Ministry of Defence reveals first new rifle for 20 years

Soldiers in Afghanistan are to be issued with a new infantry combat rifle for the first time in 20 years, the Ministry of Defence has announced.

More than 400 Sharpshooter rifles, which fire a 7.62mm round, are being purchased as part of a 1.5m "urgent operational requirement".

The first batch will be sent to frontline troops later this year.

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Quentin Davies, Minister for Defence Equipment and Support and Labour MP for Grantham and Stamford, said: "Troops in Afghanistan are already bristling with a variety of weapons they can use when fighting the Taliban.

"The Sharpshooter rifle adds to this arsenal and provides them with an additional, highly-precise, long-range capability. This is a concrete example of where we add to our range of equipment to ensure our brave forces have the best kit available to them on the frontline."

Meanwhile in Yorkshire, work starts today on a centre to help homeless veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan rebuild their lives. Veterans Minister and North Durham MP Kevan Jones will be cut the first turf to herald the start of work on the facility at Catterick, North Yorkshire.

Called The Beacon it will provide temporary accommodation for single ex-servicemen and women who may have nowhere to go to and guide them into new jobs and homes.

It will be run by the ECHO division of the Riverside social landlord organisation and include an IT suite, health facility and training bakery.