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SA80-A2 and the Royal Marines

Bad CO

Any comments:

MoD rifle excuse is 'pathetic'
(Filed: 21/07/2002)

The Ministry of Defence's blaming of Marine troops for the failures of SA80-A2 rifles has been described by a firearms expert and ex-army officer as 'a pathethic excuse'.

The official report into repeated jamming of the armed forces' assault rifle used in Afghanistan cleared the weapon, and blamed the problem on the Royal Marines failure to clean the guns properly.

New maintenance and cleaning instructions have now been issued by the MoD, yet the representatives of the armed forces have described the report as a 'whitewash'.

Also condemning the report, former British Army officer Mike Yardley said: "To try to blame the soldiers, who are seasoned professionals, is actually rather unpleasant.

"It's trying to deflect the problem created from the deficiencies in the rifle itself."

Although MoD officials accepted that "teething troubles" could exist as Afghanistan was the rifle's first operational use, it claims the SA80-A2 is not difficult to maintain and is highly reliable and accurate in extreme conditions.

But Mr Yardley, who is calling for troops to be issued with modified M16 rifles, said weapons such as the Russian-built AK47 functioned in the most extreme battlefield conditions.

"If you have a battle rifle, it should be able to function even with minor problems with cleaning," he said.

"On the battlefield, rifles aren't going to be kept as clean as they are on the parade ground.

"The SA80 has been beset with problems since its introduction and it's clear even with the modifications that it is a less than perfect weapon.

"The fact that our special forces don't use it says everything." Mr Yardley accepted that the SA80-A2 was extremely accurate but questioned its design, weight and balance which affected its handling ability.


Was up at Brecon doing a Mortar shoot the other month for the Senior course. Went down to pop in on some old mates and they were begging me for spares. As I only had A1 stuff not much I could do. They mostly wanted gas piston springs as theirs were snapping, and they were complaining that the mags were to heavy.

Brecon is hardly the Middle East, so does the climate have anything to do with it. I think not.


Our gravelbellies came back from Bisley and said they saw 10 A2s, of which 6 had failed by the end of the week.  

Surrey doesn't strike me as particularly arduous, and the SA80 is a weapon purpose designed for rangework.  Shootists are usually pretty good about maintaining their weapons, so all in all I would say that a 60% failure rate in near optimal conditions suggests that there is more to this than the Booties not keeping their gats clean.  As I understand it very few rounds were fired by the RM in Afghanistan anyway, so when we are talking about cleaning we really mean is sweeping dust out of the working parts.  During Ex SAIF SAREEA the RAF were using unhardened Compaq servers that kept working even when they filled up with sand; likewise at Bagram.  If civilian computers designed to operate in an air-conditioned server rooms can function in a tent in a desert with the level of care the RAF give them then I would expect this alleged "Assault Rifle" to work at least reasonably well.

What annoys me most (apart from apparently STILL not having a rifle that works properly) is that this is another example of the MoD/Govt/Industry blaming soldiers for their own failures.  Having had a very public "go" at Comd 3 Cdo Bde during the operation, they now seem to be starting on the rest of the Royal Marines.  I thought the story was that they were called in because they were among the best soldiers in the world - now we are expected to believe they cannot even clean their rifles!  Come off it!
How much faith do you have in MoD?

They blame the pilots of the Chinook rather than accept there were problems with the aircraft's software.  Now they blame the troops rather than the weapon.   As Paoli points out, our "best" troops apparently cannot look after their own weapons.

I am sure the MoD would be a lot happier if they did not have all these soldiers, sailors and airmen to look after and who impede the smooth running of the Ministry by wanting a living wage and equipment that works.

We are somewhat better off that the sailors employed by the Elizabethan MoD.  Having defeated the Armada, they were kept in limbo for months.  The "ministry" was waiting for enough of them to die off before paying them off.