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SOFIC 2018: SOF Rifles, Scopes & Ammo Overview

Small arms market continues to witness increased activity across the international SOF community

According to the US Counter Terrorism Technical Support Office’s (CTTSO), the, “individual tactical operator armed with small arms and ammunition is the most employed weapon system in the fight against terrorism in US and allied arsenals.”

In line with ongoing counter-terrorism (CT) operations at home, COIN and military assistance (MA) operations in expeditionary environments, SOF components demand assault rifles (AR) optimised for close quarter battle (CQB) out to longer range engagements in a battlespace which comprises a mix of low and high intensity conflict.

However, the market has yet to witness a single weapon system capable of satisfying all these various mission requirements- hence the reason why SOF operators continue to rely upon a “golf bag” approach dependent upon specific operational parameters.

Examples include CQB weapons for CT specialist missions including hostage rescue operations (HRO) and non-combatant evacuation operations (NEO); through to sharpshooter and sniper solutions capable of supporting vehicle interdiction (VI) and overwatch missions, defence sources from within the NATO SOF Headquarters (NSHQ) explained to MT.

Sources confirmed how key specifications for weapon systems remained focused on required levels of lethality and precision, as well as reliability and mobility across the battlefield which could comprise a confined and congested urban operating environment or sparsely populated rural areas.
Such mission requirements have also triggered levels of interest in the employment of alternative calibre types as NATO standard 5.56mm x45mm options continue to be lambasted by the SOF community for lacking necessary lethality or ‘stopping power’ required to successfully neutralise targets who might be wearing suicide vest IEDs (SVIED).

Conventional Solutions

However, the main proportion of AR requirements across the SOF community remain focused on the procurement of NATO standard 5.56mm x45mm solutions as a baseline system for the individual operator. Weapons can be modified and upgraded with accessories including laser designators, suppressors, optical weapon sights and enhanced ammunition in order to extend capabilities.

For full article, please see MT #5/2018 available at SOFIC 2018, or order here.

This article has further information on German SOF contract with Heckler & Koch (H&K) for the acquisition of 1,745 HK416A7 carbines in 5.56mm x45mm calibre, Russian Spetsnaz SOF elements are conducting similar evaluation of Kalashnikov Group’s AK-12 and AK-15 assault rifles, demand for AR technology suitable for CQB and urban operations and Indian SOF continuing to witness delays in the selection and delivery of a next-generation CQB carbine after an initial solicitation dating was cancelled. Industry sources described to MONCh how programme participants were likely to include companies previously involved in legacy CQB solicitations for the Indian Army. These include Israel Weapon Industries’ (IWI) ACE 21; Colt Defense’s Combat Rifle; CZ’s BREN 2 A2 and Beretta’s ARX160.

Increased Lethality

The SOF community continue to require access to heavier calibre ARs beyond even 300 BLK ammunition, capable of engaging targets at increased ranges as well as providing necessary lethality at shorter ranges and CQB. 

Such a strategy was executed by the French MoD’s paramilitary force, GIGN, who in March 2017 selected to upgrade its standard service rifle from the 5.56mm x45mm HK416 to Ceska Zbrojovka’s (CZ) 7.62mm x39mm BREN 806 A2. However, the weapon retains the ability to be modified to accept 300 BLK and 5.56mm x45mm ammunition, dependent upon mission requirements, company sources confirmed to MONCh.

CZ continues to market its CZ BREN 2 in the ASPAC. The ambidextrous CZ BREN 2 A2, according to company officials, has been designed for, “the most demanding users from specialised units and armed forces operating anywhere in the world.”

For full article, please see MT #5/2018 available at SOFIC 2018, or order here.

SOF Scopes 

Capable of supporting ARs, CQB and PDW solutions as well as sniper systems, optical weapon sights and scopes remain critically important SOF operators seeking to maximise the effectiveness of lethality across increasingly complex operating environments.

On 25 August 2017, USSOCOM unveiled an RfI regarding the development of a next-generation solution capable of featuring an integrated variable magnification device, laser rangefinder and laser illuminator. The RfI, entitled the Precision Variable Power Scope/Precision Aiming Laser (P-VPS PAL), requires the armed forces, industry and academia to participate in technology experimentation to identify focus areas for the concept.

