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Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Russia selects new assault rifles

The Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD) has selected two assault rifles manufactured by Kalashnikov Concern as new standard issue firearms for the Russian Ratnik soldier modernisation programme.

"We have already made a deal and selected assault rifles from Izhmash. It won in cost to effectiveness terms. The quality is also acceptable for us," Deputy Minister of Defence Yuriy Borisov stated on Russian radio on 24 January.

Borisov stated that two assault rifles manufactured by Kalashnikov Concern were selected by the Armed Forces: the AK-12, chambered in 5.45x39 mm, and the 7.62x39 mm AK-103-4.
"We also increase the number of ordered Ratnik systems from 50,000 to 70,000", Borisov added.
According to Borisov, the AK-12 is quite similar to its predecessor, the AK-74M, and has some common parts. The Russian army is expecting the price of the AK-12 will be 25% more than the AK-74M.

The AK-12 is a fifth generation AK-pattern rifle, featuring several ergonomic improvements, a bolt catch, accessory rails, and a telescopic buttstock. The AK-12 is also has a lower recoil impulse than the AK-74M. Design work on the AK-12 began in August 2011 with the first prototype unveiled on 24 January 2012. The rifle is fed from 30 round AK-74 box magazines, but 60 and 95 rounds magazines are also available.

The 7.62 mm chambered AK-103-4 is the newest revision of the AK-47. It is also equipped with a Picatinny rail, telescopic folding buttstock and effective muzzle device.

The AK-12 is set to be used by only the elite Russian units equipped with Ratnik system. The remainder of the Army is expected to use an upgraded AK-74M, developed by Kalashnikov under military requirements and was shown for the first time at the Oboronexpo fair in August 2014.
Meanwhile, a carbine variant of the AK-12, chambered in 7.62 mm, was selected by the Russian Federal Protective Service (FSO) to replace its current AKS-74U and AK-104 carbines and AK-103 rifles.

The Ratnik soldier modernisation programme is designed to provide the effectiveness soldiers on the battlefield. The system consists of 50 components, including small arms, sights, ballistic protection, as well as communication and navigation devices.
The Russian Army tested four assault rifles to be part of the Ratnik system, two chambered in 5.45x39 mm and two in the 7.62x39 mm cartridge: the AK-12 and AK-103-4 rifles designed by the Kalashnikov Concern (formerly Izmash), and the A-545 and A-762 rifles from the Degtyarev Plant. The latter are updated variants of the AEK-971/973 rifles designed in early 1980s for the AK-74M replacement programme, but which lost to the Nikonov AN-94 rifle (which was never adopted in large numbers).
In December 2014, the Russian MoD announced that all the rifles had passed the trial programme.

COMMENT

The selection of the Kalashnikov Concern rifles is surprising as previous information suggested that the Russian Army preferred the A-545 over the AK-12. The A-545 was recognised as a truly modern rifle design, which as a result of its counter-balanced recoil system was said to offer a 10-15% reduction in recoil compared to the AK-12.
Indeed, the AK-12 was not originally accepted for the state trials in 2012. The army subsequently allowed the rifle to be tested under political pressure, albeit at the expense of the manufacturer - the testing of the A-545 and A-762 were funded by the military.
One reason cited for the selection of the AK-12 was the existing manufacturing capability of Kalashnikov Concern, while the Degtyarev Plant would have had to build a new production line from scratch. As a result Izhevsk won the programme on the basis of a lower production cost.
Winning the prize of this large-scale contract, the Kalashnikov Concern should help the firm to survive any US and EU sanctions, as well as assist the firm in exporting its new generation AK-pattern rifles.