The New Russian Small Arms Program: “Warrior”

Soldier_with_AK-12.t

VPK.name has three separate reports (in Russian) on the Russian government’s program to replace its aging generation of small arms. The two leading contestants appear to be the heavily modernized Kalashnikov design AK-12, and the balanced-action AEK-971. According to the first report, the Russian military is seeking to replace the AK series with a more accurate weapon – it’s possible that by this they mean accuracy in the full-automatic fire mode, something that has long plagued the Kalashnikov family of rifles. This speculation is supported by the extensive research undertaken by Russian designers to improve this characteristic. The second article states that the program is expected to take 15(!) years to fully implement; however it seems this includes not just new small arms, but also sighting systems, electronics, and body armor, as well as other equipment. The third article goes into even more depth: The Russians have learned many lessons from the low-intensity counter-insurgency conflicts that characterize modern warfare, and are designing the new “Warrior” equipment around this – which means high levels of coordination between elements of the combined arms force.

It remains to be seen how much success the Russians have with this program – a similar, but perhaps more ambitious US program called Future Combat Systems proved to be mostly a flop, though greater integration of combined arms forces was eventually achieved, albeit not to the extreme degree desired by FCS.



Nathaniel F

Nathaniel is a history enthusiast and firearms hobbyist whose primary interest lies in military small arms technological developments beginning with the smokeless powder era. In addition to contributing to The Firearm Blog, he runs 196,800 Revolutions Per Minute, a blog devoted to modern small arms design and theory. He can be reached via email at nathaniel.f@staff.thefirearmblog.com.


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  • noob

    Interesting – it’s a radical departure from the traditional doctrine of overwhelming mass. can russia still take advantage of their huge size and mass production capability of their equipment? After all, nato originally developed the concepts of swarm tactics, network centric warfare and future combat system originally to oppose a huge land invasion of soviet armor. all the application of network centric warfare concepts to asymmetrical warfare came later – when swarm tactics were first proposed nato was “the little guy”!

    • erwos

      There’s no Warsaw Pact anymore. They literally cannot execute the old Soviet strategy, they do not have the resources.

      • Grump

        The Russians were never really about mass at all costs, their basic philosophy was more like “Effective quality, overwhelming quantity”.
        Today they can’t afford “overwhelming quantity”, but looking at the woeful financial status of most of their potential opponents, they probably don’t need it any time soon either.

        • Guest

          ED: wrong place

    • LCON

      ARRRGGGGGGEEEAAAAAAHHH!!!!!! FCS was begun under Army Chief of Staff General Eric Shinseki Who Served in that position from 1999 until he retired in late 2003! LONG after The USSR was Dead! FCS was based around fighting fast brushfire asymmetric conflicts not Cold War gone hot. a FCS Brigade Combat team would have been slaughtered by a force on force battle with a Cold war Russian Armored force.
      This Russian Force pushes a two weight force for the Russian military On a Heavy Heavy force based around there next generation Tank hull and a Lighter Almost Stryker ish wheeled platform.

      • noob

        Ah I didn’t know that. thanks.

        • Max Glazer

          Actually network-centric warfare was practiced by USSR long before USA and NATO got started with it. Sweden had data-link between their fighter planes but that is it. Russians has had data link between their Flankers and MiG-31s. Also between their ground forces. System for the ground forces was called “Maneuver”. USA got their hands on it after USSR collapse and realized that had the war gone hot, even their vaunted F-117s and B-2As wouldn’t have made enough difference

          • Uniform223

            Incoming fanboy.

          • Max Glazer

            More like Someone who knows about Soviet capabilities a little more then you.

          • Uniform223

            GREAT RESPONSE by the way 😀

            US, NATO, Coalition forces saw similar Soviet era tactics and “capabilities” in 1991 and we all know what happened. As for you claims concerning USSR “networked” forces, I haven’t seen anything that support that claim. True Mig-31s had the first form of data-linking but it was extremely rudimentary at best ( by today’s standards ) and only between other Mig-31s. The SU-27 and Mig-31 were different programs entirely and made by different design bureaus for different purposes.

