On September 7, 2023, the UK’s Ministry of Defence announced the procurement of the Knight’s Armament Company KS-1 as the new Alternative Individual Weapon system. Designated the L403A1, the new rifle will supplement the standard-issue L85A3 service rifle. The KS-1 will enter service with the Royal Marine Commando Forces as well as the new British Army Ranger Regiment.
The AIW was selected under Project Hunter, a program designed to increase the lethality and reduce the operational signature of Britain’s special operations-capable units. In August 2021, the requirements for the AIW were released. Multiple companies submitted rifles to compete for the contract. Reportedly, this included Heckler & Koch’s HK416A5, Glock’s GR-115F and SIG Sauer’s MCX SPEAR-LT. However, it was the KAC KS-1 that ultimately secured the £90 million contract for the AIW. The rifles will be imported into the UK from Titusville, Florida, where KAC is based, by Edgar Brothers.
An initial order of £15 million was placed for 1,620 AIW systems with options to procure up to 10,000 total. In addition to the KS-1 rifle, the complete AIW system includes an improved optical sighting system consisting of a Vortex 1-10x Low-Power Variable Optic and an Aimpoint ACRO P-2 red dot sight. The full system also includes accessories like a MAGPUL M54 sling and M-LOK Angled Fore Grip, SureFire Mini Scout Light Pro and KAC Suppressor with a thermal cover.
KAC was founded by Reed Knight in 1982. Eugene Stoner, one of the lead designers on the AR-15/M16, joined the company in the 1990s where he further developed his AR-10 designed into the SR-25, which is used by the military as the Mk 11 rifle and M110 Semi-Automatic Sniper System. KAC also makes the railed handguard system used on the M16 rifle and M4 carbine as well as the forward grip and suppressor used in SOCOM's Special Operations Peculiar Modification M4 carbine package.
Unveiled in 2022, the KS-1 is KAC's new flagship rifle, replacing the SR-15/SR-16 rifle. The KS-1 is available with 11.5", 13.7", 14.5" and 16" barrels. These cold hammer-forged barrels are dimpled with a heavy profile to increase durability over a hard-use service life. According to KAC's website, the 13.7" KS-1 which was adopted as the L403A1 weighs 6.88 pounds. The first AIW systems will be delivered to Commando Strike Steams and the Ranger Regiment this year.