The evolution of an automaton in the USSR and in Russia in the context of the American NGSW program

The Kalashnikov assault rifle of the 1947 sample, the modernized Kalashnikov assault rifle (AKM) and the Kalashnikov assault rifle under the low-pulse AK-74 cartridge

The development of automata in the USSR

Since the mid-20th century, the main infantry weapons Armed forces of the Russian Federation (RF) is a Kalashnikov assault rifle. After adopting the Kalashnikov assault rifle with the 1947 model (the same AK-47) under the intermediate cartridge 7,62x39 mm, its design was continuously improved, primarily in terms of increasing the manufacturability of the design. Soon after the USA adopted the M16 rifle under the low-pulse intermediate cartridge 5,56x45 mm, the USSR adopted the AK-74 submachine gun under the similar low-pulse intermediate cartridge 5,45x39 mm.

In addition to improving the design of the Kalashnikov assault rifle, other types of small arms were also considered in the USSR that could supposedly replace the Kalashnikov assault rifle in the ranks of the Soviet armed forces.

Prototypes of machine guns of Nikolai Afanasyev

Prototypes of German Korobov assault rifles

Experienced machine E.F. Dragunova

Experienced Stechkin assault rifle

No less active in the Soviet Union was the possibility of using various types of ammunition in promising small arms, including sagittal sub-caliber bullets. Nevertheless, not one of the cartridges being developed was brought into service and mass production, and at the time of the collapse of the USSR, the main low-pulse ammunition of the caliber 5,45x39 mm remained the main ammunition of small arms.

Experienced cartridges and arrow-shaped sub-caliber bullets developed in the USSR

Systematic work on the new machine was carried out in the USSR from the 1978 of the year as part of the Flagok research work (R&D), and then, from the 1981 of the year, as part of the Abakan experimental design work (R&D). The main requirement of the OCD "Abakan" can be considered to increase the accuracy of firing from the machine in automatic mode. Eight prototypes took part in the competition for the new machine, with several options - TKB-0111 designer G.A. Korobov, N.M. Afanasyev TKB-0136, I. Ya. Stechkina TKB-0146, V.M. Kalashnikov battery , APT Postnikova I.A., AEK-971 Koksharova S.I. and Garev B.A., AEK-978 Pikinsky P.A., AS Nikonova G.N.

From top to bottom TKB-0111 (Korobov G.A.), TKB-0136-3М (Afanasyev N.M.), TKB-0146 (Stechkin I.Ya.), AEK-971 (Tarev B.A.), AEK- 978 (Pikinsky P.A.), AFM (Nikonov G.N.)

The TKB-0146 submachine guns Stechkina I. Ya. And AFM Nikonova G.N. reached the finals of the OCD “Abakan”, in which a scheme with a recoil impulse shift was used, which significantly increased the accuracy of fire in short bursts.

Stechkin I. Ya. TKB-0146 submachine gun executed according to the bullpup scheme was rejected. Part of the reason could be a certain conservativeness of the military in terms of the bullpup layout, but one cannot fail to note a significant drawback of this machine gun - the need for double chambering of the cartridge (the cartridge is fed into the barrel through an intermediate feeder with two twitches of the shutter handle).

The Nikonov G.N. submachine gun was adopted for service under the designation AN-94, but in fact, was not purchased in significant quantities. It is believed that this happened due to the collapse of the USSR and the lack of adequate funding, but in fact the AN-94 is an extremely complex and specific weapon that does not have radical advantages over the AK-74 in the caliber 5,45x39 mm.

Nikonov rifle arr. AN-94 "Abakan"

The development of machines in the Russian Federation

In Russia, the choice of a new machine for the armed forces began in 2012 as part of the creation of promising military equipment for the serviceman (RRC “Ratnik”), commissioned by the Ministry of Defense (MO). The scale of the competition for the selection of an automatic machine in the framework of the RRC "Ratnik" was clearly not comparable with the ROC "Abakan" of the Soviet period. In fact, information is known about the choice between the upgraded Kalashnikov assault rifle NPO IZHMASH, issued under the code AK-12 in caliber 5,45x39 mm and AK-15 in caliber 7,62x39 mm, with A-545 and A-762 assault rifles (also upgraded AEK-971, respectively) in calibers 5,45x39 mm and caliber 7,62x39 mm, developed at the plant them. Degtyarev and machine guns 5,45A-91 and 7,62A-91 in the bullpup layout developed by the branch of KBP JSC - TsKIB SOO. The finalists were AK-12 / AK-15 and A-545 / A-762, and at the first stage of the competition, the machines of the plant named after Degtyareva proved to be better than machine guns of NPO IZHMASH.