          • Max Glazer

            IF you are referring to Iraq as being similar to Soviet era tactics then you couldn’t be further from the truth as Iraqs military was built on degraded monkey models (MiG-21s, 25s, 29s, Asad Babyl tanks) of mostly previous generation planes. They were nowhere near soviet quality or tactics.

            F-16 and F-15 are designed by different companies as well but that doesn’t make them unable to use Link-8 and then the later Link-16 between themselves. MiG-31 was designed as an interceptor as well as a lead-in plane and was there to control the airspace using a 4-ship formation.

            It indeed COULD link with RUSSIAN (not Ukrainian or other sov block country) Su-27s and can, believe it or not, physically fire Su-27s R-27 missiles. Russia-only planes since late 60s could be flown basically without pilot right up to LoC with pilot only needing to use weapons. Could also automatically deploy Chem/Bio weapons automatically. Even function as cruise missiles. This was never a disclosed capability. Just like today F-35 can be used as a drone.

      • noob

        I read about the next gen tank hull http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Armata_Universal_Combat_Platform

        but what is the wheeled IFV name?

  • yourmom

    ah ok yeah right the ak74 is sooo inaccurate in full auto….please the M4 has more recoil impulse in full auto on the best of days.

    • Joshua

      Doesn’t really matter as we prefer to run semi really fast in our M4A1’s. We had controllable full auto with the SCAR-L and still ran them in semi for the short time we had the turds.

      • Max Glazer

        Is SCAR a good weapon or is it a gimmick that isn’t all that much of an improvement on M4 while a lot more expensive?

        • Joshua

          The Mk16 was better than the M4 during its trials in 2004, outclassed by the current M4A1, had issues in the field that the M4A1 did not have. The Mk17 has some issues, is better than the Mk16. The Mk20…….well I dont have anything good to say of it.

          • Max Glazer

            Poor reliability?

          • Max Glazer

            On a separate topic. If you had a chance to use SCAR then you had a chance to use SVD. Pros/cons?

    • Grump

      I believe they’d like to achieve nearly effortless PPSh-41 like controllability in FA.
      The AK-74 is pretty good as far as muzzle climb, especially with quality aftermarket muzzle brakes such as the SRVV and Zenit, but it still gives you a lot of secondary motion due to its violent and heavy action.

      • Hedd Wyn John

        The AK74s overpowered action was designed purposely so that it would function with ammunition of varying quality. It makes the weapon more reliable but it decreases accurate.

    • Full auto dispersion has been a characteristic the Russians have been trying to improve in their small arms since the original Type 1 AK entered service.

      • Max Glazer

        When AK was accepted into service it was the worst grouping rifle of the lot. However it was the most reliable. The selection group had a choice. Either they selected a rifle that was a bit more precise but not able to take abuse the AK could take, or to take a ridiculously reliable AK and work on a more precise weapon later. Members of Soviet Forces in Germany consistently said that in right hands, AKM hits a standing target at 440 yards. That however goes for a cold weapon and at a range.

        Russians use 2 metrics when assessing weapons: Effective Range and Aimed Fire Range. While Aimed Fire Range is at the range, Effective Range is when one is using it in actual combat conditions on the move.

    • Oh cut it out, Ma, I know you ain’t shot neither o’ those guns!

  • Seburo

    My money is on them adopting the AEK-971. As the AK-74M has pretty much pushed the design as far as it can go. Having an all in one gun that does it all seems as foolish as a certain Fighter that is crippling America’s military budget.

    • I dunno, the AK-12 seems to offer quite a few advantages over the -74M. I’d watch TFB next Monday to see more on this.

      • n0truscotsman

        It pretty much offers the simplicity of the AK74 with a few more ergonomic “westernized” features more suitable for Russia’s refocus on small, highly mobile, professional brigades. Time will tell if it is as rugged and reliable as the 74M, which is a high bar to jump over.
        I just dont see the AEK-971 being adopted. Russians value simplicity over complexity.

        • Joshua

          Not to mention the enhanced accuracy of the AK-12 requires parts to be more tight fitting and less sloppy, and that slop is part of what helps the AK-74 be reliable.

      • noob

        what I really wanna know is if the ak12 top cover holds zero at least as well as aftermarket railed dustcovers, and how it does it. will it still hold zero in 50 years after the top cover pivot has been operated hundreds of thousands of times? commercial railed dust covers have all sorts of weirdness like a doll’s head pin in the rear to hold the top cover down and cinch it tight so that as it wears it still finds zero.

