The shooters follow one another, sharp and dry, under a blazing sun. For two days, the soldiers of the French army are training to handle their new weapon, an assault rifle not made in France.
The uniforms, the helmets, the decor is French. Standing or lying down, troops adjust their weapon and fire bursts at targets at 300 meters. In the well of the rifle, a statement stands: “HK Made in Germany” .
Revolution, the French Army, has since ancient times used French made guns, begins to receive the HK 416 German, which will equip all its regiments by 2028.
For the first time, the weapon take the spotlight Friday 14th July Bastille parade where it will come down the Champs Elysees with the 1st Regiment of Riflemen (armored infantry).
A symbol of European defense, which has been at the heart of a board of Franco-German Ministers yesterday in Paris, chaired by Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel.
In the vastness of the military training camp Canjuers, the largest in Europe near Draguignan (Var), soldiers are especially curious technical performance of their new traveling companion.
‘A German !’
“Reliability”, “robustness”, “ease of maintenance” … The enthusiasm of the military would almost think that motorists model for their “Made in Germany” .
“This is a more modern weapon and it’s a German! “ Smiles the adjutant Julian, a red giant of thirty years, which has already been well in hand. “Nothing but praise for the shooting practice, it is a big plus for us,” he said.
The good old French Famas, recognizable among thousands with its inverted-bugle, certainly accompanied all the flagship projects of the French army for 40 years, Bosnia and Mali.
But this symbol of the arms factory of Saint-Etienne – which closed its doors in 2001 – is also deemed capricious in the sand and dust.
“The Famas become dirty and then the cases (metal casing of the ammunition) are struggling to get out” of the ejection port, compromising shooting, says Chief Warrant Officer Franck, shooting instructor Draguignan.
Hence the incessant disassembly sequences and cleaning the gun under the crushing heat of Africa or the Middle East. Next to it, the HK 416 looks trendy.
‘Proud of Famas’
The choice of a foreign assault rifle sparked an outcry among those who dreamed to reopen a 100% French sector, despite its cost.
“How is it that the successor to the Famas, whose name resounds throughout the history of the French mechanical” or “imported from abroad? “ , Was moved, among others, former Socialist Minister Arnaud Montebourg, champion of economic patriotism.
Soldiers are more fatalistic. “We were proud to have the Famas. The Americans, Italians loved it, and to shoot well with it” recalls Major Jacques, employee technical Service Army (STAT).
“The ideal would be that the new rifle is French. But what the user wants, above all, it is a reliable weapon! “, He adds.
Before deciding on the German Heckler & Koch (HK), the “STAT” experienced different models (Belgian, Croatian, Italian ..) by pushing them to their full capacity.
“They fired 1500 cartridges, we stripped and re-assembled the weapon 50 times a day […] After the HK was always accurate with no negative control devices,” says Major Jacques.
The HK 416 has also already proven in French special forces, which are fitted separately to suit their needs. “We have a feedback, the weapon has already seen war”, states adjutant Julian.