SIG SAUER - Never Settle

German Bundeswehr Selects CG Haenel’s MK556 Carbine to Replace H&K G36

According to the German language publication Soldat und Technik, the German Army has selected the CG Haenel MK556 carbine to replace the G36. The MK556 is a short-stroke piston design in 5.56mm NATO.

This ends the service’s multi-year search for a G36 replacement. The program to purchase around 120,000 new rifles began in 2017 and suffered a slight set back in 2019 when testing had to be reaccomplished. The G36 entered service in 1997 and underwent two upgrades during its service.

The MK556 beat out the new Heckler & Koch HK433 which was developed specifically for this tender after the German government told H&K that their existing HK416 (adopted by the German Kommando Spezialkräfte or, Special Forces) was too expensive.

Interestingly enough, Haenel part of the Merkel Group, which is under Tawazun Holding (United Arab Emirates) (Caracal). So the Bundeswehr is essentially getting a lower cost HK416.

19 Responses to “German Bundeswehr Selects CG Haenel’s MK556 Carbine to Replace H&K G36”

  1. Rob says:

    So they adopted a German rebrand of a UAE clone of a German redesign of an American rifle. Brilliant.

    • mark says:

      Ironic how some of the engineers who worked on the 416 also worked on the Caracal

    • BBA says:

      can I get bureaucracy for 200 please….

    • Aaron says:

      Keep on German-ing Germany. Eventually H&K will pull up stakes and shift production of firearms out of Germany. Then Germany can raise taxes on their populace to pay for lost business taxes that contribute to all the Social Welfare programs.

    • Biblicalviolence says:

      There were two engineers that after the HK416 went to Sig to produce the 516 with lessons learned from the 416. After that, they were hired by Caracal to make the penultimate piston carbine- the 816 as well as the facility that they’re manufactured in. Basically, the Caracal is everything the HK should’ve been. The Bundeswehr made a smart decision.

  2. Mark says:

    So much for HK remaining profitable next year. Maybe they will start being nicer to the commercial market now or they can just pull a Colt an double down on govt contracts.

  3. Cuvie says:

    This is a pretty big upset against H&K. Since Haenel is listed as a subsidiary of Caracal (, I’m guessing this is a derivative of the Caracal CAR 816? At the very least, they seem to use the same designs for their lower receivers, particularly around the magwell.

    The CAR 816 was developed by engineers who worked on both the HK416, and Sig 516. Chris Bartocci was present for some of the desert testing for that rifle and he did an excellent video on it:

  4. I haven’t been keeping an eye on the contest, looks like HK was all XM8 remix and then Bundeswehr was all: whatever we’ll take whatever is hot in America (8 years ago). I wonder if an old pic or if they sold em on the Keymod heh.

    • Sommerbiwak says:

      Ehrm no. the HK433 is not made from plastic to start with. The receiver is made in an metal injection molding process. The operating mechanism is basically the same as a G36, but why change that? It works and got a new charging handle added.

      And “Hkey” is definitely not KeyMod. It just looks superficially similar.

      • Harald Mustafah says:

        The 433 upper receiver is made from a machined aluminum extrusion with a welded rear stock interface. The lower is a typical polymer injection molded part.
        You are right about the action, but it has dozens of small refinements and adjustments that makes it look fairly different from G36 guts.

      • To slightly clarify I was noting it appears to be keymod on the MK556 picture (and their website), although I did not originally notice the Hkey on the HK433 which is even worse of an idea being proprietary for no mega gain.
        Also sports that sweet gen1 AFG, but anyway mostly poking fun at the fluff, where sounds like the rifle actually works well.

  5. GoBlin says:

    Njet, rifle is fine! (laughs in Russian)

    • Sommerbiwak says:

      There were serious plans pushed around after integrating the NVA to just switch to the MPi-74K (DDR made AK-74) and then later transisiton to the Wieger System rifles, that had been developed for exports in 556 (and other calibers). But H&K needed money after the canceled G11 project and there was of course West German arrogance in play too. On a small scale the Kampfschwimmer and Fernspäher used Wieger rifles for a few years and a few can still be found in armouries for playing enemy troops on exercises.

      The G36 is not as bad by far as the bad press and the former minister of defense von der Leyen made it out to be. So yes, rifle is fine.

  6. Strike-Hold says:

    It seems that the backstory to this rifle is just about as convoluted and full of international comings and goings as the backstory to the G3…

    You have to wonder too if this decision wasn’t at least partially driven by a desire to shift some defense jobs to a region of the Former East Germany, given that CG Haenel GmbH used to be called VEB Fahrzeug-und Jagdwaffenwerk “Ernst Thälmann” and manufactured Kalashnikovs for the East German National People’s Army.