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Irish Army rifle to get multi-million euro upgrade

THE standard rifle used by the Irish Army for over two decades is to soldier on until at least 2025 -- but it will be modernised in a multi-million euro upgrade.

The Austrian-built Steyr Aug A1, introduced in 1988, is to undergo a revamp over three to four years to bring it into line with assault rifles used by armies like those of Britain and the United States.

Some €3m has been allocated this year but the Department of Defence is unable to give a total figure for the programme to modernise 6,000 assault rifles.

Enhancements to the Irish Army weapon will include a better sighting system called a Combat Optical Weapon Sight (COWS), expected to give greater magnification and some night-time capability; a grenade launcher attachment to allow it to fire 40mm grenades, and a thermal weapons sight allowing the soldier to operate better in the dark.

"The modifications will extend the life of the Steyr out to 2025 and beyond," a department spokeswoman said.

"Given that technical and logistical support services are in the main already in place, the rifle enhancement programme offers considerable economic advantage as against the procurement of brand new weapons."

Some €27.5m will be spent by the Department of Defence here on purchasing defensive equipment this year, including ammunition, force protection equipment and chemical detectors.

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