The Bundeswehr’s programme to replace the Heckler & Koch G36 by 2020 has stalled. German newspaper Die Welt am Sonntag reports that none of the weapons submitted have fulfilled the Bundeswehr’s “individual mandatory requirements.” Die Welt have seen a copy of a confidential report from the German Defense Ministry’s procurement office, the BAAINBw, outlining the failure.
The controversy surrounding the G36 began back in 2012, after concerns over accuracy after sustained full auto fire in Afghanistan were raised. It was not until 2014-15 that the Bundeswehr launched an official investigation. It was found that the rifle could not maintain accuracy after prolonged firing, especially in hot climates, and heating of the trunnion caused the melting of the polymer receiver it sits in.
As a result in the summer of 2015, the German Army made an urgent operational requirement purchase of 600 HK417s to supplement the G36s on the front line, to both extend a platoons effective range and mitigate issues with the G36.
In April 2017, the German government announced plans to replace the G36 by 2020, releasing a tender for a new infantry rifle and outlining their selection programme. The HK416, HK433, Steyr-Rheinmetall RS556 and Haenel Defence MK556 were all linked to the trials. Selection was expected to occur in mid to late 2018, it seems now that while the programme was on schedule no weapon has been selected.
In April of this year we reported that the Bundeswehr had down-selected rifles from two companies: Heckler & Koch and Haenel. The two rifles are believed to be the Haenel Defence MK556 and Heckler & Koch’s new HK433 – both weapons are short-stroke piston operated. It has now been confirmed that the programme has not yet found a suitable replacement for the G36.
Deutsche Welle, Germany’s public broadcaster, notes that “weapons firms only submitted rifles with a 5.56 millimeter caliber despite the fact that some units in the army had required a larger 7.62 millimeter caliber weapon.” This seems to indicate that their was a multi-calibre requirement (which HK’s 416 & 417 would seeming fulfil) to the Bundeswehr’s rifle tender. The question arises though, why were only 5.56x45mm rifles submitted if the Bundeswehr requested rifles in both 5.56 and 7.62x51mm?
Deutsche Welle reports that the programme is now likely to be up to eight months behind schedule as manufacturers have been asked to address the issues raised and resubmit their weapons. The estimated cost of this delay and further testing is to be an additional €750,000 ($868,161), a cost that the Bundeswehr can little afford at the moment. The procurement office has reportedly warned that if no replacement is found during the extended testing then the programme will have to be shelved and the G36 retained for the near-term future.