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Wednesday, 3 October 1984
Page: 1166

(Question No. 1036)

Senator Macklin asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 21 August 1984:

(1) Is the Army currently carrying out tests to select a replacement for the FN rifle.

(2) When will these tests be completed.

(3) What are the criteria used by the Army to evaluate the suitability of rifles tested.

(4) Is a report in the Sunshine Coast Daily (Friday 29th July 1984) claiming the Defence Department has refused to test a 7.62 calibre rifle developed by a Mooloolah man true; if so, why did the Defence Department refuse to test the rifle and what criteria were used to make the decision.

(5) Who was responsible for the decision not to test the rifle.

(6) Is the Minister for Defence confident that the decision not to test this rifle is correct.

(7) Have any other similar decisions not to test other rifles ever been made; if so, what are the details of these.

(8) Will a report on the rifles tested be released when the tests are completed ; if so, will this report give in full the details of why this Australian- developed 7.62 rifle was not tested.

Senator Gareth Evans —The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1) The Army is conducting an evaluation of two 5.56mm rifles, one of which will replace the 7.62mm L1A1 rifle.

(2) This evaluation will be completed in March 1985. Source selection is planned for mid 1985.

(3) The main criteria used by the Army to evaluate the suitability of rifles tested were that the rifles must be of 5.56mm calibre and also capable of firing the SS109 type ammunition system. In addition other criteria relating to dimension, handling, rate of fire, weight, weapon performance, reliability etc will influence the final choice. The required performance characteristics of the future 5.56mm weapon were established as a result of a comprehensive Army study.

(4) It is understood the Mooloolah man referred to was a Mr Doring. The decision not to test Mr Doring's 7.62mm calibre rifle was due to it not being offered in response to invitations to tender for the supply of evaluation weapons. In any event Mr Doring's weapon is of a different calibre from that which for operational reasons has been determined by the Army as the most suitable for the future Army individual weapon, ie., 5.56mm. Improvements in 5. 56mm calibre ammunition technology, weapon design and manufacturing techniques offer a significant reduction in weapon and ammunition weight when compared with 7.62mm weapons. These advantages are achieved without detriment to the lethality or effective range provided by previous 7.62mm rifles.

(5) The decision not to test the rifle was made by the Army Project Office for the reasons stated above.

(6) The Minister has no reason to doubt the validity of the decision not to test the 7.62mm rifle offered.

(7) Tenders for the supply of rifles for evaluation were restricted to 5.56mm calibre. Tenders were advertised nationwide in all major newspapers on 6 April 1983 and closed 26 July 1983. Details of rejected tenders are 'Commercial in Confidence' and are not released.

(8) The trial report will be classified 'Commercial in Confidence' and will not be available for general distribution. Content of this report will be restricted to the two 5.56mm rifles under consideration.