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Belgian army to set up strategic partnership with FN Herstal and evaluate FN Evolys ultralight machine gun.

| 2023

During the National Defense Commission that took place at the Belgian Parliament on April 26, MP member Theo Francken (N-VA) asked Ludivine Dedonder, Minister of Defense, about the "strategic partnership with FN Herstal".
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The FN Evolys is available in 5.56mm and 7.62mm calibers (Picture source: Army Recognition)

Theo Francken asked: "The Defense would consider a strategic partnership with FN Herstal. What is the purpose of this partnership? What about this agreement and what are the terms? Where will the Defense find the necessary means? Since 1997, the Walloon Region has wholly owned FN Herstal. How can absolute neutrality, therefore, be guaranteed during negotiations with this company?

MoD Ludivine Dedonder replied: "The Defense is examining the possibilities of setting up a multinational strategic partnership with FN Herstal concerning light weapons systems. The objective is to ensure strategic autonomy in light weapons and ammunition over the next 20 years. This partnership has been budgeted in the growth trajectory. The planned partnership was presented to the Military Purchases and Sales Committee on March 15, 2023. I cannot yet provide more details on this subject for the moment. Since this is ammunition and armament, in accordance with the Protocol, this item will again be submitted to the committee responsible in due course".

MP member Peter Buysrogge then asked Minister Dedonder about the FN Evolys ultralight machine gun acquisition project: "In 2021, the Minister replied to one of my questions that the FN Evolys would possibly be suitable for specific missions and light units within the Defense but that this weapon could not replace the Minimi. Serial production of this weapon in Herstal will begin soon. It is very likely that an order will also be placed for the Belgian special operations forces (SOF), with the possibility of further extending this order if this weapon were to be incorporated more widely within Defense units. Does the Defense intend to buy the FN Evolys? If so, when is the order expected, for what type and in what quantity? What uses would the special forces make of these Evolys and would they be used in addition to the Minimi or in their place? Does the Defense plan to make wider use of this weapon, in addition to the existing armament? If so, for which units? What would be the influence on the proportions within the armed sections?

Minister Dedonder replied that "twenty Evolys weapons have already been purchased and will be delivered in the Fall. The objective is to test these weapons in 2024 during specific missions and within light units. Based on these tests, we will be able to determine the appropriate number of Evolys weapons per type of unit and per mission. The purchase of additional weapons is planned for the end of 2024. These weapons are not intended to replace the Minimi but to complement them".

Peter Buysrogge (N-VA) further asked: ": Has an order already been placed for additional weapons? " Minister Ludivine Dedonder replied "This decision will be taken after the tests".

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Like the FN MINIMI, the FN Evolys can be fed by either an ammo belt or ammo boxes of different round quantities (Picture source: Army Recognition)

FN EVOLYS ultralight machine gun

With its FN EVOLYS, FN Herstal launched a new concept of an ultralight machine gun that combines the firing capabilities of a belt-fed machine gun with ergonomics and balance similar to an assault rifle. This machine gun features an incredibly innovative and open architecture together with unique characteristics. The FN EVOLYS is not an evolution of the FN MINIMI but a real new weapon that meets the current needs of military forces and the evolution of combat operations. Unlike the FN MINIMI or the FN MAG, this new weapon is not designed to be mounted on a tripod or integrated into a weapon station. Only a specially dedicated support for vehicles is foreseen.

The FN EVOLYS is not a converted FN SCAR assault rifle but uses the proven technology of a gas-operated, open bolt, short-stroke piston weapon. The new machine gun can be handled like an assault rifle. The compact and ultralight weapon has a length of approximately 850 mm in 5.56mm caliber and 925mmin 7.62mm caliber (retracted buttstock), compared to a standard assault rifle which has a length from 756mm to 990 mm.

The FN EVOLYS is fitted with an ambidextrous fire selector that has a semi-auto position to engage point targets like with a rifle, while the full-auto position allows suppressive fire like with a machine gun. The FN EVOLYS ultralight machine gun has a rate of fire of approximately 750 rounds per minute. The new FN machine gun has an effective firing range of 800 m in 5.56mm caliber and 1,000 m in a 7.62mm configuration.

The FN EVOLYS is fitted with a buttstock adjustable in length and height, similar to the FN SCAR assault rifle’s one. The buttstock is fully independent of the weapon system. In the future, additional types of buttstocks could be introduced to meet customer requirements.

As mentioned earlier, one of the main advantages of the new FN EVOLYS machine gun is its very lightweight: with its 5.5 kg for the 5.56mm caliber version or 6.2 kg for the 7.62mm caliber version, the Belgian company FN Herstal has successfully designed one of the lightest machine guns ever in the world. To reach this weight, the engineers of FN Herstal have used the latest generation of materials and technologies combined with FN Herstal’s long standing expertise and innovative spirit, ensuring that the reduction of weight does not compromise the vital factors of reliability, user safety, and long life of parts. Its reduced weight and excellent balance also mean that the weapon can be fired from any position. Transitioning from one firing position to another is made easy by the design of the sling attachment interface.

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Army Recognition had the privilege to be the first media invited to test-fire the FN Evolys at FN Herstal’s shooting range on June 4, 2021 (Picture source: Army Recognition)

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Firing the FN Evolys fitted with a sound suppressor. Notice that a "silencer" only suppresses the noise emitted by the gas at the muzzle, not the noise emitted by the supersonic projectile. The noise is then only reduced, not suppressed. To have a nearly silent shot, one must also need to fire a subsonic round (Picture source: Army Recognition)

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One of the main advantages of the new FN EVOLYS machine gun is its very lightweight: 5.5 kg for the 5.56mm caliber version or 6.2 kg for the 7.62mm caliber version (Picture source: Army Recognition)

Defense News April 2023

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