New rifle confirmed for Defence Force

  • 08/12/2015
Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee (Brigitte Masters)
Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee (Brigitte Masters)

The Defence Force is to get more than 9000 American-made rifles to replace its ageing and short-ranged Steyrs.

Cabinet has approved the $59 million purchase of the Lewis Machine and Tools' Modular Assault Rifle System - Light (MARS-L), Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee announced today.

It was one of eight candidates to replace the 28-year-old Austrian-built Steyrs.

The weapon includes advanced optical day and night sights, a detachable grenade launcher and other features such as combat torches, laser sights, and sound suppressors.

Its 5.56mm calibre means it can use the same ammunition as the Steyr.

The basic rifle weighs 3.3kg, 300gm less than the Steyr and the Army, Navy and Air Force will start using the MARS-L from next year.

"The LMT is a combat-proven rifle that has seen service in the most arduous conditions," Mr Brownlee said.

"It gives our personnel a weapon they can rely on in any situation.

"Perhaps the strongest endorsement is that our own special forces will also use the LMT. Previously, they have used different rifles to the Army. They observed the trials carefully, and liked what they saw."

The Steyr rifles have been the primary individual weapon for all three armed services since 1987, but its shortcomings were revealed in combat in Afghanistan because it cannot fire accurately beyond the length of two rugby fields.

Earlier this year, it was announce the Defence Force was also rearming its personnel with about 1900 new Glock 17 pistols to replace the Sig Sauer sidearms that had been used since 1992.