The demand for German Heckler & Koch HK416 assault rifles seems to be on the rise. The French Army’s procurement agency DGA has placed a fresh order for the HK416 assault rifles, which would replace the FAMAS in all three services in the future.
The decision to replace the FAMAS was taken in 2016 when the French small arms industry took a hit as the military opted for the German weapon. The first delivery was made in May 2017.
The French military expects a total of 93,000 rifles to be delivered by 2025, and 117,000 units by 2028. As many as 12,000 HK416 rifles were supplied this year, taking the total number of units in possession of the French armed forces to 45,340. Another 12,000 would be delivered next year.
France’s history of adopting new technologies in small arms has always been interesting. In 1887, it adopted the revolutionary rifle ‘Lebel’, the world’s first smokeless powder rifle. When it introduced the FAMAS into service in late 1978, it became the second country in the world to adopt a bullpup design after Austria’s adoption of AUG.
The FAMAS was in use for about 40 years. It was widely used in conflicts in Afghanistan, Ivory Coast, Mali, Chad, Lebanon, Libya, Iraq, etc. During its lifespan, the Saint-Étienne manufacturing plant produced no less than 450,000 rifles before its supply ended in 2002.
In the absence of any fresh supply of FAMAS, the French military opted for Heckler & Koch’s HK416.
The other reasons for dropping the FAMAS was that it did not function properly with the NATO-standard brass-cased ammunition, and the special steel-case ones (chamber fluting can allow the F1 to use brass cases but only G2 rifles can use common STANAG magazines).
Nevertheless, the rifles would be still issued to the French National Guard and domestic police units and would continue to be in reserve and with non-combat units until these are completely replaced with the HK416 occurs.
Under the contract, the new rifle is designated HK416F, with “F” standing for the French version, and is expected to remain in service for at least 30 years.
The HK416 rifle has gained a lot of fame as a specialized AR-15 alternative and came under the spotlight when the US Navy SEALS used it during the raid to kill Osama Bin Laden in 2011. A modified version of the rifle is also adopted by the Marine Corps as M27 IAR (Infantry Automatic Rifle).
The HK416 is in use with most special forces units around the world. Similar to the M4’s “SOPMOD”, the French HK416F is capable of mounting FÉLIN attachments (French infantry combat system).