The German Army is selecting a new service rifle…again

Miguel Ortiz Avatar
The HK416 (foreground) and HK433 (background) are Heckler & Koch's submissions for the new Bundeswehr standard issue rifle (ConCamo)

In September 2020, the German Bundeswehr selected the Haenel MK556 to replace the Heckler & Koch G36 as its standard service rifle. However, in October, the government order was withdrawn after Heckler & Koch filed an appeal. This led to an investigation by the Federal Office of Bundeswehr Equipment, Information Technology and In-Service Support.

The MK556 order was canceled following allegations of patent infringement (Haenel)

The BAAINBw investigation discovered a possible patent infringement by Haenel in the design of the MK556 and the government order was canceled outright. In response, Haenel filed a lawsuit to overturn the decision and the contract for the new rifle was put on hold. During the court case, Heckler & Koch reportedly showed a video of Haenel components functioning interchangeably with those of Heckler & Koch’s HK416. If true, this would be concrete evidence that Haenel infringed on Heckler & Koch’s patent.

A diagram from the Heckler & Koch patent that Haenel infringed on (European Patent Office)

On June 22, 2022, the Düsseldorf Higher Regional Court dismissed Haenel’s case. A court press release stated, “The respondent [the German Ministry of Defence] rightly excluded the applicant [Haenel] for serious professional misconduct in the form of an alleged patent infringement.” The court also noted that Heckler & Koch proved their case of patent infringement against Haenel.

With this court ruling, Heckler & Koch is in the clear to supply the Bundeswehr with their new service rifle. Although the contract was put on hold, Parliamentary State Secretary for Defense Peter Tauber reportedly said at a German Parliament Defense Committee meeting that bids had been re-evaluated. With the war in Ukraine stretching on and Germany allocating increased funds to defense spending, it’s likely that the acquisition of a new service rifle will be expedited in every way possible. At this point, it’s only a matter of which Heckler & Koch rifle the Bundeswehr will select: The HK416 A8 or HK433.