Infantry: January 11, 2000


The standard British infantry weapon since 1986 has been an M-16 like assault rifle called the SA80. A slightly heavier version is used as the squad light machine gun. This weapon was developed to replace the older, and very unpopular, SLR rifle. The Falklands war provided many SLR horror stories, so the SA80. This weapon turned out to be, according to some troops, worse than the SLR. But this was kept quiet in peacetime, where training exercises could be set up so there was plenty of time to keep the cranky weapons clean and working. But in the Gulf War, the shortcomings were revealed. The government promised to take corrective action. None was taken and the problems showed up again when British infantry went into Kosovo. Those parts of the British armed forces that can refuse to use the SA80, have done so and most use the M-16. The British are not unique in having problems with their principal infantry weapon. It happens with some frequency in many countries. The cause is the reluctance to buy a superior weapon from a foreign nation. In a word, national pride (which, as we all know, goeth before the fall)


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