Select Committee on Defence Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


APPENDIX 2

Letter to the Chairman of the Committee from the Secretary of State for Defence (12 November 2001)

  Lord Gilbert wrote to you in June 1998 setting out our plans to address a number of problems with the reliability of the SA80 Weapon System.

  I am pleased to report that the modified SA80 Weapon System has successfully passed a stringent and demanding testing and acceptance regime, established as part of the programme to improve the overall reliability of both the Individual Weapon and Light Support Weapon. The work to modify the weapons is being undertaken by Heckler & Koch, Germany (a British owned company, part of BAE Systems, Royal Ordnance Weapons and Munitions) supported by their sub-contractor the Army Base Repair Organisation, Donnington. The modifications include new breech block, breech bolt, cartridge extractor, cartridge ejector, recoil springs, extractor spring, firing pin, cocking handle, magazine (the whole magazine has been replaced), gas plug and cylinder, hammer, barrel extension and a new barrel for the LSW.

  The Table below summarises the performance results of both the IW and LSW following trials in Alaska, Brunei, Kuwait and the UK (Warminster). The Trials were conducted using ammunition manufactured by Royal Ordnance Radway Green.

Trials Location
Rounds Fired
BFMs Fired
Reliability %
Alaska IW  
LSW
31,500
86,400
210
90
99.52
97.77
Brunei IW  
LSW
31,500
96,000
210
100
100
90.0
Kuwait IW  
LSW
31,500
96,000
210
100
98.1
89.0
Warminster IW  
LSW
31,500
96,000
210
100
100
94.0
Overall IW  
Reliability LSW
126,000
374,400
840
390
99.40%
92.56%


  The reliability requirement contracted for in the modification programme was 90 per cent for the IW and 70 per cent for the LSW against their respective BFM's. The Weapons for the trials were drawn from the production line at H & K and you can see comfortably exceeded the minimum reliability requirement.

  The programme is well underway now and some 12,000 weapons have been modified, with a further 3,000 to be delivered this month. We intend to commence formal issue of the modified weapons to service Users in February next year. Part of this plan includes the initial concentration of a pool of weapons as a contingency reserve, should they be needed for operations. In light of the events of 11 September, measures have been taken to ensure that the converted weapons can be delivered to those units that might need them, in the required timeframe.

  The modification programme also embraced work to allow the SA80 Weapon System to be considered for re-admission to the NATO Nominated Weapons List. The first part of the Trials in the UK has been successfully concluded and the Weapons will now go forward to the final set of trials in the USA later this year. If all goes well we will be seeking to re-instate the weapon on the NATO Nominated list in Spring 2002. I will write again to let you know the outcome.



 
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