The British Army has announced some major changes to its infantry small arms. Confirming that it will drop the FN Para Minimi or L110A3 at the fire team level. Additionally, the M6-640 60mm mortar will also be phased out and the L86A2 light support weapon will also be removed from service.
The phasing out of the Para Minimi was confirmed in the August issue of the British Army’s Soldier magazine and comes as no surprise as the move has been rumoured for a number of years. It was initially confirmed back in March during a seminar at the 2018 Future Soldier Technology conference, held in London when the CO of the British Army’s Infantry Trials and Development Unit confirmed that the L110A3 would be dropped.
Major John Anthistle of the Equipment Directorate said: “despite the popular view, it is far heavier but less lethal and effective.” Major Anthistle confirmed that some elements of Joint Force Command [which manages the joint capabilities group from Britain’s three armed services] would retain the weapon,” but admitted that the L110A3 “is rarely employed in favour of the 7.62mm equivalent.”
The M6-640 60mm mortar from Hirtenberger will also be phased out by April 2019. Like the L110, the M6 was procured initially as an urgent operational requirement and was used by dismounted infantry in Afghanistan. Despite being described as a lightweight mortar, it weighs 18.6kg and has been found to be relatively inaccurate which the Equipment Directorate says has led to minimal use. Various options including the Carl Gustav 84mm AT weapon rotary 40mm grenade launchers are being evaluated as potential replacements.
The L86A2 light support weapon will also be phased out of service by the spring of 2019, with the procurement of further L129A1 7.62x51mm Sharpshooter Rifles to fill the gap. Major Anthistle said that “the Sharpshooter has been proven to provide effective precision fire beyond the range of other platoon weapons… enhancing the capability of the dismounted close combat section in all roles.
Major Mark Whitehouse of the Ground Manoeuvre Capability Directorate said: “this is not a financially driven cull but a review of our capability to ensure that we have a battle-winning, optimised set of systems in users’ hands.”