CLARIFICATION: Recent Bundeswehr HK417 Purchase Is Supplementary

    An Australian soldier with an issue HK417 rifle.

    On Saturday, I reported that the Bundeswehr has purchased 600 HK417/G27P rifles and 600 MG4 machine guns to replace/supplement G36 rifles on the front lines. The initial run of German language-articles, especially when translated, appeared to say that these purchases were the initial buy in a program to replace the G36, which is not the case. Unfortunately, my reporting did nothing to clarify that these purchases are supplementary to the G36 fleet – similar to the purchase of the HK417 by the Australian Army, and 7.62mm LMT MWS rifles by nations like the UK and New Zealand – not the Bundeswehr’s first steps towards an all-7.62 fleet of rifles.

    The Bundeswehr helped clarify the purpose of the purchase in a recent article. Hognose of WeaponsMan graciously translates for us:

    After the failure of the G6 assault rifle, the Bundeswehr sent 1200 rifles of another type into action overseas. The G36 is back in the headlines again.

    After all the trouble over the assault rifle G36 the Bundeswehr is sending 1200 rifles of other types into operations overseas. This comprises 600 each rifles of types G 27P and MG4, said a spokesman for the Defense Ministry to the news agency AFP.

    The spokesman made these comments in a report in the Süddeutschen Zeitung. He said it was not about a replacement for the G36, rather much more an “optimization of the weapons mix.”

    The Bundeswehr has approximately 170,000 examples of the G 36. After years of criticism and assorted,sometimes contradictory, reports, Federal Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen (of the CDU party) revealed at the end of March (2015) massive problems with the accuracy of the G36 in high ambient temperatures or with many shots fired rapidly.

    The manufacturer, Heckler & Koch, disputes the deficiency. And, despite the dispute over the G36, the firm got the nod for the additional rifles for deployed forces. According to a press release from the Ministry, the purchase decision was made by State Secretary for Armament Katrin Suder.

    The G27P and MG4 are already used in the Bundeswehr. According to a Ministry statement, the G27P is still still awaiting some precision tests, but it’s expected that the rifle will be able to be deployed by the second half of 2016.

    The Ministry also has ordered 600 machine guns of type MG4. Acquisition of all these small arms should cost about €18 million. They’ll be paid for in “a regular annual financial authorization.”

    It’s always the highest priority of my writing to accurately reflect the facts of everything I report on, and your comments on the original article made it very clear that I misled many of you to believe that the HK417 would be a new standard or interim standard Bundeswehr rifle, hence the reason for this post.

    Mea culpa!

    Nathaniel F

    Nathaniel is a history enthusiast and firearms hobbyist whose primary interest lies in military small arms technological developments beginning with the smokeless powder era. He can be reached via email at [email protected]