According to a few outlets the MoD has awarded a production contract to FN Herstal for a quantity of 176, 7,62m MINIMI light machine guns.
This is a the culmination of a study that started in 2009, looking at ways of reducing the load on dismounted infantry. The aim was to find something that had the punch of the GPMG in the light role but with less weight. A number of concepts were looked at including a lightweight version of the general.
From International Defence Review in 2009
The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has asked industry for expressions of interest (EoI) for the supply of 190 LMGs and ancillaries, in a deal worth between GBP10 million and GBP20 million (USD16 million and USD32 million).
In addition to the SA80A2 assault rifle, the British Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force currently have access to the 5.56 mm L86A2 light support weapon, 5.56 mm L110A1 Minimi LMG or squad automatic weapon (SAW) and 7.62 mm L7A2 general purpose machine gun (GPMG).
However, a lighter and more mobile weapon system with increased hitting power than a 5.56 mm LMG has been called for by troops operating on the ground in Afghanistan. The heavier GPMG and its ammunition can be cumbersome for long foot patrols in hot climates and 5.56 mm calibre weapons have come in for criticism for lacking sufficient stopping power.
Accordingly, a modified off-the-shelf system is being sought, capable of accurately engaging, repeatedly hitting and incapacitating targets at ranges up to 800 m. It must also be able to fire 100 rounds uninterrupted, and at a rate of 600 rounds per minute (RPM), although an objective rate of 1,000 RPM is sought.
The new weapon system will use in-service 7.62 mm x 51 mm disintegrating link ammunition and must weigh less than 9 kg, although 7 kg is the objective weight, according to the UK’s Defence Equipment and Support’s Light Weapons, Photography and Batteries cell.
EoI responses are expected by June with trials following soon after. Climatic trials will commence in February 2010 with a contract start date due by 31 October the same year. A total of 10 weapons from each system type will be appraised.
Contenders are likely to include FN Herstal’s (FNH’s) 7.62 mm Minimi – the company already supplies the MoD’s existing 5.56 mm Minimi LMG – Denel’s 7.62 mm SS77 GPMG and US Ordnance’s 7.62 mm M60E3 LMG, as used by US Navy SEAL special forces.
The contract includes optional quantities of a further 250 MINIMI 7.62 machine guns to be delivered annually over a three-year period from 2012 to 2014 should these options be exercised.
The MoD selected the machine gun manufactured by the Belgian firearms manufacturer following several months of functional testing under various environmental conditions.
To cope with the recoil the 7.62 MINIMI includes a hydraulic recoil mechanism.