Special Operations

PREMIUM: German SF set for new rifle but Bundeswehr must wait

9th March 2020 - 12:00 GMT | by Tim Fish in New Zealand

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Deliveries of the new HK416 rifle (pictured) to German SF are expected to start this month as the Bundeswehr ponders the replacement of its main assault rifle.

Heckler & Koch (H&K) was selected in 2018 to provide 1,700 HK416 A7 rifles – also known as the G95K – to the Kommando Spezialkräfte and Kampfschwimmer (frogman) SF units. Deliveries will be completed by mid-2020.

But whether this will have any impact on a separate programme to replace the army’s existing G36 rifle under the System Sturmgewehr Bundeswehr (Bundeswehr assault rifle system) programme, currently running a year late, is unclear. A decision is expected shortly.

H&K is offering its HK416 and HK433 rifles to the Bundeswehr whilst rival rifle producer Haenel is bidding with its MK556 – both 5.56mm weapons – though neither company would confirm its involvement.

Marco Seliger, head of communications at H&K, told Shephard that the company ‘cannot assess’ whether the delivery of the G95K to German SF will give the company a competitive advantage.

He explained that in Germany, invitations to tender for weapons procurement ‘are generally issued independently of decisions already made’.

Seliger added: ‘Our experience shows us that the needs and requirements of special forces and conventional forces of one and the same army sometimes differ considerably. It is part of Heckler & Koch's self-image to fulfil these different requirements for an assault rifle, if technically possible.’

The decision to buy a new army assault rifle was taken following reports the G36 did not perform as expected in Afghanistan and suffered a loss of accuracy in high temperatures. H&K disputed this and the German MoD lost a claim for damages when judges found the rifle met requirements.

But the tender for the replacement of the G36 has not run smoothly. The replacement rifle programme for 120,000 units for €245 million ($276 million) started in April 2017 with other bids from Rheinmetall-Steyr offering the RS556, FN Herstal with SCAR and Sig Sauer with the MCX.

However, German media reported in 2018 that all the contender rifles failed to meet requirements. A re-bid process was initiated with a decision date for February 2019, but only H&K and Haenel remained.

Meanwhile, the French Army is taking delivery of 102,000 HK416 rifles that are replacing its existing FAMAS weapon. The contract with H&K was signed in 2016 and Seliger said production of the units was running at ‘full speed’ with ‘about one third’ of the weapons delivered. Completion is expected in 2024.

Two versions of the HK416 are being delivered: the F-C and F-S types, each making up 50% of the order. The only difference between the two versions is the length of the barrel (F-C: 11in, F-S: 14.5in).

Norway was the first country to use the HK416 A3 in 2007. In 2019, it placed another order for more rifles worth €22 million with deliveries to be completed by 2022. The ...

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