Russian defense industry opens a new era

Head of the Defense Industry Commission Dmitry Rogozin (pictured right) argues that the establishment of the new Russian arms company may reduce unlicensed production of Russian assault rifles in Eastern Europe. Source: RIA Novosti / Ruslan Krivobok

Head of the Defense Industry Commission Dmitry Rogozin (pictured right) argues that the establishment of the new Russian arms company may reduce unlicensed production of Russian assault rifles in Eastern Europe. Source: RIA Novosti / Ruslan Krivobok

Small arms manufacturing in Russia is now to be concentrated in one place. The new Russian arms giant will bear the name of the Soviet legendary small-arms designer.

The government has decided to set up a super consortium from two small-arms manufacturers – Izhmash and Izhtech, both based in the Urals. The joint venture will start producing new weapons, which means that the era of the famous Kalashnikov has come to an end.

The new Russian arms giant will nevertheless bear the name of the legendary small-arms designer, Mikhail Kalashnikov.

“I would like to support the establishment of a merged corporation where we will be able to concentrate industrial potential and create a modern firearms factory,” Vladimir Putin said of the founding of the consortium.

Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, who is in charge of Russia’s defense industry, believes that the establishment of the company would, among other things, reduce unlicensed production of Russian assault rifles in Eastern European countries.

“I am sure that, under a flag like that, we will not only revive the manufacturing in Izhevsk of modern small arms that outperform foreign makes in terms of reliability and killing power, but also help shut down unlicensed, counterfeit production of the Kalashnikov in NATO’s ‘junior members,”  he said.

Last autumn, the Russian Ministry of Defense stopped buying the AK-74, which has been the most popular AK model of the last few decades. The ministry’s logic is understandable: According to its officials, for every Russian soldier there are 17 Kalashnikovs kept in warehouses or issued to units. Experts expect AK stockpiles to last the country another 15–20 years. 

Developed in 1947, the Kalashnikov assault rifle was officially commissioned by the armed forces in 1949. It is the most widespread small-arms weapon on the planet: 70-105 million units of different Kalashnikov configurations have been used in the armies of 55 countries around the world. It has long been called the “weapon of liberty” in Africa and adorns the coats of arms of Mozambique and Zimbabwe.

Testing of the newest Russian assault rifle – the AK-12, designed by Izhmash’s chief designer Vladimir Zlobin – began in early November, at a shooting range of the Tochmash defense company near Moscow. 

Tochmash CEO Dmitry Semizorov said that preliminary testing would take one month, at the most. “The length of preliminary tests varies depending on the amount of testing ordered by the customer,” he said.

Vladimir Zlobin had pointed out earlier that, before his assault rifle goes into mass production, it will have to pass the state testing procedure, which should begin in 2013 and finish in June or July.

According to Zlobin, the AK-12 has already attracted huge interest from all branches of armed and security forces. The new model will serve as the basis for a long line of combat weapons, including handguns, machine guns, assault rifles and light machine guns for general military use, as well as for special purposes. 

The new assault rifle will have substantial advantages over the AK-74. The AK-12 can be operated with one hand, its magazine will hold twice as many cartridges (up to 60), and it will have three interchangeable barrels with different bore diameters, instead of just one. The under-barrel grenade launcher, sights and other add-ons are also expected to be totally different from what they are now. 

Last year was literally an “explosive” one for the company, in terms of its presence at international exhibitions. Moreover, it went beyond the scope of the traditional Middle Eastern and North African markets for Russian arms. Last autumn, for the first time, an Izhmash delegation brought Kalashnikov Nikonov assault rifles, sniper rifles, Krasnopol and Kitolov guided weapon complexes, the Saiga-12-EXP-01 (version 030) smoothbore shotgun, and a training configuration of the Vityaz submachine gun to the DSEI show in London. 

This year, an Izhmash delegation traveled to Las Vegas to present its weapons at the largest exhibition of sports and hunting weapons in the world – SHOT Show, which is traditionally held in Vegas in the middle of January.

“The American market has a very big potential. Around 65 percent of the global output of sports and hunting weapons is sold in the United States, so we are interested in expanding the share of Izhevsk products there,” Izhmash CEO Maksim Kuzyuk said.

The most important thing Izhmash brought to the American show were configurations of the semi-automatic Saiga shotgun, for use with 5.45х39 mm, 7.62х39 mm, 308-WIN and 223-REM cartridges. This Saiga is essentially a “civil” version of the Kalashnikov assault rifle.

The people of Izhevsk have every reason to believe that the “new and improved” Izhmash will do just fine, thanks in part to export orders and sales of civil configurations of its military-grade small arms.

All rights reserved by Rossiyskaya Gazeta.

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