By Grant Turnbull in Santiago
The Chilean Army (Ejercito de Chile) is planning a comprehensive upgrade of its 5.56mm SIG SG 540 and 7.62mm SIG SG 542-1 rifles, with a contract expected to be placed with a Santiago-based company this year.
At this year’s FIDAE airshow, armament company Fábricas y Maestranzas del Ejército de Chile (FAMAE) displayed the updated variants of the rifles, designated the 540-1M and the 542-1M, at its stand.
The upgraded rifles are expected to supplement the Israel Weapons Industries (IWI) Galil ACE 22 5.56mm rifle, which was selected by the Chilean Army in 2014, and is built under license by FAMAE. Chilean production of all 22,000 Galil ACE 22 is expected to finish this year.
Not all Chilean Army units will be equipped with the Israeli-designed rifle, with armoured units based in the north of the country taking a large percentage of the new rifles. Commanders also want to retain the range and firepower provided by a 7.62mm calibre weapon such as the SG 542-1.
The SIG rifles that are replaced by the Galil will likely be sent to FAMAE’s facility in Talagante for modernisation, a process that is expected to begin in one or two years.
Matias Cannobbio Guillard, a sales executive for FAMAE, and a former Captain in the Chilean Army, told Shephard that he hoped there would be an upgrade of the army’s entire inventory of serviceable SIG rifles, which numbers around 50,000.
‘We have not had a war so the SIG rifles are like brand new,’ he said. ‘It is an outstanding rifle and has been in service for 30 years.’
The upgrade will likely retain many of the original internal parts, as they are still in good condition, with the upper and lower receivers refurbished and slightly modified. Obsolete or worn parts will be removed.
The handgrip and fixed buttstock will be replaced, the former with an all-round Picatinny rail and the latter with a foldable M4 stock. The 540-1M at FIDAE was fitted with a FAB Defense handgrip/bipod and Meprolight sight, while the 542-1M also featured an underslung grenade launcher.
A slight modification will be made to allow the SG 540, which currently accepts 20-round magazines, to accept universal 5.56mm magazines. That will introduce commonality with the new Galil ACE said Guillard.
‘That improves logistics issues when you have a single magazine type, rather than two different magazines,’ he added.
FAMAE will carry out internal qualification trials of the updated SIG rifles, with the Chilean Army also carrying out pre-delivery trials. Qualification trials will also be carried out by the Chilean Army’s research organisation, known as the Instituto de Investigaciones y Control del Ejército (IDIC).