Automata factory them. Degtyareva A-545 caliber 5,45x39 mm and A-762 caliber 7,62x39 mm

There was no talk of new ammunition, and the choice between ammunition of the caliber 5,45x39 mm and 7,62x39 mm was not finally decided, so we decided to leave both. The main caliber is still considered to be the 5,45x39 mm caliber, but from time to time there is information that the option of returning to the 7,62x39 mm cartridge as the main caliber of small arms is being considered.

Meanwhile, the new Kalashnikov assault rifles, having undergone significant transformations, entered the second part of the competition. As they “optimized,” the new Kalashnikov assault rifles lost their futuristic look and some of the previously announced functions — bilateral controls, shutter lag, and quick barrel replacement.

The evolution of an automaton in the USSR and in Russia in the context of the American NGSW program

Automatic machines NPO Izhmash of the AK-12 / AK-15 series - from prototype to production model

The competition ended quite specifically. It seems like AK-12 / AK-15 series machines won, but A-545 and A-762 machines with balanced automation will be purchased for special units. The main reason for choosing AK-12 / AK-15 machines is their lower cost, which is only several times (two to three?) Higher than the cost of AK-74, while the cost of A-545 and A-762 machines is supposedly higher the cost of AK-74 is about ten! time. The contract provides for the delivery within three years of one hundred and fifty thousand AK-12 and AK-15 assault rifles. It is planned to supply fifty thousand automatic machines in 2019, 2020 and 2021 year. In what proportion will the AK-12 be delivered and the AK-15 not reported. It is also not known how many A-545 and A-762 machines will be purchased in the end. However, it can be assumed that in the end both plants will receive their own piece of budget pie.

A number of sources question the feasibility of purchasing AK-12, AK-15, A-545, A-762 assault rifles. Products for the AK-74 / AK-74M assault rifles have been developed such as the “Modernization kit - Kalashnikov assault rifle” (KM-AK) according to the OCD “Body kit”, which can improve the ergonomics of these weapons and provide the ability to install additional equipment. The ergonomics of the AK-74 / AK-74M in the “body kit” practically do not differ from the ergonomics of the AK-12, AK-15, A-545, A-762 machines, while the increase in their efficiency hardly justifies a purchase with a price from two to ten times higher than the cost of AK-74 / AK-74М, while the latter are available in huge quantities in warehouses. You can also create a similar “Bodykit” for AKM assault rifles of 7,62x39 mm caliber, thereby completely closing the line of assault rifles for the armed forces in 5,45x39 mm and 7,62x39 mm calibers.

Modernization kit for Kalashnikov assault rifle “Body kit”

There is also an opinion that Kalashnikovs manufactured in the seventies and early eighties are superior in quality to those that are being produced now, but there is no reliable information as far as this information is true and in what condition this weapon is in storage depots.

What can be assumed for sure is that “body kit” kits cost much less than new weapons, and for manufacturers supplying “body kits” to the armed forces is an order of magnitude less attractive than supplying new weapons. Although it is possible that for the armed forces the best solution would be to purchase 300-500 of thousands of “Bodykit” sets than to buy 150 000 assault rifles with conditionally improved characteristics. However, apparently, this is a matter of the past tense.

NGSW program and its consequences for the RF Armed Forces in case of success or failure

When the United States talked about the transition to a new cartridge of the caliber 6,5-6,8 mm, it was widely believed that such cartridges as the 6,5x39 mm Grendel or 6,8x43 mm Remington SPC are considered the new main ammunition of the US armed forces. In extreme cases, something new, for example, the same telescopic cartridge Textron Systems 6,8CT / 7,62CT, but with approximately the same energy 2200-2600 J. However, judging by the latest information about the NGSW program, the new cartridge of the caliber 6,8 mm is supposed to be made with energy of the order of 4000-4600 J, which is more than the existing rifle cartridges 7,62x51 mm 7,62x54R.

