Germany’s rifle debacle continues with the German government looking set to award the Bundeswehr rifle contract to the only other contender – Heckler & Koch. With Haenel disqualified after infringements of Heckler and Koch’s patents (for the magazine and water drainage holes in the receiver) were found, Germany’s options narrowed dramatically. In October the Bundeswehr’s contract with Haenel for the MK556 was officially withdrawn.
Our friends at Soldat & Technik report that Heckler and Koch’s HK416 A8 is likely to be selected as the Bundeswehr’s replacement for the G36. Speaking at a German Parliament Defense Committee meeting Parliamentary State Secretary for Defense Peter Tauber is reported to have said that the bids for the tender have been re-evaluated and an independent investigation of the alleged patent infringement had confirmed Haenel had infringed Heckler and Koch’s patents. The infringement investigation saw evidence collected from Haenel’s German headquarters in December.
Tauber explained that Haenel had launched a bid to have one of Heckler and Koch’s patents nullified but that this would only impact on the patent within Germany not elsewhere. With Haenel’s MK556 officially excluded this leaves only the HK416. Haenel are expected to challenge the decision in the courts which may delay any future contract award until the matter is settled.
The contract would call for delivery of 20,000 rifles per year for five years, however, funding has not yet been allocated to the procurement of the new rifles and it isn’t seen as a defense priority by the German government. The decision is due to be made in the second quarter of 2021.
Back in October, German media reported that the Bundeswehr’s final report on the 18 month long rifle trials found that the HK416 was the more accurate of the rifles submitted.
Within Heckler and Koch itself, the company is now entirely owned by private investor Nicolas Walewski and has undergone some restructuring. This has reportedly improved the German government’s relationship with the company.
Germany now finds itself in the uncomfortable position of having launched an effort to replace a rifle it believes flawed only to be forced to award the replacement contract to the same company despite previously selecting a rival design.
Regardless of the final outcome, the tender and contract award process has uncovered fundamental flaws and failings within Germany’s procurement process. It is clear that the Bundeswehr will continue to use the G36 for some years to come, even once the contract is settled.
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Matt is a British historian specialising in small arms development and military history. He has written several books and for a variety of publications in both the US and UK. He also runs Historical Firearms, a blog that explores the history, development and use of firearms. Matt is also co-founder of The Armourer’s Bench, a video series on historically significant small arms.
Here on TFB he covers product and current military small arms news.
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