Replacement for German Army G36 Assault Rifle Presented by Rheinmetall and Steyr Mannlicher
German firearms maker Rheinmetall AG and Austrian firearms maker Steyr Mannlicher AG have developed a new assault rifle to replace the Heckler & Koch G36 currently in service throughout the Bundeswehr (the German Armed Forces).
The product of their partnership is the "RS556" assault rifle chambered for the 5.56 x 45 mm caliber round standard in all NATO armies.
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R stands for Rheinmetall while the S denoted Steyr Mannlicher. The 556 refers to the caliber of the bullet fired by the weapon.
Both firms co-developed the weapon in response to a decision by the German government in September 2015 to replace the G36, which has been in service with the Bundeswehr since 1997.
The RS556 uses a short-stroke gas piston system that drives an operating rod to force the bolt carrier to the rear, and is locked by a rotating bolt.
The upper and lower receivers are made from aluminum and strengthened with steel bolt carrier guides to prevent the bolt tilting. The RS556 is being offered in a variety of barrel lengths, with the standard issue featuring a 406 mm barrel.
The fire selector, magazine catch and bolt catch are ambidextrous to support right and left handed shooters. The RS556 is equipped with a seven-position telescopic polymer butt-stock.
The RS556 will be offered with a variety of barrel lengths: 293 mm and 330 mm for personal defense; 370 mm (carbine); 406 mm and 455 mm (rifle) and 505 mm and 550 mm (designated marksman). Other barrel lengths can also be implemented.
The RS556 will be available in other calibers, such as 7.62x35 mm (300 BLK); .300 Whisper and 7.62x39 mm. There will also be a "heavy duty" barrel for use with hard core ammunition.
The RS556 features a modular upper receiver with NATO Accessory Rails (NARs). Optional accessory rails can be located on the handguard sides.
One of the factors leading to the early retirement of the G36 were unproven claims the G36 can't shoot accurately when it overheats or during continuous firing.
The claim was that overheating G36s used by German soldiers in Afghanistan made it difficult for the G36 to hit targets past 100 meters; made it ineffective at over 200 meters and incapable of effective fire past 300 meters.
H&K countered by saying the rifle was not designed for sustained, continuous fire and noted that German soldiers gave no negative feedback about the rifle. H&K sued the German government for damaging its reputation and won in 2016.
The cause of overheating was later traced to design of the ammunition cartridges. The government decision to replace the G36 announced in September 2015 was not rescinded, however.
Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen in September 2015 said the G36 will be phased out and replaced by a "new generation" weapon from 2019.
"We have decided in consensus with military command to make a clear cut," she said.
Tenders for a modern replacement for the Bundeswehr's 167,000 G36s would be Europe-wide. One of the results of this tender is the RS556.