Will France and Germany Adopt a Unified Weapon? Heckler & Koch Poised to Take European Rifle Market

    The HK416F variant adopted by the French Army. Note the specialized bayonet lug apparently designed for launching rifle grenades. Image source: sofrep.com

    France has just adopted the HK416 as its new standard infantry rifle, replacing the FAMAS, and Germany is on a path to a new weapon, aiming to divest herself of the controversial G36. This raises the question: Will Germany and France adopt a unified arm? These two nations, historically enemies but often partners after the Second World War, could possibly standardize on the excellent Heckler and Koch HK416 rifle, derived from the American AR-15 with the HK-designed male-piston short stroke high strength operating rod. Polish writer Remiguisz Wilk, writing for IHS Jane’s writes a short report:

    France and Germany are planning to renew talks about selecting a common individual weapon for their armed forces.

    A discussion between Germany’s defence procurement office (Bundesamt für Ausrüstung, Informationstechnik und Nutzung der Bundeswehr – BAAINBw) and the French defence procurement agency (Direction Générale de l’Armement – DGA) regarding the technical specification of France’s future individual weapon (Arme Individuelle Future – AIF) started in 2015. However, the talks were terminated in late 2015 during the final phase of the French AIF tender to avoid any possible compromising of the ongoing competition.

    With the French contract in the bag, and the HK416 being the overwhelming front-runner for the G36 replacement, it seems downright likely that both nations will end up using some sort of variants of the Oberndorf Armalite derivative. This makes the idea of the two nations standardizing on the same variant or similar variants of the HK416 extremely attractive, if the countries can agree on what requirements the rifle needs to meet.

    In fact, I would go so far as to speculate a tripartite rifle adoption: The SA80 rifle of the United Kingdom is showing its age, and a replacement will be needed sooner rather than later. It was Heckler and Koch that revitalized the troubled L85A1 rifles into their modern, much better functioning A2 standard, and the firm has held a close relationship with British law enforcement and special forces through sales of MP5s and MP7s.

    Could Heckler and Koch secure contracts with three of the important nations in Western Europe? It doesn’t seem that unlikely!

    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]