The Finnish national broadcaster YLE reports that Heckler & Koch has filed a complaint with the Finnish Market Court against the Finnish Defence Forces' decision to acquire new SAKO assault rifles bypassing a mandatory international competition
On Wednesday, July 19, the Finnish State-owned radio and TV broadcaster YLE broke news that caught the attention of defense industry analysts and observers worldwide: at the end of June, the German Heckler & Koch company has filed a complaint with the Finnish Market Court against the Finnish Defence Forces' decision to acquire SAKO assault and designated marksman rifles as a replacement for the currently issued small arms systems.
The Market Court is a special court that deals with procurement, competition and supervision matters, market law matters and intellectual property rights matters in Finland. Reportedly, the Market Court has seldom – if ever – taken a case concerning the procurement of weapons and ammunition for the Finnish Defense Forces.
Our readers may remember that, back in March 2023, the governments of Sweden and Finland had officially announced their intention to jointly adopt a new light weapons system based on the AR-10/AR-15 design manufactured in Finland by SAKO – specifically a 5.56x45mm assault carbine for infantry troops and a 7.62x51mm rifle for designated marksmen.
SAKO – a Beretta Holding company – had been chosen because its headquarters and manufacturing plant are located in Finland, and could thus ensure a steady supply of small arms to both Countries by manufacturing them locally should heightened global tensions disrupt international trade routes. On April 4, 2023, Finland officially became the 31st member of NATO, and Swedish membership request has been backed by all current NATO members at the NATO meeting in Vilnius, on July 11, meaning that Sweden could become the 32nd member of NATO in a few months.
Since both nordic Countries had so far been officially neutral, they thus had to procure new weapon systems that would meet NATO standards.
According to Finnish sources, the complaint lodged by Heckler & Koch doesn't come as a surprise: immediately after the announcement of the joint procurement contract with the Swedes, the Finnish Defense Forces had been officially notified that Heckler & Koch was evaluating the possibility to file said complaint.
EU regulations mandate that all Member States shall hold competitions open to companies from all other Countries in the Union when holding public procurement tenders in all fields; said regulations, however, also state that the open competition can be skipped for sovereign national interest reasons.
The complaint filed by Heckler & Koch appears to state that there is no "national interest" in the Finnish decision to skip the open competition procedure and directly contract SAKO, as supply from other European Countries could still be granted in ways other than national production, such as by contract conditions.
As of today, no additional information concerning Heckler & Koch's complaint have been released – it's not even known if the Market Court of Finland will even pick up the case to begin with. It shall be noted, however, that a vast majority of European Countries have always sourced the armaments for their Armed Forces from national companies citing national interest matters, and the outcome of this case is a wild card that may end up tipping the balance of the entire defense procurement system in Europe.