New Weapons for the German Armed Forces
By Sören Sünkler
The German Army Infantry and protective forces of the Air Force and Navy will be equipped with the MP7 Submachine Gun and MG4 Light Machine Gun. The MG4, also in use with other countries, will replace the MG3 as a squad machine gun.
Infantry forces with the new MP7A1 Submachine Gun: “penetration of an assault rifle”.
Until the new millennium, the Federal German Armed Forces Small Arms concept was largely based on 1960s design and technology, and in some cases pre-60s. A slow change has been going on here since the introduction of the Infanterist der Zukunft (IdZ) “Infantryman of the Future” system and of the corresponding MP7A1 Submachine Gun (2002) and MG4 Machine Gun (2005). It is true that the design and technology of the MG3 and MP2 “UZI” weapons were successful. However, they have been replaced due to their old age.
The MP7A1 Submachine Gun by Heckler & Koch is a close range defensive weapon (Personal Defence Weapon (PDW)) and has the new high penetration calibre 4.6mm x 30 ammunition. It is true that it displaces the ‘UZI’ and the P8 (9mm x 19) self-loading pistol, which has only recently been adopted, but not considered to be in a position to fully replace them. Its real predecessor is the MP5K PDW with folding butt stock; this was only adopted by the Special Forces and the Military Police of the Federal German Armed Forces and was seen as a stop gap pending adoption of an actual PDW. Original planning called for the MP7 to equip rear echelon personnel, truck drivers, pilots and the crews of heavy weapons. According to planning these personnel were not to burden themselves with an assault rifle but yet be capable of defending themselves effectively.
The new weapon is seen as a ‘three–in–one’ solution. It can be carried in a concealed way like a pistol, has the external appearance and capability of a submachine gun and its penetration is almost that of an assault rifle.
The forward handgrip and butt stock can both be deployed quickly and easily. A multitude of optical reflex sights can be assembled onto the upper picatinny rail. A lateral picatinny rail enables the fitment of tactical accessories including a laser light module.
This enables active target illumination by both day and night. The weapon becomes suitable for night fighting by the use of the ‘Lucie’ night vision goggles or by fitting a passive night sight on the upper picatinny rail. In addition there is a quick fit/release silencer. The new PDW is suitable for both right and left handed firers. There are ambidextrous safety and fire selector levers and the weapon is cocked and loaded via a cocking lever located at the top rear of the receiver. The Federal German Armed Forces, however, decided against a three-round burst trigger system. Magazines of 20 or 40 rounds may be inserted into the grip in a compact way. In particular the ammunition is a feature of the weapon. The new high velocity calibre shows performances four times the NATO requirements. At a range of 200 metres, it will penetrate a target made up of a 1.6mm titanium plate and 20 layers of Kevlar, an imitation of a Russian bullet proof vest, and any other sort of conventional protective clothing.
Contrary to the old 9mm x 19 cartridge, double or over penetration is avoided as almost all of the energy is transferred into the target hit first. What this means: the protective vest of an attacker is penetrated with great certainty but the danger of secondary penetration of an uninvolved bystander behind the attacker is minimised.
Contrary to that, the UZI penetrated none of the modern vests, but in return could penetrate two soft skinned targets without any problems.
On the basis of the compact design and the use of glass fibre reinforced polyamides with steel inserts, the MP7 weighs less than 2 kilograms. As a gas operated weapon with a rotating bolt head, it is conveniently fired even using one hand only. Its recoil is only half that of a conventional 9mm cartridge. This combination predestines the MP7 as a weapon
for close range defence, such as VIP protection or in confined spaces. However, so far it has only been fielded with the Federal German Armed Forces Army and Navy Special Forces. The Military Police use it to equip their VIP Protection Squads (Close Protection Teams (CPT)) in Afghanistan, Bosnia and the Kosovo. Also the KSK are carrying them.
The MP7 has not yet arrived with its intended original end users: the rear echelon personnel, drivers, pilots and heavy weapon crews. Instead high ranking Federal German Armed Forces personnel have talked about a P46 Self defence pistol (4.6mm) for general use. It therefore appears as if the MP7 was to be reserved for an exclusive circle of users within the troops. Meanwhile, it has been adopted by 17 states among others by the British Ministry of Defence Police and Italian Special Forces.
No less interesting was the procurement history around the new 5.56 mm x 45 calibre MG4 Machine Gun. With the adoption of this calibre weapon, the Federal German Armed Forces follow the example of the G36 standard issue assault rifle. The same ammunition for the main weapon of an infantry squad turns out to be extremely advantageous in view of supplies, weight and operational possibilities. The main reason for this weapon being adopted is, above all, the fact that is has more firepower and reduced weight with the consequence that an infantry squad can today be equipped with two machine guns
instead of one. The old and heavier MG3 (7.62mm x 51) is to remain a mounted weapon on escort and transport vehicles up to final withdrawal. Only the new ‘Puma’ Mechanised Infantry Combat Vehicle is to be equipped with an MG4 as a standard weapon.
MG4 with passive night sight. Machine Gunner of an infantry squad: “consistently positive experience”
Manufacturers Heckler & Koch from the Swabian Oberndorf first presented the MG4 on a technical fair at London in 2001. Before that, US troops and armed forces of other allied nations had reported a mainly positive experience with light machine guns. Unlike other comparable machine guns, due to its design the MG4 is not as ****e to jams due to fluctuations in the ammunition or heavy fouling and is consequently more reliable than the MG3. In addition, it is safer, more compact and easier to operate than other light machine guns in the Federal German Armed Forces (LMG36 and G8). As a system firing from an open bolt, on cessation of fire the bolt remains in the open position and allows cooling air to circulate. This precludes an accidental cook-off of a cartridge.
For transport and on the move, the cocking lever and butt stock can be folded up. A carrying handle/barrel grip allows fast and trouble free barrel change. An internal automatic safety prevents accidental discharges during cocking or a ‘runaway gun’. A loaded chamber indicator in the feed cover provides both visual and mechanical indication of the loaded state of the weapon. In order to prevent confusion, a modified feed shaft for training purposes only allows dummy rounds to be loaded and not ‘live ammunition’ belts. The upper assembly rails allow passive night sights, a thermal imagery sight or a laser light module to be fitted. In addition to the mechanical aperture sight a three power optical sight in a carrying handle may be used. According to Federal German Armed Forces information, only 20 MG4 had been supplied to the troops by early 2006. They are reported to mainly be in use with the protection companies in Afghanistan.
Facts & Figures
MP7 and MG4 procurement figures are coupled to the Infantryman of the Future (IdZ) armament project. With 217 IdZ basic systems, 434 MP7 have been procured so far. It is planned to equip another 870 enhanced IdZ systems with the submachine gun by the end of 2007. The same applies to the MG4. Consequently, only the infantry and, to a limited extent, mechanised infantry and Air Force and Navy protection force users of the IdZ system will also get this weapon. Full armament of the land forces with the MP7 and MG4 will presumably be decided on by the new Army armament concept. With regard to the costs of those new weapons, both the Federal German Armed Forces and the manufacturers Heckler & Koch remain silent.