Outline of the SA80: Cost and Specifications

SA80 is the designation for a revolutionary family of assault weapons and, on its introduction, it proved so accurate that the British Army’s marksmanship tests had to be redesigned.

Originally developed by the Royal Small Arms Factory in Enfield.

SA80 A2 Variant

SA80 A2 comprises the:

  • Individual Weapon (IW); and
  • Light Support Weapon (LSW):
    • It has a heavier and longer barrel than the SA80 individual weapon allowing greater muzzle velocity and accuracy.
    • When fired from the integrated bipod and using the standard SUSAT sight, the LSW is accurate and consistent.
    • It can fire 610 to 775 rounds per minute out to a range of 1000 metres.

These are the British Army’s standard combat weapons. Made by Heckler and Koch, they fire NATO standard 5.56 x 45mm ammunition. The SA80 can be fitted with the SUSAT sight and a Common Weapon Sight, which is a third generation Image Intensification (II) night sight.

Both weapons have been modified in light of operational experience. A major mid-life update in 2002 resulted in the SA80A2 series – the most reliable weapons of their type in the world. This reliability is combined with accuracy, versatility and ergonomic design. It is considered a first-class weapon system and world leader in small arms.

The SA80 A2 has been upgraded to the SA80 A3 (see below).

Specifications

Table 1 outlines the specifications of the SA80 A2 weapons.

DetailSA80LSW
Calibre5.56 mm5.56 mm
Weight4.89 kg
(with loaded magazine and optical sight)
6.58 kg
(with loaded magazine and optical sight)
Length785 mm900 mm
Barrel Length518 mm646 mm
Muzzle Velocity940 m/s970 m/s
Feed30-round magazine30-round magazine
Effective Range400 metres800 metres
Cyclic Rate of Fire610-775 RPM610-775 RPM
ManufacturerHeckler & KochHeckler & Koch
Source: British Army, 2017

Underslung Grenade Launcher

The SA80 Underslung Grenade Launcher (UGL) system consists of a Heckler & Koch AG-36 40mm grenade launcher and EO Tech holographic sight wedded to an ISTEC range drum. The UGL allows fire teams to deliver effective fragmenting munitions out to 350 metres. Advantages of the system are low recoil, ease of use, reduced ammunition weight and ability to have a chambered grenade at the ready whilst continuing to fire the SA80.

Ammunition Types

The system is currently fielded with Practice and High Explosive ammunition natures. There are six UGLs per platoon resulting in greatly increased flexibility and weight of fire.

Longer term enhancements to the system may eventually include a fire control system, extended range ammunition and buckshot rounds for close-quarter battle.

SA80A3 Variant

As early as April 2018, the UK Armed Forces had decided to retain the SA80 bullpup assault rifle, alias L84.

Starting in Autumn 2019, the upgraded SA80 A3 variant was fielded.

The UK SA80A3 Bullpup Rifle
The UK SA80A3 Bullpup Rifle

Improvements included:

  • A new assault grip;
  • An improved upper receiver;
  • Additional safety functions; and
  • Weight reduction measures.

The modifications were carried out in Oberndorf, Germany, while system assembly was carried out at Heckler and Koch’s UK subsidiary Nottingham Small Arms Facility, UK.

Cost

The costs (excluding VAT) for the SA80A2 are:

  • Basic fit: approximately £1,000.
  • Equipped to fight (does not include night sight): approximately £4,000.

It is important to note that purchase prices vary depending on quantities ordered (the above figures relate to the most recent purchase prior to August 2017).

The total cost of the SA80 A2 ugrade by Heckler & Koch was £111 million (ex VAT).

The cost of the SA80 A3 upgrade, of an initial 5,000 weapons, is estimated at £4.4 million (ex VAT).

References

British Army (2017) Small Arms and Support Weapons. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.army.mod.uk/equipment/23205.aspx. [Accessed: 03 January, 2018].

FOI Request: Army/Sec/18/01/FOI2017/07603/79189, dated 17 August 2017.

FOI Request: FOI2017/09121, dated 15 November 2017.

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