Ukrainian Troops with British SA80s

Matthew Moss
by Matthew Moss
Ukrainian soldiers training with SA80s, July 2022 (UK MoD / Crown Copyright)

The UK is currently providing basic infantry training to up to 10,000 Ukrainian troops. We have already covered the UK’s procurement of AK-pattern rifles to train Ukrainian personnel but in this article, we will look at how Ukrainian troops have also been training with the UK’s SA80/L85 bullpup rifles.

The SA80 rifles were first seen in the initial imagery released around the announcement of the training scheme but have appeared several times since. They featured in photographs of Defence Minister Ben Wallace’s visit in early July and again a couple of weeks later during another visit by General Sir Patrick Sanders, the UK’s Chief of the General Staff. The rifles were seen with iron sights and fitted with blank firing adaptors. Interestingly, at least some of the Ukrainian personnel have been shown how to field strip the British rifles.

Ukrainian soldiers training with SA80s, late July 2022 (UK MoD / Crown Copyright)

On 19th July, imagery from a visit by the Deputy Defence Minister of Ukraine, Volodymyr Havrylov, also showed Ukrainian troops equipped with SA80A2s fitted with blank firing adaptors. As before the rifles were not fitted with optics.

Some more photos and clips of SA80s in use:

The Ministry of Defence has confirmed that while AK-pattern blank firing adaptors have been procured, SA80s with blank firing adaptors have also been used to ‘maintain strict safety conditions for both British and Ukrainian soldiers during training and to meet the urgency of the training requirement.’

Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister speaks to soldiers training with SA80s, July 2022 (UK MoD / Crown Copyright)

Because the rifles don’t have railed forends some thought they might be the earlier SA80A1s. We can tell that these rifles are SA80A2s from the up-turned scalloped tear drop charging handle which also doubles as a brass deflector. The rifles have the non-railed green polymer handguards fitted. While the Daniel Defense-produced railed forends have come to characterise what many think is the A2 configuration, these were actually developed in response to an urgent operational requirement for troops deploying in Afghanistan.

SA80A2 with a Daniel Defense railed forend (UK MoD)

Many of the rifles overhauled by HK to the A2 standard retained the classic green handguards. Some, like those recently provided to the Royal Bermuda Regiment, actually have a green handguard designed by HK. We can easily identify British troops involved in the training, as we can see that they are equipped with the new SA80A3 with the characteristic new M-LOK forends and Cerakote finish.

Ukrainian soldier training with SA80s, July 2022 (UK MoD / Crown Copyright)

On the 21st of July, the UK Prime Minister’s office released photos and video of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s visit to Ukrainian troops training in the North East of England. The imagery showed Ukrainian troops training in urban combat, known by the British Army as Fighting In Built Up Areas or FIBUA. This supports the theory that they are being issued for FIBUA and field exercises that require blank firing. Unlike in the earlier imagery, the Ukrainians were armed with SA80A2s largely equipped with SUSAT sights.

Matthew Moss
Matthew Moss

Managing Editor: & Overt Matt is a British historian specialising in small arms development and military history. He has written several books and for a variety of publications in both the US and UK. Matt is also runs The Armourer's Bench, a video series on historically significant small arms. Here on TFB he covers product and current military small arms news. Reach Matt at:

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  • Black Sheep Black Sheep on Aug 12, 2022

    Don’t you just love the comments below and how they expose their ignorance about the British SA80? 😀😀

  • DNACowboy DNACowboy on Aug 12, 2022

    The L85A2A3 is probably the most accurate 5.56 assault rifle out there. Also, for the record, people should not blame the RSAF for the failures over the design and production of the A1 model considering they only had a very very short period of time in order to produce a 5.56 assault rifle for British troops following the US bungling/faking of the NATO trials. Finally, If the Americans haven’t been so xenophobic and gone with a .280 British calibre rifle (which was way ahead of its time) a lot of pain could have been avoided..