At Milipol 2017 in Paris, France, Meprolight unveiled the latest member in its family of red dot solutions with an upgraded variant of its Mepro MOR Reflex Sight. This latest version includes an integrated green laser designator, building upon legacy options already available in IR and red. Popular standalone options across the international SOF community have included EO Tech’s Holographic Reflex Sight and Aimpoint’s MICRO T-2 which can be operated alongside L3 Insight Technology’s family of Advanced Target Pointer Illuminator Aiming Lasers (ATPIAL) which comprise integrated IR and visible lasers as well as IR illuminator. Trijicon’s ACOG 4×32 Enhanced Combat Optical Sight (ECOS) was designed for SOF of the US military, and is, according to the company, “the ultimate sight for both CQB situations and longer distance shooting where accuracy and pinpoint bullet placement are required.” SIG Sauer’s new TANGO6 with LevelPlex and T120 turrets offers shooters an ideal high precision shooting solution. LevelPlex allows the user to remove unwanted cant from the shooting system to +/- .5° of accuracy, according to the company. When USSOCOM was looking for a new scope for shooting at extreme distances, Schmidt & Bender was chosen. The company’s 3-27×56 PM II High Power became the first military scope to be developed with a 9x zoom factor, an adjustment range of more than 4m over 100m, a length of less than 40cm and an incredible field of view of 13 metres. Reliable service is a result of many factors – with the ZP series Minox delivers a line of tactical riflescopes that combine mechanical precision, optical quality and ruggedness at the highest level. In 2013, USMC Special Operations Command (MARSOC) has purchased a number of Leupold Mark 8 CQBSS scopes for use by front-line operators. The durability and utility found in the CQBSS makes is a valuable piece of SOF kit.

360° Picatinny Rail Adaptor Systems

Such requirements to advance the capabilities of SOF ARs and sniper rifles alike demand the integration of 360° Picatinny Rail Adaptor Systems, allowing for the rapid integration of optical gunsights, scopes and designators in line with the modern SOF ‘golf bag’ approach to cover the expanse of special operations. Options range from holographic weapon sights, such as L-3’s EOTech (the company has paid the US DoD compensation of $25.6 million following accuracy issues associated with ‘thermal drift’) and Aimpoint’s MICRO-T2 for CQB missions, through to Trijicon’s Advanced Combat Optical Gunsight (ACOG) and Aimpoint’s COMPM4S magnification options. Raytheon subsidiary Elcan Optical Technologies’ latest optical gunsight solution in the SPECTER family of systems is designated the Digital Fire Control System (DFCS). 

Fusion Scopes

Elsewhere in the market, there is a continuing focus on networking optical gunsights to helmet-mounted sensors, including I2 and IR technologies. Options include a current effort by Harris to downsize its Tactical Mobility Night Vision Goggle (TM-NVG) FUSION solution into a scope for ARs. According to company officials, this optical gunsight has already proven its capability to provide a fused I2/IR sight picture to operators, although ranges for initial concept demonstrators remain limited to just 200 metres. Elsewhere in the fusion scope market, Thermoteknix’ ClipIR Small Thermal Imager technology is designed to be integrated on legacy weapon sights including I2 options such as PVS-7, -14 and -15 models, MUM-14, and PBS-14 and -18 systems, the capability, according to company sources, now represents the new ‘normal’ for low light missions, with the provision of, “significant tactical advantages by combining the unparalleled detection capabilities of thermal imaging with the superior identification capabilities of image intensification. Qioptiq’s, an Excelitas Technologies company, KESTREL I2 Rugged Night Vision Binocular, is currently gaining large interest from specialised users. 

SOF Ammunition

Critical to the utility of SOF ARs is ammunition which continues to witness series of upgrades designed to enhance their application across the battlefield, particularly in line with emerging requirements from the COE. 


Work is focused on the evolution of threat weapons and ammunition; capability gaps across international coalitions; projectile aerodynamic design; interior and exterior ballistics; as well as terminal effects; all of which contribute to extended stand-off ranges for SOF operators alongside next-generation optical gunsights and signature suppression.

For full article, please see MT #5/2018 available at SOFIC 2018, or order here.

This article has further information on a US-UK joint venture, BAE Systems’ inventory of optimised small arms ammunition, Nammo Armour Piercing cartridges, Textron Systems‘ Telescoped munition and RUAG relying on most modern production equipment and solid know-how accumulated over many years. 

As Special Forces continue to operationally test weapon systems, accessories and ammunition in real-time environments, the wider conventional armed forces will consider drip-down procurement of the same solutions as has been illustrated with H&K’s HK416 which started with US Special Forces and has now been selected as the general small arm across the French Army.


SOFIC is showcasing the future of innovation across the Special Forces community and MONCh (Moench Online News Channel at www.monch.com) brings together key developments from the show. For more information please see MILITARY TECHNOLOGY #05/2018, available at the show; and frequently check back for more NEWS FROM THE FLOOR.


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