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Defence Forces to bring rifles bang up to date

THE rifle used by the Defence Forces is to get a major upgrade to bring it into the 21st century.

All members of the Army, Air Corps and Naval Service are trained to use the Defence Forces' basic weapon, the Austrian Steyr AUG 5.56mm assault rifle.

Adopted in 1987, it was then a futuristic weapon with its built-in 1.5-power telescopic sight and superstrong plastic construction.

But wars in Afghanistan and Iraq forced Nato forces to upgrade their rifles by "adding on" a range of more powerful sights, laser pointers, grenade- launchers, night vision devices and even silencers.

The Steyr A1 used by the Defence Forces does not have "Picatinny" rails to mount most of the accessories considered essential in modern warfare.

Now a Defence Forces board has recommended the rifle be upgraded.

"The recommendations include the fitting of an enhanced sighting system to the existing stock of Steyr AUG A1 rifles," the Department of Defence said.

Both the Americans and the British have adopted the Trijcon ACOG and other 4X (power) sights, which give greater magnification and some nighttime capability.


The Army Ranger Wing use the more modern A3 version of the Steyr which mounts a range of accessories, including the Canadian ELCAN sight.

"A final decision to proceed with the upgrade has not been taken as yet," the department said.

"Any decision to proceed will be taken in the context of the budgetary envelope available to the department and competing demands on the budget in the coming years," the department added.

Defence Minister Alan Shatter has told the Dail that the provision for defensive equipment for 2011 allows for the acquisition of "a restricted range of priority equipment such as chemical detection equipment, body armour, force protection equipment, rifle enhancement and communications equipment" as well as buying ammunition.

The Army Ranger Wing uses the Heckler & Koch HK 416, a modern rifle which can easily mount sights and lasers, but only a small stock is held by the Defence Forces.