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Germany restarting rifle acquisition project amid patent infringement claim

German Army G36
Germany is re-evaluating its choice of the successor for its G36 assault rifle. German Defense Ministry file photo

Les than a month after announcing its somewhat unexpected decision on the preferred manufacturer of a new generation of assault rifles for its armed forces, the German defense ministry is starting the process anew.

The decision to cancel the procurement of over 100,000 rifles comes after the losing bidder, Heckler & Koch, filed a patent infringement claim against the winner, C.G. Haenel GmbH.

Explaining its decision, the defense ministry said that it could not rule out the possibility of the patent infringement, adding it would now re-evaluate all three bids. The ministry did not provide information on whether the companies would have to submit new offers. It is also unclear what the patent infringement was related to.

While C.G. Haenel is a small company headquartered in Suhl, Germany, it is part of Caracal International, a company owned by the United Arab Emirates state conglomerate EDGE Group.

Germany’s September 2020 decision to pick C.G. Haenel came as a surprise to many, as Heckler & Koch was widely regarded as a favorite in the competition. The third bidder in the tender was Rheinmetall-Steyr Mannlicher duo who offered the RS556 rifle.

Germany intends to buy a total of 120,000 rifles for an estimated 250 million euro ($300 million).

This is the second major defense procurement project to be aborted by Germany in as little as 30 days after the defense ministry put the acquisition of a new heavy transport helicopter on hold. The German defense procurement agency said late last month that both submitted offers turned out to be more expensive than expected. This has forced the agency to re-evaluate its approach to the acquisition. The country wants to replace its CH-53s with as many as 65 new helicopters.