The firestorm over the Bundeswehr’s G36 assault rifle has reached a new fever pitch: Heckler & Koch, maker of the embattled rifles has sued the German government in an effort to clear its name of any wrongdoing. The company’s G36 rifles have come under fire in the past few years for having a flaw in their construction that reportedly causes great shifts in the rifle’s point of impact when sustaining temperature or humidity changes. DW.com reports:
On Friday, the case is to go before a court in Koblenz, southern Germany, where the army’s procurement office is situated. It is up to the judges to determine whether the G36, the German army’s standard assault rifle since 1996, loses accuracy when it heats up. The company, meanwhile, is out to rescue its reputation and its prestigious relationship with the German military – built up in over 50 years of collaboration.
Some say the company has reason to feel aggrieved. “I can understand if Heckler & Koch said that this was damaging to its business and reputation – one could argue that,” said Sebastian Schulte, a defence analyst and Germany correspondent for a military magazine “Jane’s Defence Weekly.” “In my opinion,Heckler & Koch is seeking closure of the issue and validation by the court’s decision, to show that they haven’t done anything wrong.”
Schulte believes that H&K has a good case because the government moved the goal posts since the rifle first came into use in 1996. And anyway, a new iteration of the G36 would certainly be an improvement: “Technological advances however already allow the production of rifles suited for a broader range of operational and climatic conditions,” said Schulte.
Friday’s court case is H&K’s chance to clear its name, but even if the Defense Ministry does stick with its decision to ditch the G36, it’s far from the end for the gun-maker, who, lobby watchdogs have pointed out, maintains excellent relationships with the ministry.
“There are several possible alternative candidates that could be considered by the Defence Ministry,” said Schulte. “However, Heckler & Koch itself remains an option as the familiarity of the Bundeswehr with the company’s products and an established training and supply logistics are all arguments in favor of the company.” Despite being on opposite sides in Koblenz, it seems clear that the firm and theGerman military have developed a co-dependent relationship.
The controversy culminated with a report by the Ernst Mach Institute that verified the rifle’s problems, resulting in German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen condemning the rifle and announcing the search for a replacement. The Defense Minister even claimed that a government official had covered up the rifle’s flaws. Despite the EMI report, however, a field survey conducted by the German Green party seemed to vindicate the rifle, and the Lithuanian (a nation that also uses G36s) investigation into the matter determined that the rifles do not have any major flaws. Here at TFB, we even took a G36 to the range to see if we could find any accuracy issues with the weapon, and could not in our – admittedly limited – testing.
The G36 rifle is not out of the woods yet, but it will be very interesting to see the outcome of this lawsuit. Will H&K be vindicated? We will continue to report on this, so be sure to check back with TFB to find out!
Thanks to Daniel for the tip!