these legal challenges.
    It’s important that people read contract documents as ambiguity like this does favour the person created it….

    • Ken says:

      Sorry typo

      It’s important that people read contract documents as ambiguity like this does NOT favour the person created it….

      • SSD says:

        That’s not a contract. It’s a public synopsis. The companies actually answering the tender have been given access to additional documentation which the British Army does not want available to its adversaries. They’re actually aren’t very many companies in the UK who can serve as Economic Operators for this solicitation. They all know what the Brits are seeking.

    • SSD says:

      In the UK, “Armalite” is generic term, used like Kleenex is in the US for facial tissue. There’s no confusion on their end.

  7. Ken says:

    Sorry typo

    It’s important that people read contract documents as ambiguity like this does NOT favour the person created it….

  8. Ken says:

    Of course is not an award contract yet ….it’s the basic information about the contract inviting companies to bid….which describes at a high level requirement. Which is cut down version of actual full requirement which only qualifying companies can see. This description is inaccurate and ambiguous which again makes you wonder how badly written the full requirement is and could be open to a legal challenge the way it’s written and then it will be based on facts rather than opinions.

    I can see there is no point in responding anymore if you consider “armalite” a generic term acceptable in the description……why didn’t they use Kalashnikov…..why not……galil …..or SA80 to describe what they wanted……. fundamentally ALL these terms should not be used in the contract description in that way.