PARIS — The Direction Générale de l'Armement received May 3 a 400-strong first batch of Heckler & Koch HK416 F, an assault rifle to replace the Famas weapon for the French services under the future personal weapon program, the French procurement office said.

That first delivery for the Army followed the DGA's September award of a contract worth €168 million (U.S. $184 million) for more than 100,000 HK416 F rifles, equipment, service and training, the DGA said in a May 4 statement. The weapons will be delivered over some 10 years as set out in the 2014-19 multiyear budget law.

There was stiff competition for the deal, with a European tender attracting bids from Belgium's FN Herstal, Italy's Beretta, Swiss Arms and Croatia's HS Produkt, La Tribune reported. The quality of the HK rifle and a highly competitive price helped the German weapon stand out, as the Defense Ministry had set a budget of some €350 million, the business website reported.

Acquiring a foreign rifle to arm the three French services, including the special forces, sparked lively debate, but the decision went ahead in favor of HK, which will gradually replace the domestic Famas weapon, which has been in service since the late 1970s. 

A selection of the HK rifle helped boost "solid ties between Germany and France in defense, and particularly in the arms industry," the French MoD said in a statement when pick of the HK was announced in September. 

The HK416 F has the standard NATO 5.56mm capability and can also fire 40mm grenades. The rifle was test fired at the DGA Bourges test center in central France.

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