The Ministry of Defense wants to equip soldiers with new assault rifles and is changing manufacturers for this for the first time since 1959. The East German armory C.G. Haenel scores with technology and price. A heavy blow for the house supplier Heckler & Koch.
“Standard rifle” or even “bride of the soldier”: After a long selection process, the future armament of the German soldiers is practically certain. The Thuringian armory C.G. Haenel – newly founded a traditional factory in Suhl and started the race as a minor outsider – is to deliver the new assault rifle. After the bidding process started in 2017, the heads of the Ministry of Defense informed politicians from the ranks of the grand coalition on Monday about the results of tests and test series that were carried out under the leadership of the procurement office (BAAINBw).
Heckler & Koch is the manufacturer of the current G36 assault rifle. And there had been a lot of fuss about this in the past few years, which revolved around accuracy under extreme conditions – high-intensity fire fighting with long firing sequences or with climatic peaks. Defense Minister von der Leyen announced in 2015 “that the G36, as it is constructed today, has no future in the Bundeswehr”. The manufacturer and the ministry had already suffered a few wounds.
Heckler & Koch takes an unusual step
And the nerves were also open in the bidding process. Last year, Heckler & Koch criticized the ministry in what was perceived as an unusual step in the middle of the ongoing award process and, in a letter to the then Defense Minister von der Leyen, called for a decision on a larger caliber. It was also criticized that there was no fair and competent selection for the G36 successor model.
The interaction of weight, barrel length, ammunition and target performance is technically complex with weapons. The caliber of the ammunition determines the penetration power, but also limits how many rounds can be carried by the man – because of the weight.
Now the bang
Only the caliber of the weapon is not specified in the tender, but a weight. In the tender, the Bundeswehr also called for a rifle that is suitable for all climates. In terms of firepower, it must be able to hold the enemy down temporarily, i.e. force them into cover. In such a situation, precision can take a back seat to firepower. The target must be hit again soon afterwards with a high probability. This is a prerequisite in order not to unintentionally hit bystanders and civilians.
Now the bang: The Haenel weapon has – so it is said on Monday – proved to be technically somewhat better in the tests, and is also “more economical” in the range. Haenel is already supplying the Bundeswehr with a sniper rifle. The company belongs to the Merkel Group, which is part of the Tawazun Holding (United Arab Emirates). Obviously, the fact that today’s company could be dependent on Arab money didn’t bother. In 2008, C.G. Haenel resumed operations as a start-up. The former founder and namesake Carl Gottlieb Haenel established industrial weapons production in Suhl from 1840 onwards.
Third bidder withdrew
A third bidder – Sig Sauer (Eckernförde) – had withdrawn from the current tender. Sig Sauer complained about unequal treatment and also stated this due to the limited access to test ammunition, which Heckler & Koch had at their disposal because of other supply relationships and could benefit from them.
Monday was now a bitter day for Heckler & Koch. In 1959, the company delivered its first assault rifles to the Bundeswehr, the G3 at the time. It had been founded ten years earlier by former engineers from the Mauser works. In the 90s, H&K was awarded the contract for the successor rifle of the G3, the G36. With machine guns, grenade launchers and modernized G36 rifles, the company will continue to do business with the Bundeswehr in the future, but in the Oberndorfer’s parade discipline, the assault rifle, H&K will probably no longer get a chance with the new model.