The Firearm Blog is reporting that Germany has moved to purchase a limited quantity of HK417s and machine guns to replace 1200 G36s for troops rotating into combat zones, in light of the G36’s problematic performance when hot (either through firing or in ambient conditions of high heat). They provide what appears to be a machine translation of a German newspaper article. A number of people with weak reading comprehension have posted on places like HKPro that “Germany adoped the 417 to replace the G36.” Not so schnell, Sparky; what Germany did (and what TFB seems to have reported) is buy a small quantity of 417s (and a similar quantity of 5.56 light machine guns) to give its deployed troops some improved small arms capabilities. That’s all.
The 416 and 417 are already in service with the KSK special operations element, and the 417 has been tested as the G27; a variant based on the as-similar-as-it-can-be-under-German-laws US civilian HK MR762 is more generally issued as the G28, as a designated marksman’s rifle. That article doesn’t mention that half of the small buy (1200 weapons total) are for the 5.56mm MG4 light machine gun, already accepted by the Bund also.
We decided to check the German news magazines. Der Spiegel was a case of “Im Westen nichts neues1,”, as a search revealed that the last report they had on the G3 was on Lithuania throwing it over in early July.
Competitor Stern was all over this story, but all of its stories are variations on the same thing (we translate the most detailed below). And the official spin is not that the 417 (which is the 7.62 NATO version of the 416, really nothing magic — just a decent piston AR) is replacing the G36 but that it’s supplementing them to provide “optimization of the weapons mix.” Indeed, the 417s that are being acquired are 600 examples of the already-enroute-to-acceptance G27P designated marksman rifle; in addition, 600 MG4 light machine guns are on order from H&K.
27 August 2015: Bundeswehr Chooses Other Rifles After G36 Failures.
(Our translation follows) (Link to original German-language story).
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.”
Our conclusion: if the Bundeswehr was replacing the G36, they’d be buying a ton of weapons. Instead they bought 600 DMRs and 600 light machine guns — we think they’re doing just what they said, giving their guys some improved support weapons, since they’re over there mixing it up in Afghanistan.
In addition, more LMGs on hand mean less temptation to blaze away full-auto with service rifles. If they begin to overheat an MG4 barrel, it takes only a second to pop in a spare.
This doesn’t mean that the HK416 and 417 aren’t potential choices for the Bundeswehr; but so is some kind of rebuild to make the G36 more effective in internally or externally overheated conditions. All three of these are plausible, possible, defensible choices for the MOD. We’d bet a large quantity of the Deutschmarks that the Germans regret ever giving up, that replacing the G36 with the 417 alone is not going to happen. 416, maybe. (If they were giving up on 5.56 they wouldn’t be buying new light MGs in that caliber, nicht wahr?)
In addition to the recent “replacement” kerfuffle, the G36 also appeared in a small way in a parliamentarians-hit-the-press squabble about armament exports. All German parties pay lip service to reducing armament exports for the same sort of emotional, rhetorical reasons that are often used for domestic gun control; but despite that, the Euro value of German arms exports has gone up, thanks to sales of refueling tanker aircraft to Great Britain and sales of components that went into French transport vehicles for Saudi Arabia. Challenged by the far-left opposition parties, the Greens and the Left (the former East German Communists, who dream of a return to the Stasi state and Russian slavery), the Socialist Party minister with the defense-export portfolio indignantly replied that, hey, they were serious about export controls too, they refused to sell the Saudis “tanks, G36s or other small arms!”
Sounds like the Saudis dodged a bullet, or rather, some dozens of them all traveling in random directions from G36s in the broiling desert. The Saudis are some very cagey desert Bedouins, however, and they try to spread their weapons purchases around the Free World so that they don’t get caught out by a single-nation embargo at some future date — not that they predict that might happen, but they like to manage their risks.
Meanwhile, embattled H&K has taken to posting anonymous testimonials to the G36 on its website, in a PR counteroffensive against its key customer, the Bundeswehr and the MOD. For example. We’ll follow up with a translation of some of these in the next day or so.
Bottom line, then: The Bundeswehr has bought a few HK designated-marksman rifles and MGs for delivery next year, for overseas-deployed forces. This does not telegraph anything about a general replacement of the G36 — yet.
Nathaniel F at the Firearm Blog has an update linking back to this post. We note that he always goes the extra mile to put out good information! The initial article he had was confusing even in German, and did give the impression that this supplemental buy was the replacement for the G36. We’d comment over there, but TFB requires Discus or Facebook, etc., and those are verboten to us for work reasons. So it may sometimes look like we and they are yelling across the Internet at each other, when we’re actually on the same sheet of music (even if not always on the same measure).
We note that in the translated text both the 600 DMR rifles (G27P) and the 600 light MGs (MG4) are lumped together as “rifles.” That is because in German, they are both called rifles (as strange as that sounds), because both are a type of Gewehr, therefore the word Gewehr can mean both rifles and machine guns. Because German customarily forms neologisms by compounding, MGs have always been called Maschinengewehre (literally “machine rifles.”) This also serves to distinguish them from submachine guns, which auf Deutsch are “machine pistols.” Even though the term “machine rifle” long preceded the invention of the SMG, the two terms have a solid Teutonic logic, as the MG fires rifle rounds and the SMG pistol cartridges. We could have cleaned up the English by using a more generic term like “arms” or “small arms” but (1) that would have diverged more than we usually like from the original, and (2) this isn’t the kind of translation we take money for, it’s the kind we do in five minutes, dictating into the computer (usually with a few autodictation howlers).
- “In the West nothing new,” a German war-diary equivalent of the American “NSTR” (Nothing Significant to Report”), was the German title of Erich Marie Remarque’s World War I novel which is known in English as All Quiet on the Western Front.