France’s legendary Famas assault rifle, made by the Manufacture de Saint Etienne, in service across the French armed forces since 1978 is to be replaced by a German-made one.
France’s DGA procurement agency announced on 22 September, unsurprisingly, that the group of companies Heckler & Koch SAS France and Heckler & Koch GmbH Germany and its HK416 F, a weapon already in service with the special operations command (COS), had won the call for tender for a contract worth an estimated €350M to €450M. Its competitors were the SCAR made by Belgium’s FN Herstal, the ARX 160 by Italy’s Beretta, the SIG 550 by Swiss Arms and the VHS2 made in Croatia by HS Produkt.
“This NATO 5.56mm NATO calibre rifle, has the capacity to fire rifle grenades and can be equipped with a 40mm grenade launcher to increase its firepower,” the DGA said in a statement.
Heckler & Koch for its part announced today that it was “honoured and proud (…) that it has been officially awarded (…) the contract for the supply of the future French assault rifle,” adding that “the selected weapon is a variant of the battle-proven HK416A5 assault rifle.”
The weapon will be available in two versions with different barrel lengths depending on the user mission and will equip all Army, Navy and Air Force personnel.
The company adds that this weapon is “produced in Oberndorf am Neckar, in Germany’s Black Forest region, using the finest materials including the best French steels which provide its legendary robustness.” Which may go some way to cheer up those who regretted that there were no French manufacturers among the five finalists.
The DGA says that “this market contributes to strengthening the solid ties between Germany and France in defence and in the armaments’ industry in particular. It will meet the requirements of the three branches of the armed forces as laid out in the 2015 update of the 2014-2019 military programme law, with the delivery of more than 100,000 weapons, accessories, ammunition and various services notably to ensure the qualification, initial support and training of the users.”
Deliveries will be spread over 15 years, according to Heckler & Koch, 10 according to the DGA, starting in 2017.
First studies for the Future Individual Weapon (or Arme Individuelle Future, AIF) with a locked breech able to fire the whole range of NATO 5.56mm ammunition and useable with the French FELIN future soldier system, were launched in 2009. The call for tender was published by the French Defence Ministry in 2014 for the production of up to 102,000 weapons of which 21,340 are to be delivered between 2017 and 2019, 10,767 40x46mm grenade launchers, ammunition, spare parts, accessories and after-sales service for 30 years.