The UK Ministry of Defence and its Defence Equipment & Support (DE&S) organisation revealed that they have granted a contract for the Alternative Individual Weapon (AIW) system, which is named the L403A1 in UK service. The initial contract is for 1,620 AIW systems, valued at GBP15 million (USD18.7 million), and there is a possibility of purchasing 10,000 systems for a total cost of GBP90 million.
AIW system – known as the L403A1 and procured by DE&S under Project HUNTER – is made up of a new assault rifle fitted with a muzzle signature reduction system and an improved optical sighting system.
The AIW is a modern rifle using the latest in design technology and manufacturing methods, to produce an exceptionally reliable and accurate weapon. The magnified optic means the user is able to engage threats from greater distances; whilst the signature reduction system works to mask the AIW from detection from sight and hearing.
Supplementing the current in-service L85A3, the AIW system has been secured under a £90 million contract with Macclesfield-based company Edgar Brothers, supporting the Prime Minister’s priority to grow the economy by helping sustain approximately 50 jobs at the family-owned company.
Minister for Defence Procurement, James Cartlidge said: “This is another example of how we are committed to investing in the most advanced battlefield equipment to back our troops on the battlefield. This advanced rifle’s ability to help soldiers maintain the stealth edge not only protects them but delivers war-fighting advantage over our adversaries.”
DE&S Dismounted Close Combat Portfolio Leader, Colonel Paul Cummings, said: “Project Hunter has been a fabulous example of close collaboration with the user community and strong engagement with industry to deliver game-changing capability at pace. This is another example of the enormous commitment of the men and women in DCC to deliver battle-winning capability into the hands of the user and I’m enormously proud of what they have achieved. We look forward to continuing to work closely with Edgar Brothers as we move into the production phase.”
Lt Col Gareth Davies, SO1 SoldierWorks, Military Capability Delivery, Army Headquarters, said: “Project HUNTER has successfully delivered a new weapon option for UK Defence. At the current time this is being procured for the Army Special Operations Brigade (ASOB). It offers a marked increase in lethality, and the system includes one of most capable day sights currently available. Importantly the weapon system will be further enhanced by our newest generation of night optics, with which the ASOB are already equipped.”
An initial £15 million order of 1,620 AIW systems has been placed, with options to procure up to 10,000 systems – totalling £90 million – under the contract over the next decade. The systems will initially be fielded to the Army Special Operations Brigade (ASOB) who operate in complex, high threat environments.
As a key component of the ASOB, the Ranger Regiment will receive the AIW later this year. Made up of four battalions, the Rangers deployed to over 60 countries in their first 12 months of operation, following their formation as part Future Soldier under the Defence Command Paper 2021.