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HK416-F Will Replace the FAMAS in the French Army

By Jean Huon

In the 1970s, France adopted the FAMAS, a modern bullpup style assault rifle.

Several variations were produced:

• FAMAS F 1 (353,373 guns for the Army and Air Force)
• FAMAS G 2 (10,000 guns for Navy)
• FAMAS Felin (22,600 rifles), improved variation with scope and communication device.

The FAMAS works with a delayed mechanism and uses 5.56x45-mm ammunition specially designed for it; most rounds had a steel case. The rifle is robust and reliable, despite some minor faults.

Lacking a long-term vision, the French government closed all of the small factories at the beginning of the 2000’s: MAS closed in 2002 and Manurhin cartridge factory in 2006.

France was living in peace, and the stockpile of ammunition was important to maintain. However, the political situation in the world has changed and become more dangerous, with the massive evolution of terrorism. The French army fights in several theatres, such as Afghanistan, Africa and others.

During this time, that stockpile of ammunition has run out. Cartridges were ordered from several factories in Europe or other countries, but all were M193 configuration with brass casing. It was not the best choice, and several accidents occurred with explosions of brass cartridges outside of the chamber. In the same timeframe, some Special Forces were equipped with a few modern rifles such as the M4 carbine, HK G36, HK416-F and FN SCAR rifles.

French headquarters invited bids for a new assault rifle. The program was designated AIF (Arme d’Infanterie Future = Future Infantry Weapon) to fit Army, Navy and Air Force needs. The French Army was then equipped with a complete NATO standard rifle and ammunition system.

The Program

The DGA (Délégation Générale à l’Armement or Armament Government Office) has worked since 2009 to develop the AIF program, and the competition was opened on November 28, 2014, for a new 5.56-mm NATO rifle and accessories.

Geographical and Intellectual Constraints

The rifle has to be designed in the European Community. Main parts of the rifle will be produced in the EC, such as: barrel, bolt head, receiver and assembly.

Description of the AIF

The AIF will be delivered...

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V21N3 (April 2017)
and was posted online on February 17, 2017

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