The modern German Army currently relies on three different General Purpose Machine Guns (GPMGs) to field alongside their MG4 Light Machine Gun (LMG) and Browning M2 Heavy Machine Gun (HMG) types. The trio is made up of the MG3, G8, and the new, all-modern MG5. The MG3 has roots in the World War 2-era MG42 while the G8 is the form typically used by German special forces elements - leaving the MG5 as the newest entry into the service's inventory. The MG5 is intended to succeed the aging line of MG3 machine guns in the same GPMG role for the German Army.
With design work spanning 2001 to 2018 (under the designation of "HK121"), Heckler & Koch began serial quantitative production of the new machine gun in 2010 with evaluations by the Army had from 2013 onward and the type subsequently entered operational service in 2015.
At its core, the system is chambered for the proven 7.62x51mm NATO rifle cartridge while fed through disintegrating DM60/M13 type belts of 50- or 120-round count. It is a gas-operated weapon with an internal rotating bolt action. Rate-of-fire reaches between 640 and 800 rounds-per-minute with muzzle velocity ranging from 2,575 to 2,756 feet-per-second. Effective range is out to 1,000 meters while maximum range exceeds 3,500 meters. Sighting is through a Diopter arrangement.
The gun's arrangement is largely conventional. The changeable barrel is capped by a slotted brake with the gas cylinder residing under the assembly. The hinged bipod is attached to the cylinder while the barrel showcases the forward sighting device. Over the receiver is a length of Picatinny rail which allows for the installation of various accuracy-aiding accessories. The rear sight is positioned at the extreme rear of the receiver. The pistol grip and trigger unit are set under the receiver in the usual way.
As a "general purpose" weapon, the MG5 can be fired from its traditional bipod support (making it semi-portable), mounted on a tripod (as a more fixed defensive measure), or vehicle-mounted for mobility to better suit the mission need. This versatility is required of all GPMGs today making them a critical component to any war machine. As such, the weapon can be used as a troop suppression solution at the squad level or ranged attacker/defender when vehicle-/tripod-mounted. Additionally, such weapons can engage low-flying aircraft when needed, adding yet another element to the repertoire of the weapon.
The notable variants in the series are the base MG5 followed by the specialized MG5A2, MG5A1, and the MG5S. MG5 designates the "universal" form meant to tackle most any role and comes with a folding stock for compactness in travel. The MGA1 is the vehicle-/aircraft-mounted derivative showcasing a full shoulder stock while the MGA2 is the lightened (5.5lb) infantry-level model sporting a fixed shoulder stock. MG5S is a special forces issue type offering the shortest available (unfolded) overall length (39.8") despite its fixed shoulder stock.
The MG5 has been taken into service with the forces of Albania (Army), Germany (Army), Chile (Marines), and Malaysia (Special Forces) as of August 2020. The MG5 will be acquired by the German Army in the thousands - as many as 12,700 are expected to be procured.