Portugal are about to embark on a major new small arms procurement programme. Jane’s reports that Request for Proposals for new infantry weapons will be issued soon.
The Portuguese government and military have agreed to have NATO’s Support and Procurement Agency (NSPA) handle the procurement of new weapons for the Portuguese Army. The move represents the latests in a series of attempts by the Portuguese to launch a major procurement program. The first was reported back in July 2016, following the passing of Portugal’s Military Programming Law 2015-26.
The acquisition calls for 11,000 5.56x45mm rifles and 300 new 7.62x51mm rifles. New machine guns are also needed with 830 5.56x45mm light machine guns and 320 7.62x51mm general purpose machine guns. Other kit includes 450 7.62x51mm precision rifles, 1,700 grenade launchers, 380 shotguns and 3,400 sights.
The programme is projected to cost up to €42.8 million ($50.3 million) with purchases due to be made by 2022. A similar announcement back in May also suggested a programme to procure over 10,000 small arms would cost €41.9 million.
The Portuguese Army’s current primary service rifle, the Espingarda m/961, is a licensed indigenous copy of the Heckler & Koch G3. However, the elite Rapid Reaction Brigade (consisting of paratroops, commando and special forces units) also utilise the HK G36K and HK416A5. Since the closure of Portugal’s state-owned defence company, INDEP – Indústrias Nacionais de Defesa, EP, in 2007, Portugal does not have the indigenous production capacity to fulfil the need for new small arms.
Given the Portuguese Army’s current preference for Heckler & Koch weapons the most likely bet for Portugal’s new 5.56x45mm service rifle would be the HK433. The new HK416A7 with its move to the classic HK selector layout, which limits training changes, may also be an option although this would likely be much more expensive than the HK433.
NSPA and the Portuguese Army are yet to release the RFP for the new small arms and the NSPA has not yet responded to a request for comment on the programme.