“A German court ruled on Friday that the government has no right to compensation from Heckler & Koch for what Berlin has said were faulty assault rifles,” reuters.com reports, “handing a victory to the gunmaker.” The German government maintained that the H&K G36 rifles — issued to troops for the last 20 years — failed to shoot accurately in hot weather and/or after constant firing. The charge came after a particularly bloody battle in Afghanistan . . .
The first suggestions that the gun might be faulty date back to April 2010, when 32 Bundeswehr paratroopers were ambushed by Taliban fighters in northern Afghanistan. Three German soldiers were killed in a nine-hour firefight. The G36 was reported to have overheated, forcing the Germans to retreat . . .
Heckler & Koch said the rifles it had delivered complied with the specifications agreed with the government in 1996.
While the court did not comment in its ruling on whether the rifles shoot straight when they heat up, it said that they met the specifications set out in the purchase contracts. The rifles had also passed the quality and acceptance testing laid out in the contracts, it said.
The court had said in a June hearing that it was leaning towards backing Heckler & Koch because the government had, over the years, ordered rifles with the same specifications as in 1996 even though they were required for different environments.
In other words, the German Army’s objections came too late. While the German government says it might appeal the decision, the damage to H&K’s rep is done. And yet, despite the contretemps, the gunmaker still has its sights set on building the replacement for the lamented G36.
Heckler & Koch said it would not comment on the actions of its customers but affirmed that it plans to take part in the government’s tender for a new supply contract, expected to be awarded in 2018.
“We make the world’s best assault rifle. Many armies in the western world use our weapons. We are already looking forward to the German army’s assault rifle tender, in which we will again prove our performance,” the company said in a statement.
Don’t count them out. Like all military contracts, the political component often outweighs other considerations. Even the most severe.