    • William C1

      The AK-12 doesn’t seem to offer much over the AK-74M besides for the fact that it is a much more “modular” weapon system as is the trend with most Western designs these days.

      The AK-107 used a similar “balanced action” to the AEK-971 so I’ve got to wonder why they don’t offer a a modernized version of that but with some of the features of the AK-12.

      Perhaps the unique gas system means you couldn’t easily swap barrels, change calibers, and so on.

    • jay

      That’s what all the chatter coming out of Russia is saying. So far the Aek rifle is ahead of ak12.
      The newest one I’ve seen in pictures looks pretty slick.
      There’s good chance they’ll get both of them, just to keep the factories/design teams.

  • Lance

    Don’t buy into this there was 3 such reports since 2008. All proved false or was cancelled. The AK-74 is a good rifle and mostly doesn’t need retirement. Face it last year this blog said the Russians were going to adopt the AK-12 and then it was found out that as a BIG NO. take any Russian rumors on these blogs with a BIG grain of salt.

    • Company prototype demonstrations are not the same thing as government development programs.

      • Lance

        Yes but we all heard rumors of the same thing Same about the AN-94 same about AK-12 same about a possible bullpup. Never happened.

        • I’m not sure I see your point. This is an actual development program, not a rumor.

          Whether anything comes of it, I have no idea, but actual testing is occurring.

        • Max Glazer

          AN-94 WAS supposed to take over AK as a replacement. However it proven itself to be so damn complex that the increase in accuracy it offered compared to more expense in manufacturing, more difficult design, stoppages much harder to clear and how much longer it’d take to train soldiers to use, relegated it to a rather rare use. SpetsNaz point-blank refused to use it after a while. Soldiers stuck to AK-74 since it proved itself accurate enough for use in combat. And some even asked to be issued AKMs while in Chechnya.

  • Guest

    Not “Warrior” (“Voin” in russian) – Ratnik.

    Warrior
    Warrior
    Warrior
    Warrior

  • toms

    The Russians post something like this every year. The reality is that they have huge reserves of perfectly good 74’s. Until recently, Russia bought new ones every year to keep Izmash afloat. Even with normal system retirement, those given to rebel groups, sales, and combat loss, the Russians have enough in reserve to last 20+ years. Any new models will see limited use with elite units and nothing more, anything else would be a gross misuse of resources.

    • While there have been several proposed next-generation rifles of varying types in the past few years, this is the first government re-armament program I’ve heard of since Abakan.

      They seem pretty serious about it to me. There has been a spiral development cycle, extensive testing, etc.

      • tacticaltshirts.com

        I’ll believe it when I see it.

        • jay

          That’s exactly what people said about Pakfa.

          • Uniform223

            Yet where is that aircraft now I ask? Ever since it’s engine fire earlier this year I haven’t heard, seen, or read ANYTHING about that aircraft. Worse yet the PAKFA’s largest and ONLY partner India, was denied access to the damaged aircraft or any kind of specifications regarding it. Last I heard India was rather unhappy with Russia and the PAKFA and threatened to pull funding away from that program and put more money into its deal with the French Dassault Rafale.

          • Max Glazer

            Your information is highly inaccurate to say the least.

          • Uniform223

            Hey look its a fanboy

          • Uniform223

            Here are some links that I will use as my source to show that I am not pulling this out of my 3rd point of contact. Granted these links are considered old but I haven’t heard or read anything new that would counter these.

            http://www.janes.com/article/42765/indian-air-force-unhappy-at-progress-of-pak-fa-fifth-gen-fighter

            http://www.business-standard.com/article/economy-policy/russia-can-t-deliver-on-fifth-generation-fighter-aircraft-iaf-114012100059_1.html

            The French built Dassault Rafale won the Indian MRCAC ( Multi-role Combat Aircraft Competition ).

            http://www.dnaindia.com/india/report-rafale-fighter-jet-deal-contract-with-france-almost-ready-defence-ministry-2011489

            http://in.reuters.com/article/2014/11/05/dassault-avi-india-idINKBN0IP29620141105

            It should also be noted that India has reduced the number of their version of the PAKFA ( India’s version the FGFA ) they intended to purchase and build. Mean while their deal with the involving the Rafale is now moving along. It could be theorized that the reduction of intended PAKFA’s to be purchased for India, that those funds could might have well be re-purposed for their deal involving the Rafale.

