In the Irish Army a platoon is an infantry unit sometimes referred to as a Rifle Platoon. The Rifle Platoon is made up of 3 sections of 9 soldiers, each of which is commanded by a Corporal. The platoon is commanded by a Lieutenant (or Second Lieutenant) with a Platoon Sergeant acting as Second in Command (2I/C). In a fire fight the Platoon Commander will rely primarily on the fire power available within the platoon. The weapons within the platoon range from the Steyr AUG, personal weapon of every Irish soldier, to the disposable anti-tank weapon the SRAAW. If this fire power proves insufficient the Platoon Commander can request assistance from the Company Commander.
The Steyr Armee Universal Gewehr (AUG) meaning "Army Universal Rifle" was introduced into service in the Defence Forces during 1988. The weapon has a calibre of 5.56mm which allows the soldier to carry twice as much ammunition as before and it utilises the "Bullpup" design in which the mechanism and magazine are located behind the trigger. This design increases the barrel length relative to the overall weapon length, thus permitting shorter weapons for the same barrel length. The smaller calibre 5.56mm cartridge became popular after international studies showed that soldiers rarely engage an enemy at ranges greater than 300 metres with small arms. This reduced the need for more powerful cartridges. The Steyr AUG A1 is manufactured in Austria by Steyr Daimler Puch and is the standard service rifle of Austria, Australia, New Zealand and Luxembourg. It is also issued to the U.S. Customs Service, and Philippines elite Scout Rangers among others.
The M203 has a primary role of supporting the infantry section. It is an under-slung 40 mm low velocity grenade weapon system permanently attached to the Steyr Rifle with a separate sighting and trigger mechanism. The weapon can fire a wide variety of ammunition types including High Explosive, Smoke and Illumination. The M203 can provide effective fire out to 350 metres. The M203 can be used to engage soft skinned vehicles, fortified buildings and enemy troops in the open. With a capability of penetrating up to 90 mm of rolled homogenous armour it can also engage light armour.
Today the Defence Forces use the Fabrique Nationale Mitrailleuses D'Appui General (FN MAG) 58 in the General Purpose Machine Gun (GPMG) role. Its calibre is 7.62mm and has an effective range of 200 - 1800 metres. The MAG is a belt-fed, gas-operated light machine gun. It is air-cooled and has a barrel designed for quick-change by its 2 man crew. One key benefit of using the MAG is that it is extremely easy to maintain. In fact it can be disassembled in 10 seconds by an experienced soldier. This greatly enhances its reliability in the field. The GPMG is normally mounted on a bipod, but it can be used in a sustained fire role, mounted on a tripod. The GPMG can also be seen mounted on the MOWAG armoured personnel carrier and other armoured vehicles. The MAG is used by many nations worldwide and has served in conflicts from The Gulf War to the Falklands.