The L85A3 was officially presented in the Defence Vehicle Dynamics exposition near Bedford in the UK in 2016 and shows no sign of going anywhere.
The L85A2 is the latest iteration of the original SA80 which began to serve the British Army in the mid-1980s. However, this bullpup has been modified since then to the L85A2 and now, has gone through its latest round of modifications for its mid-life in the form of the L85A3. The goal of which is to extend the operational lifespan of all rifles to 2025. In addition, there is a lack of general political will to find a replacement for this weapon, so it is more cost effective to look at extending its operational lifespan with new modifications.
This latest modification is part of the ‘future soldier programme’. These new modifications include a new upper receiver, a new accessory rail, which comes with optional add-ons which includes a vertical foregrip, laser pointer, and torch. In addition, the newly modified weapon is compatible with the German HK AG36 40mm under barrelled grenade launcher. However, it is worth noting that this grenade launcher is also being used with current British Army L85A2 weapons platforms.
So in summary, the only changes to the L85A2 design to the L85A3 is as follows:
- Modification to the upper receiver
- Full-length rail system (which includes side rails as part of the modular qual rail system which is designed to improve the reliability and accuracy of the weapon).
The British Army and the MoD have decided that there is merit to extending the lifespan of this rifle, but one cannot help but consider whether this is also due to the fact it may be more costly to totally replace the weapons system?
Therefore, it seems to be the case that this latest iteration will keep it operational up to the 2020s and possibly beyond. However, there remains a wider debate as to whether there is another weapons system which will be better placed to service the needs of our military but we’ll leave that for another time.