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British Army Special Operations Brigade Rifle

The latest SA80A3, a bullpup configuration weapon, is seemingly not special enough for the new British Army Special Operations Brigade [© Bob Morrison]

The UK MoD has announced a requirement for an Alternative Individual Weapon (AIW) system for the Army Special Operations Brigade.


Contract Notice, Whitehall, 26 July 2021, amended 29 July 2021: [Extract from] Contract notice for contracts in the field of defence and security.

701577419 – Army Special Operations Brigade Rifle

Procurement and Support of an Armalite Rifle (AR) platform Alternative Individual Weapon (AIW) System.

The Authority requires an Alternative Individual Weapon (AIW).

  • Economic Operators may submit only one AIW System consisting of 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.
  • Where an Agent represents an OEM, the agent is deemed to be the Economic Operator under the Framework agreement and therefore can only submit one AIW System.
  • Anticipated delivery of the trial AIW Systems to a UK MOD Location is required by December 2021 or March 2022 at the latest.

The AIW system must be optimised to be used with a suppressor fitted as its primary configuration. 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.

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.

Alternative Individual Weapon System: As a complete system, the AIW system is expected to perform consistently regardless of its configuration, i.e. with or without a Signature Reduction Device fitted, across all operational scenarios.

Most Royal Marines have already traded in their SA80A2 assault rifles for the L119A1 version of the 5.56mm Colt Canada C8 [© Bob Morrison]

This Procurement is subject to the following Staged approached:

Stage 1 – DPQQ Down Select of economic operators to be issued the ITT to be invited to tender AIW Systems (Rifle System and Optic System) for a place on the framework agreement.

Stage 2 – Up to a maximum of six (6) AIW Systems (Rifle Systems and Optic Systems) will be selected for which the economic operators shall be awarded tasks under the framework to supply and support the trial AIW systems.

All economic operators that have successfully passed the DPQQ stage will be invited to submit bids under the framework agreement for the provision of a minimum quantity of 88 AIW systems up to a maximum quantity of 528 AIW systems depending on the number of acceptable AIW system variants offered to the Authority. The economic operators will be reimbursed for the cost of the Supply and support of the trial systems.

Following the outcome of the competition at Stage 3, it is envisaged that those Trials weapons supplied under stage 2 will be utilised by Army HQ to inform the 24-Hr Digital Lethality Project that is in the Concept Stage, therefore offering long-term Value for Money (VFM) to the Authority.

Stage 3 – All Economic operators that were awarded Tasking forms under the Framework agreement for the Authority to procure AIW systems under Stage 2 will be invited to participate in two mini competitions under the framework for the Supply and Support of AIW Systems (One mini competition for the Rifle system and one mini competition for the Optic System) for a period of ten (10) years.

The mini competitions will include: pricing to procure the AIW system, option pricing for additional systems, technical through life support (TTLS) requirements, full evaluation methodology (commercial & technical), and will outline the Safe & Suitable for Service (S3) and User.

Following the evaluation at Stage 3:-

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.

The M4, seen here on SWIFT RESPONSE 21 in Estonia, is the current US Army assault rifle derived from the original Armalite rifle [©Bob Morrison]
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