Cartridges 5,56x45 mm, 6,5x38 Grendel, 6,8x43 Rem SPC, 7,62x51 mm

As mentioned in the previous articleDue to the high estimated power of the promising 6,8 mm caliber cartridge, the U.S. armed forces may face the same problems that they pursued in Vietnam with the M14 rifle chambered for 7,65x51 mm.

Based on this, two scenarios for implementing the NGSW program can be considered:
1. NGSW members will not be able create a weapon that provides both a significant increase in range and high armor penetration, combined with a fairly low recoil, and an acceptable mass of weapons.

In this case, weapons created under the NGSW program will occupy a limited niche in the US armed forces. The largest acquisition of the US Armed Forces in this case will be the NGSW-AR machine gun under the new 6,8 mm caliber cartridge, considered instead of the M249 SAW machine gun under the 5,56x45 mm caliber cartridge. The NGSW-R rifle, which is being developed to replace the M4, is likely to occupy the niche of the Marxman weapon, displacing the mentioned M14 rifle from it.

As for the bulk of the American military, they will either have to be content with weapons chambered for 5,56x45, or its analogue, but under any of the mentioned cartridges of the type 6,5x39 Grendel or 6,8x43 Rem SPC. If a new weapon will be developed for the promising telescopic cartridge Textron Systems 5,56CT / 6,8CT / 7,62CT, then its energy will not be at the level of 4000-4600 J, but at the same level as the same 2200-2600 J, most likely quite achievable in the cartridge 7,62x39 mm

2. NGSW members will be able to create a weapon that provides both a significant increase in range and high armor penetration, combined with a fairly low recoil, and an acceptable mass of weapons.

In this case, the US armed forces will carry out a phased transition to new weapons. First, they will be armed with special operations forces (MTR), then the most warring units, and then everyone else.

Possible response of the Russian armed forces to the NGSW program

In the case of the implementation of the 1 scenario, when the weapons sold under the NGSW program receive limited distribution, retaliatory measures can cost the Russian armed forces "little blood."

As a weapon opposing the promising American machine gun NGSW-AR caliber 6,8 mm, a single Pecheneg machine gun under the cartridge of the caliber 7,62x54R or its upgraded version can be considered. Potentially inferior to the promising American machine gun in terms of the mass of the weapon itself, the mass of ammunition and the persistence of the trajectory, it will traditionally surpass it in reliability. The Pecheneg machine gun can be upgraded to reduce weight, but the main means of increasing its effectiveness should be the development of modernized 7,62x54R ammunition with increased accuracy and armor penetration.

Single machine guns "Pecheneg" and "Pecheneg-SP" caliber 7,62x54R

A similar situation is with the Marxman rifle. As it can serve as a modernized version of the SVN rifle caliber 7,62xNUMXR, and promising weapons such as the Chukavin sniper rifle (UHF).

7,62x54R Chukavin sniper rifle

Alternatively, an AK-308 assault rifle can be developed for the 7,62x54R cartridge, which can claim the same niche as the FN SCAR-H and HK-417 rifles of the 7,62x51 mm caliber.

Automatic AK-308 caliber 7,62x51 mm

The most difficult task will be to decide on the final choice between the calibers 5,45x39 mm and 7,62x39 mm, in the case of the transfer of the majority of US troops to weapons chambered like 6,5x39 Grendel, 6,8x43 Rem SPC with 2200-2600 J energy (as we said earlier, such a scenario is possible if armaments capable of completely replacing the M4 rifle under the NGSW program are not created, but the caliber 5,56x45 mm is finally recognized as ineffective).

The question of the appropriateness of switching from a cartridge of 7,62x39 mm to a cartridge of 5,45x39 mm and vice versa is periodically raised both in the press and, apparently, in the armed forces. At the beginning of the 2019 of the year in the thematic collection “Missile-technical and artillery-technical support of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation - 2018”, information appeared again from the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation that the issue of the refusal of the armed forces from small arms of the caliber 5,45x39 mm and full transition to caliber 7,62x39 mm. It can be assumed that these throwings are also connected with information about the transition to a larger caliber of the US Army.

By the way, the transition from an 5,45x39 mm cartridge to an 7,62x39 mm cartridge can send almost all new weapons purchased under the Warrior program to warehouses, which confirms the hasty decision-making on this program.

