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Denel showcases a 21st Century R4 assault rifle at AAD

Denel Land Systems (DLS) is showcasing the R4 assault rifle in four configurations appropriate for the 21st Century: all fitted with Picatinny rails and a variety of optics and accessories at Africa Aerospace & Defence at AFB Ysterplaat in Cape Town.

Included in the range is the designated marksman rifle first showed at defenceWeb's Border Control conference in March. Fleshing out the quad are configurations for a rifleman, grenadier and section leader. The upgrades relate to the SA Army's soldier modernisation programme, known as Project African Warrior.

DLS says the designs reflect a recent trend towards greater emphasis on integrated defence solutions and systems. “With the new Denel Land Systems’ Integrated Soldier System (ISS), the future of the R4 assault rifle in 21st century combat has certainly been guaranteed.”

According to Steve Matthews, one of the systems engineer at DLS, ISS is basically an upgrade and development project on the current R4 assault rifle utilised by the South African National Defence Force.

Matthews adds that “the selection of various attachments to achieve each variant type has been selected on the basis of functionality, volumetric definition, availability, proven in-service usage and performance in meeting and enhancing the fire-power capabilities of the modern Infantry Soldier as required for the modern day battlefield and Close-Quarter-Battle (CQB) operational environment.”

About 420 000 of the 5.56x45mm-calibre rifles were manufactured under licence from Israel in the 1980s to replace the older Belgian 7.62x51mm FAL battle rifles used in SA since the 1960s and called the R1 R2 and R3, depending on version.

DLS was in February awarded a R1.74 million contract to create a “dedicated marksman (DM) rifle system” from the R4. DM and DM rifles became popular in the US and other militaries after the invasion of Iraq in 2003. The DM's role is to supply rapid accurate fire on enemy targets with a highly-accurate semi-automatic rifle equipped with a telescopic sight. Like snipers, DM's are trained in quick and precise shooting, but unlike the more specialised "true" sniper, they are also intended to lay down accurate rapid fire, the wikipedia says.

Designated marksmen are integral members of regular infantry sections or platoons, much like machine-gunners; whereas a sniper will generally work individually or as part of a two-man team independent of a small unit.

Snipers are ordinarily equipped with purpose-built bolt-action or semi-automatic sniper rifles while DMs are most often equipped with accurised battle rifles or assault rifles. The R4 modification falls into this category. For the DM rifle gunmiths removed the rifle's forward handgrip and replaced it with a new assembly that includes four Picatinny rails. As this assembly does not allow for the bipod currently fitted to the rifle, this, too, was removed. The top Picatinny rail runs back over the R4's hull cover, and at defenceWeb's recent Border Control conference carried an Aimpoint sighting telescope. The other Picatinny rails were covered with synthetic pads to create a rounded handgrip. A vertical handgrip can be fitted to the bottom rail and several, with integral bipods , are available. A new adjustable buttstock, similar to that fitted to the US M4 carbine, is also part of the upgrade. 

102 rifles were delivered and issued to DM assigned to FIFA World Cup soccer security. At least 2000 were to be modified as part of the scheme.

All four versions on display at AAD carried the CRAR-32 reflex sight. The grenadier variant added a Beretta or Milkor under-barrel grenade launcher, creating a weapon similar to the US M103. The rifleman's version notably carries an Eickhorn bayonet or RED-1 100,000 volt prodder for crowd control. The section leader's weapon has an Aimpoint 3xMag magnifier, laser pointer and tactical light attached. The DM weapon adds a Versapod bipod, Insight weapon mounted thermal monocular, Insight night vision monocular or Aimpoint 3xMag magnifier.

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