As reported this morning by several European defence industry publications and blogs, the saga of the German Armed Forces search for a new rifle to replace their G-36s appears to have come to a final conclusion – in favor of Heckler & Koch. But you may be surprised to see that its the HK416 and not the HK433 that was selected.
According to information posted on Soldat & Technik, the German Federal Ministry of Defence (Bundesministeriumfuerverteidigung – BMVg) has decided in HK’s favor regarding the company’s protest over the previous decision to award the contract for a new assault rifle to Haenel.
The decision to award the contract to Haenel, apparently driven primarily by the price point offered, was controversial right from the start. HK immediately cried “foul” over alleged patent infringement’s by their competitor from the former East Germany, and there were also questions raised about Haenel’s foreign ownership, and the small company’s ability to be able to even handle the order volume. The concerns were clearly considered serious as the Haenel contract was cancelled less than a month later, while the BMVg tried to untangle the situation and decide upon a more certain course of action.
So now we come to this latest chapter in the saga. According to Soldat & Technik, “The Parliamentary State Secretary in the BMVg, Peter Tauber, cited patent law violations as justification for the decision in a written communication to the representatives of the Defense Committee today. It is intended to accept the bid from Heckler & Koch GmbH for the HK 416 rifle.”
The patent infringements by Haenel were investigated by an external patent law firm and the results of their investigation showed that “there are patent infringements relating to the over-the-beach capability of the weapon locking system and the magazine”, according to the BMVg statement quoted on Soldat & Technik. As a result of these findings of patent infringement, Haenel were excluded from further consideration and the award for the new assault rifle was transferred to Heckler & Koch instead.
However, just as Wagnerian operas are renowned for their extended length, the actual delivery of the new assault could delayed and drag on for much longer. Haenel has the right to dispute the findings of the patent infringement case, and thereby also the legality of the BMVg’s decision to reverse their earlier decision and award the contract to HK instead. Ultimately, if might take years for the legal angles to be fully explored, and the actual final contract decision might be taken by the courts.
The HK rifle model chosen by the BMVg now instead of the Haenel MK556 is the HK416A8. Although the Bundeswehr initially considered the HK416 series too expensive, HK apparently made several modifications to bring the cost down. The company also developed a new assault rifle model, the HK433, which was even less expensive to make and was also offered as a contender. Although the exact reasons are not yet clear, it would appear that the A8 model of the 416 meets the technical, performance, and price targets of the program. It’s selection was probably also aided by the fact that the HK416A7 model is already in service with the German Special Operations forces as the G95K.
The Heckler & Koch HK416A8 has a 16.5 inch barrel (with bayonet lug), an ergonomic shoulder rest that is adjustable in length and height, and a 45-degree fire selector switch arrangement. The rifle also has an adjustable gas take-off (normal and silencer operation), a slighter shorter front handguard, and a different pistol grip design with a steeper angle.