Special Forces Weapon Upgrades and 'bolt on extras'
British Special Forces weapons have always been the subject of debate with enthusiasts and soldiers alike as to what they actually use and why. Most people will remember or indeed heard of the Iranian embassy siege where SAS troopers publicly stormed the Iranian embassy building during Operation Nimrod. The incident brought the SAS to the world's attention as the whole episode was played out in front of the media. For the first time the public could actually see the regiment perform live and identify the now infamous Heckler & Koch MP5A3. This weapon became instantly associated with the SAS and many soldiers tried to emulate this by taping a Maglight to there personal weapon! Was this the start of the weapon add-ons?
As you can imagine a unit such as the SAS have many weapons in there arsenal however they have a standard common weapon which is the L119A1 Diemaco C8SFW which is the Canadian heavy barreled equivalent to the Colt M4 - this is used by Brit SF and other specialist units. UK Special Forces started receiving the L119A1 Special Forces Weapon in late 2000 or early 2001. This weapon seems to be the primary rifle, in addition to the Diemaco C7A1 assault rifle. The C8 carbine is the carbine member of the C7 family, and in outwards appearance very similar to the Colt 653. This design combines the accuracy of a full-length rifle with the weight and rapid target acquisition of a compact carbine. Building upon the C8 and C8A1, Diemaco created the Special Forces Weapon (SFW), which provides an interesting combination of ideas. The British Ministry of Defense acquired a number of SFWs, primarily for Special Forces, giving them the Land Force designation L119A1.
Weapon Enhancement Packs - We have seen numerous pictures in the media once again of British special forces operating in Iraq and Afghanistan with these weapons and to the trained eye they are easily identifiable however some of the bolt on extras are not! With the introduction of the Picatinny rail it has been possible to create all manner of expansion packs for these weapons. The Picatinny rail is a bracket used in order to provide a standardized mounting platform for telescopic sights and other accessories, such as tactical lights and laser sighting modules.
We have already mentioned the C8 Diemaco with its Picatinny rails however the British army standard weapon the L85A2 SA 80 rifle also needed a Special Forces retro fit for Tier 1 and Tier 2 troops. The SA 80 with its new facelift can be upgraded with all the additional accessories used by Tier 1 forces. The standard SA 80 can be modified with a specially manufactured fore grip with a tri sided Picatinny rail. Again this allows accessories to be added such as lasers and lights. This up grade primarily allows specialist units and Tier 2 troops to operate effectively with its tier 1 counterpart. Some people would say that this is because the whole Special Forces group has found a new weapon to replace the Diemaco so this retro fit provides a stop gap or quick fix in the short term before the group as a whole has a standardized weapon.
Selected Units get weapon Up Grade!
Quote: US calls in Paras for Baghdad secret war By Thomas Harding, Defence Correspondent -
"Whenever the SAS goes on raids to apprehend terrorists in highly dangerous areas of Baghdad, the Paras are used to provide perimeter security. Arriving in US Humvees, dressed in American army fatigues and armed with C7 Diemaco guns - a Canadian made version of the M16, the men have fought several battles with insurgents while protecting SAS colleagues."
From 2007 an upgrade including the provision of ACOG Sights, a new hand guard incorporating Picatinny Rails (with optional hand grip/bipod) and a new vortex style flash hider was introduced for use by selected units
|The MK 2 fore grip has replaced the short
MK 1 version allowing a longer bottom rail for the down grip or the gangster grip to be fitted. The side rails are primarily used for the PEQ laser and the sure fire scout torch. New versions of this have been made for easy access to the gas parts and should be available to the wider army in the future.
Special Forces Sights? - The general Special Forces weapon sight of choice is the TA01: 4x32 Trijicon ACOGŪ with Red Crosshair Full Illumination. The concept of this is simple; a durable scope with a reticle that illuminates in low light situations. ACOG 4x32 Scope with Full Line Red Illumination features black crosshairs during daytime and tritium illuminates reticle at night. This weapon sight has been adopted by many close protection companies out in Iraq and Afghanistan as its popularity has grow as a sight used by British Special Forces.. Rumor has it that it may even replace the SUSAT in the future? Standby!
We have had the sights now the lasers - The standard laser attachment for the British army at the time of writing is the is Oerlikon LLM-01 light and laser module however this has certain limitations. Special Forces choose the AN/PEQ-2 with two infrared lasers. The AN/PEQ-2 has two infrared laser emitters-one narrow beam used for aiming the rifle, and one wide beam used for illuminating targets, like a flashlight. The beams can only be seen through night vision goggles.
Each beam can be zeroed independently, and the illuminator's radius is adjustable. The two lasers are tied into one 6-mode switch, which has the following modes:
|Mode||Marking||Targeting laser||Illumination laser|
|1||AIM LO||low power||off|
|2||DUAL LO||low power||low power|
|3||AIM HI||high power||off|
|4||DUAL LO/HI||high power||low power|
|5||DUAL HI||high power||high power|
Easy to use - Turning the mode switch does not turn on the lasers. A recessed button on top of the device is tapped once to briefly turn on the lasers or tapped twice to turn the lasers on until deactivated, either by pressing a third time or by turning the mode switch to off. Additionally, an extra pressure switch can be plugged into the rear of the device and then placed virtually anywhere, limited only by the length of the pressure switch's cord; typically one to two feet. This pressure switch operates the same way as the recessed button.
The AN/PEQ-2A upgrade incorporates a safety block which physically prevents turning the mode switch to any of the high power modes, which are capable of causing eye damage. Both variants are waterproof to a depth of 20 meters and run on two AA batteries. Additional civilian variants also exist-they can provide greater power, visible/IR laser combinations, or other features. With night vision goggles and the PEQ laser the operator can literally flood light the area which is invisible to the naked eye.
We have had the sights and lasers. now for the lights - The most common torch which normally accompanies this laser is the Sure-fire scout torch which again is fixed to the weapon by the Picatinny system. The torch is normally activated by a paddle or tape switch on the front gangster grip of the weapon. The two-battery surefire scout attaches to a Picatinny rail via a thumbscrew clamp. An extremely rugged and powerful LED module that can produces 100 lumens of electronicallyregulated light with a total runtime of nearly three hours with 100 lumens of electronically-regulated light.
Bolt on extras or weapon expansion packs are not just limited to rifles. Pistols, Sub Machine guns and Heavy guns all have there share of Special Forces upgrades. Even with all this technology it all boils down to the soldier behind the trigger using speed aggression and surprise with a little help from technology!
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Picatinny Fore Grip
Sure Fire Scout Torch
Gangster Grip (Down Grip)
Sources - open Source