Back in April, we reported that the Estonian Defence Forces had narrowed their choice of new service rifles down to three from Heckler & Koch, SIG Sauer, and Lewis Machine & Tool. Estonian Public Broadcaster Eesti Rahvusringhääling (ERR) now report that the trials have ended and a winner has been chosen. Lewis Machine & Tool’s entries have beaten out rival bids from SIG and HK.
The trials began December 2017 with 14 submissions from manufacturers all over the world. These were downselected to four and then three rifles and put through extensive testing. Lewis Machine & Tool are believed to have submitted their piston driven rifles such as the CQBPS similar to the MARS-L rifle adopted by New Zealand (in 5.56x45mm) and the CQBMWS (in 7.62x51mm).
The contract will see Estonia purchase 16,000 rifles initially at a cost of 22 million Euros or $24 million. The tender for the contract required 5.56x45mm and 7.62x51mm rifles, the split along these lines is not disclosed in the announcement.
The Estonian Defense Investment Center director, Col. Rauno Sirk, said that LMT’s rifle fulfilled their aim of adopting a weapon that is:
accurate, handy and reliable in different weather and environmental conditions, and the cost of the transaction is not less important. Here we evaluated the total cost of the weapon to be acquired, not just the purchase price of weapons and equipment, and we took into account the costs to be paid for the following 20 years.
The decision was weighted 40% to cost, 30% to the service life value, 20% durability and lifespan, 10% the resting results of testing. Delivery is expected to take place between 2019 and 2021 with the 1st and 2nd Infantry Brigades receiving the new rifles first. The contract establishes a framework for additional purchases up to 2026. One source suggests that the procurement will be split between an initial order of 11,000 rifles with an option of up to 18,000. TFB has reached out to Lewis Machine & Tool for comment on the award, but have not heard back by the time of publication. The companies rifles have previously been adopted by the New Zealand Army the British Army and numerous special forces.