On the 19th January, the Irish Defence Forces issued a request for tender notice calling for submissions to fulfil their requirement for a new 7.62x51mm ‘Designated Marksman and Sniper Support’ weapon to replace the FN FAL currently in service.
The Irish Defence Force (or Fórsaí Cosanta/Óglaigh na hÉireann) land element currently stands at around 7,500 strong, with the Steyr AUG the standard issue service rifle since 1989. The FN FAL entered Irish service in the 1960s to supplement the British Lee-Enfield Rifle No.4 and has since been pressed into the designated marksman role. While Ireland maintains its neutrality, its military has a long tradition of taking part in UN peacekeeping operations. The Heckler & Koch HK417 is already in limited service with the Irish Army Ranger Wing. Whether this will influence the selection remains to be seen.
The FN FAL’s currently used have been upgraded with new stocks, forends and optics mounts.
Below is the summary of the Irish Defence Force’s request for tender:
The Defence Forces of Ireland are considering the purchase of a single rifle type to fulfil the operational requirements for Designated Marksman and Sniper Support to replace the existing FN FAL 7.62mm sniper support rifle. The rifle shall share a commonality of features such as calibre, operation system, modes of fire and general functioning. There may be variations in accessories and ergonomics appropriate to the two roles. The DMR/SSR will be expected to remain in service for the next 15 to 20 years and have a proven maintenance and support capability. In the Designated Marksman role the rifle will be deployed by Infantry and Cavalry Units down to Section level. In the Sniper Support role the rifle will be deployed in a sniper pair in support of the Accuracy International .308 AW and .338 SM rifles.
Interestingly, the request states “the rifle shall share a commonality of features such as calibre, operation system, modes of fire and general functioning” suggesting the Irish Army is seeking a 7.62x51mm gas-operated rifle rather than a direct-gas impingement operated rifle. This is confirmed in the Requirements and Specification documentation which specifically states: “The rifle shall be a self-loading gas piston type using the propelling gas of a fired round to unload a spent cartridge from its chamber, eject the spent cartridge case and reload from a removable magazine.”
The requirements are relatively open ended. The rifle must be no longer than 43inches with its butt fully extended and will not weight more than 6kg or 13.2lbs excluding “magazine, sling, bipod or angled/vertical fore-grip.” The rifle must have a semi-automatic mode but the inclusion of a fully automatic mode will not preclude the rifle from being selected.
The Irish Defence Force estimates that the new rifle will be in service for 15 to 20 years and will be deployed with infantry and cavalry elements at the section level as a DMR while it will be deployed as a sniper support element in dedicated sniper teams. The request has a deadline of the 23rd March 2021 for responses from interested vendors.