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.
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.’
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.
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.
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.