While the US military sometimes appears to stumble over itself in an attempt to find a upgrade or replacement for the M16 family of rifles, it appears that the Russian armed forces are experiencing some of the same growing pains in attempting to evolve past current platforms and designs. While the AK-47 has been upgraded over the years, to the AKM and the AK-74 it seems that the AN-94 design hasn't really gone anywhere, somewhat analogous to American experiences with the OICW, XM8, and now the SCAR which I'm told is being dumped by SOCOM forces across the board.
Meanwhile, the Russian Izhmash company is working on a modernized replacement for the Kalashnikov series of rifles. The Voice of Russia reports that millions of AK's are still sitting in warehouses, left over from the Soviet era and the Russian Federation simply is not purchasing any more. Izhmash hopes to have a functioning prototype to present to the Russian military by the end of the year:
"The new rifle can be fitted with optical and night vision devices, which will enhance its precision shooting ability by 2-3 times, and at a distance of an additional 500 meters. The 200 series rifle is comparable to those in service with the American and German armies. The “Izhmash” factory is currently working on a new automatic rifle to replace the old Kalashnikov workhorse. It will be better than its predecessor in fire-power."
An additional 500 meters means that they are definitely looking at a caliber other than 7.62x39 and probably not 5.45x39 either.
While there is some speculation that this new rifle will incorporate the Rate Reduction System/Delayed Sear Activation System rather than a traditional buffer system, one has to wonder if this isn't simply a mechanically upgraded AK with a M4 inspired rail system for modularity. The differences between Russian and American engineering and weapons employment continues to this day as we see from one Russian commentator:
"The American M-16 rifle stands out by the high standard of its production, but in complicated conditions like in the sands, it stalls and malfunctions. The Kalashnikov fires under any conditions, including under the water and in the sands. Optical sighting is rarely used in close combat, especially in cities, where precision shooting is not as important as the reliability of a rifle, Constantine Sivkov said."
Kit Up! contributor Jack Murphy is a former Ranger, Special Forces Soldier and is the author of the new military thriller PROMIS: Rhodesia.