The claimed advantages of 5,45x39 mm cartridges compared to 7,62x39 mm cartridges are largely due to the fact that modern cartridges of the 7,62x39 mm caliber are not developed and are not manufactured. It can be assumed that in the case of developing a promising armor-piercing cartridge in caliber 7,62x39 mm, with design solutions similar to those used in the 7X39 5,45x39 mm caliber cartridge, the characteristics of the prospective armor-piercing cartridge 7,62x39 mm do not exceed the initial 2200x2600 mm caliber characteristics not only the initial 7Н39 cartridge, but also a promising American cartridge based on 6,5x39 Grendel or 6,8х43 Rem SPC. In the promising armor-piercing cartridge of the caliber 7,62x39 mm, modern solutions can also be used to reduce the mass of the cartridge, in order to prevent a significant reduction in the mass of the carrying ammunition compared to that for weapons of the caliber 5,45x39 mm.

As the basis for the development of weapons under the promising armor-piercing cartridge of caliber 7,62x39 mm, with an initial energy of 2200-2600 J, one can consider the RPK-16 light machine gun, implemented in the caliber 7,62x39 mm. The advantage of this weapon is its heavy, quickly replaceable barrel, which should increase the accuracy of firing and provide quick replacement of the barrel when its resource is exhausted (which is important for cartridges with increased initial energy and bullet speed). The RPK-16 weight in the version with a short barrel is 0,8 kg more than the mass of the AK-12 assault rifle, which can be considered acceptable, taking into account that the mass of the adopted AN-94 assault rifle was 3,85 kg.

RPK-16 machine gun of caliber 5,45x39 mm in the short-barrel version

An important addition to the promising weapon of the caliber 7,62x39 mm based on the RPK-16 can be a silencer designed to reduce recoil and partially reduce / distort the sound of the shot, similar to how it is implemented in the American NGSW program.

Instead of chromium plating, barrel carbonitriding technology can be considered to increase barrel survivability. The carbonitriding process consists in the diffusion saturation of the surface layer of the treated channel with carbon and nitrogen, as a result of which the surface layer acquires hardness up to 60 HRC, increased wear resistance and corrosion resistance. Unlike chromium plating, carbonitriding does not change the geometrical dimensions of the barrel bore; therefore, carbonitriding does not affect the accuracy and accuracy of weapons, which makes this technology a more advanced method of protection. According to the manufacturers, the life of the carbonitered barrel should be at least 10-15 thousand shots.

Thus, the Russian response to the NGSW program "in case of its partially successful implementation" (1 script) may look like this:
1. Upgraded machine gun "Pecheneg" caliber 7,62x54R with reduced weight.
2. The upgraded SVD rifle or the Chukavin sniper rifle of the 7,62x54R caliber or the AK-308 assault rifle variant with increased accuracy and accuracy of fire under the 7,62x54R cartridge.
3. The new 7,62X54R caliber cartridge with increased accuracy and armor penetration.
4. New 7,62x39 mm caliber cartridge of increased accuracy and armor penetration with an initial energy of 2200-2600 J.
5. 7,62x39 mm caliber machine gun based on the RPK-16 light machine gun with a supersonic silencer and barrel carbonitration.

As for the second scenario, in which participants in the NGSW program will be able to create weapons that provide both a significant increase in range and high armor penetration, combined with a fairly low recoil, and an acceptable mass of weapons, then in this case it will not be possible to get off with "little blood".

It will require complex and expensive research and development, intensive testing, as well as costly rearmament of the Russian Armed Forces with a new cartridge and weapons for it.

According to the information provided by the director of the cluster of conventional weapons, ammunition and special chemistry of Rostec Sergey Abramov to the TASS news agency, the Rostec state corporation is developing small arms in new calibers. What kind of calibers in question are not specified. It is reported that in August 2019, the Central Scientific Research Institute of Precision Engineering (JSC TsNIITOCHMASH) received a patent for the invention of modular firearms. Presumably, these works were activated just in response to the American NGSW program.

In the following material, we will try to suggest which projects and concepts can be implemented by the Russian industry if the NGSW program is successful with the prospect of replacing the M4 rifle with the NGSW-AR rifle under the promising 6,8 mm caliber cartridge.
Photos used:,,,,,
Articles from this series:
NGSW Advanced Small Arms Program: Causes, Current and Expected Results
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