Experts from UK Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) have been working with soldiers on a live fire exercise to ensure they are equipped with the most effective kit possible. Using a specially designed obstacle course, the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory team conducted a pilot study to assess the effects of the SA-80 L85A2 versus the L85A3 rifle with 6 soldiers from 5th Battalion, The Rifles. The Soldier Weapon and Equipment Assessment Tool (SWEAT) tests the impact of soldier equipment on firing accuracy, consistency, speed and mobility.
Elizabeth, of the US Army, observing on behalf of NATO, said:” It’s doing something novel and innovative. Taking different components that have been separated, so lethality, survivability and mobility – bringing them into a course that comprehensively tests soldier systems. It’s a much better evaluation than has existed before.”
Jon from Dstl said:” The idea behind the SWEAT course is that anyone can measure the effects of future soldier capability, such as a new weapons system, new boots, a new helmet or new body armour, and assess the effect that will provide upon the individual’s lethality. This course for the UK, in the future, will be used to measure the effects of new capabilities for soldiers.”
These tests were executed as part of NATO Science and Technology Organization (STO) Research Task Group SAS-145. This research is overseen by STO’s System Analysis and Studies (SAS) Panel, NATO’s Expert Panel for Analytical Advice, which promotes the exchange of trial data and enhance interoperability within the Alliance. The 2-day exercise took place on Salisbury Plain using a UK SA-80 L85 A2 and updated A3 variants of the individual weapon. Participants ran the course twice to compare results. The course consisted of 14 firing points and 36 actions, requiring soldiers to engage targets ranging from 25m to 400m from a variety of firing positions.
The SA80 (Small Arms for the 1980s) is a British family of 5.56×45mm NATO service weapons used by the British Army. The L85 Rifle variant has been the standard issue service rifle of the British Armed Forces since 1987, replacing the L1A1 Self-Loading Rifle. The first prototypes were created in 1976, with production of the A1 variant starting in 1985 and ending in 1994. The A2 variant came to be as the result of a significant upgrade in the early 2000s by Heckler & Koch and remains in service as of 2020. The A3 variant was first issued in 2018 with several new improvements. The Mid Life Improvement (MLI) project should see the weapon in service with the British military beyond 2025.