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July 5, 2002 Posted: 1601 GMT
LONDON, England --

A British army rifle which has just undergone a 92 million ($140 million) revamp has been found to misfire by soldiers serving in Afghanistan.

The 5.56mm SA80-A2 rifle was promoted by the Ministry of Defence as the best in the world after going through modifications that were supposed to remedy the same reported problems in its predecessor.

The new rifle, which was to be the staple weapon of the British army, was put into action earlier than planned to coincide with the deployment of Royal Marines in Afghanistan.

British soldiers have since reported three faults, the Ministry of Defence said on Friday.

British Minister of Defence Geoff Hoon said his department would investigate the claims. A team of weapons specialists, including representatives from makers Heckler and Koch, has flown to Afghanistan to test the 400 ($600) apiece rifles.

"They will report to me about what are the problems and what steps if any we can take to resolve it," the minister added.

Armed forces minister Adam Ingram told Shadow Defence Secretary Bernard Jenkin that three formal equipment failure reports had been filed from Afghanistan.

Replying to a House of Commons written question, he said: "The SA80-A2 is operating in a very difficult environment in Afghanistan with both dusty conditions and extremes of temperature.

"In an operational environment any concerns are treated very seriously and a specialist team on the ground is investigating these reports as a matter of urgency."

The failure to operate in extreme conditions, such as the Gulf War and Sierra Leone, was the chief criticism of the rifle's predecessor, the SA-80, which was introduced in 1986.

It was suspended from the NATO Nominated Weapon List in 1997 after soldiers experienced problems such as jamming.

Britain is in the process of pulling out its 1,700 commandos, engineers and support staff, whose main role was to help flush out remnants of the Taliban and al Qaeda network in Afghanistan.

The latest problems with the SA80-A2 add to a growing list of British equipment failures.

Last October, the Army's chief of general staff, Gen. Sir Michael Walker, admitted that half of Britain's tanks taking part in a major exercise in Oman had broken down because they could not cope with the sand.

The Royal Navy has seen its entire fleet of 12 nuclear powered "hunter-killer" submarines recalled and its Lynx helicopters grounded after major safety scares.

The Air Force's 1 billion ($1.5 billion) upgrade of the Tornado bomber aircraft left it unable to drop some types of bombs.
Back to “SA-80 Shame of the British Army”.

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