From 4 to 6 June 2013 the Finnish Army Command hosted the EDA Next Generation Small Arms Workshop in Mikkeli, Finland. Delegations from Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Italy and Sweden participated in this kick-off event with experts on small arms, weapon concepts and firearms training. The event under the framework of the “Project Team Soldier Systems” was divided into two phases: during the first phase, the group was composed of government representatives only, while the second phase also involved industry.
For one and a half days, participating Member States shared their experience with legacy small arms which have been in use for decades, addressed their shortfalls, and discussed possible options for the future, such as replacements or upgrades. Currently used small arms have suffered from heavy wear and tear due to intensive use in current operations which disclosed flaws and demonstrated opportunities for improvement. Stefan Nowak, a weapons consultant who supported the workshop as a co-moderator, explained “Recently developed small arms feature high modularity and adaptability in terms of easy mounting of mission-related components, the ability to convert to different calibres, improved ergonomics and weapons handling, high reliability and durability and lighter weight than most legacy rifles in European Armed Forces. However, in certain cases service life extensions and enhancements through upgrades are often smarter than a complete replacement.” Benjamin Fuchs, acting EDA Project Officer Engage and moderator of the workshop, stated “The rationale of this open information exchange was to broaden the mind of all individuals in terms of small arms, to question national practices, and to possibly harmonise requirements across European Armed Forces at an early stage.” Lieutenant Colonel Matti Honkela from the Finnish Army Command added “The lively discussions revealed that this approach was very welcomed by the experts.” The participants agreed that also small arms training is an equally important factor as are technical aspects and multi-national cooperation should be further promoted under the auspices of EDA.
The workshop was both heavily supported by Finland and by the industry. Industry representatives used the opportunity not only to present their portfolios, but also to discuss with government experts the latest operational requirements and technical potential and feasibility in the small arms domain. This session also covered the ammunition sector and hearing protection. During the live fire demonstration on 6th June, participants were able to test and compare various assault rifles, sniper rifles, machine guns, personal defence weapons, pistols and shotguns on the firing range.
The participants agreed that follow-up workshops on this important topic with a particular focus area should be conducted on an annual basis.
- Pictures of the workshop are available on Flickr.