          • Max Glazer

            Indian opinion on progress of PAK-FA itself is irrelevant as they are not getting that plane. Its for Russia. FGFA is a stand-alone project currently in development that will be based off PAK-FA and will be an export plane. India will get the best version of it and degraded models will be exported. This was stated by United Aviation Corporation ages ago. FGFA is still on drawing stage. The project of FGFA only started within last 1.5 years. The reduction of numbers for FGFA is not connected to MMRCA. Whoever says this has no idea of reality. By the time FGFA is completed and begins to enter production, MMRCA will be in full swing. Reduction of INITIAL order is nothing special. F_22 was also meant to be bought over 700 of. And now they stopped at 187. Doesn’t mean it;s a bad plane though does it?

            Yes Rafale won. And it is taking THIS long to sign the contract. French have a LOT of concerns about Indian ability actually absorb the technology and ability to manufacture the plane to the right spec. India wants to diversify suppliers. Natural.

          • Uniform223

            India’s opinion on the PAKFA’s progress ( or lack there of ) is indeed RELEVANT. India is Russia’s ONLY partner in the program. The Indian FGFA is NOT a stand-alone project, it is directly tied to the PAKFA as the FGFA is India’s version of the aircraft.

            I said it could be THEORIZED ( there for an educated possibility ) that the original funding for the larger number of PAKFAs might be going to the MRCAC. One programs cut off is often another ones opportunity for growth. We see it all the time in military programs. Funding for the F-22 was cut ( politics, bureaucracy, and economics are often considered the reason behind it ) and was put to the F-35. The US Army’s RAH-66 was stopped and funding went to smaller programs that overall benefited the rotary-wing fleet of the US Army. The Land Warrior and FCS was cut up and dissected and remnants of those programs can be seen through the US Army as a whole.

          • Max Glazer

            India is NOT developing PAK-FA. It’s a Russia-only like F_22 is a USA-only plane. Period. FGFA is where India is involved and only FGFA. It is BASED OFF PAK-FA but not the same plane. THAT is an official Sukhoi statement that Russian media reported and I saw Mihail Pogosyan say it himself. Can’t get any clearer.

          • Uniform223

            I am not contending the fact that Russia is the sole developer of the PAKFA. I was pointing out that India is the partner within the PAKFA program and that their opinions on the issue matter. Unlike the PAKFA, the F-22 didn’t have any foreign partners involved in its development at any point in time. Everything involved with the F-22 was done in the US. The same cannot be said for the PAKFA.
            India is helping Russia with the bill so that makes India a partner in the program. When or if ( again I say if because I haven’t heard or read anything about the aircraft since its engine fire ) the PAKFA is completed India will have a share in the program as the technology will be shared with India to produce their own version known as the FGFA. In simple terms Russia is making it but India is paying for it.

          • Max Glazer

            India is not paying for PAK-FA development at all. It is paying for FGFA development. Parallel programs that are often confused thanks to media having no idea what they are talking about.

      • Yallan

        If they were serious, they’d just announce they’d be replacing their AK-74 stock with the AK-12 adjustable stock. And then announce they’d be replacing their AK-74 forearms with a railed forearm, this would solve most of their weapon problems at a fraction of the cost.

        • noob

          many other countries have sent old weapons to be remanufactured into better weapons. eg britain’s SA80 went to HK for major work to become the L85A2. no new SA80/L85 receivers have been made in ages, they just took out the guts, fixed the problems as best they could and put them back together again.

          • Yallan

            Not really noob, with the SA80 it’s manufacture was so bungled the government paid H&K to fix it. Better examples would be the U.S who has incrementally upgraded it’s military rifle over the years, as has China, Brazil and South Korea. In contrast Russia hasn’t updated it’s rifle since 1974.

          • Max Glazer

            AK-74 DID undergo some updates. In fact in 1991 AK-74M has entered production. Changes include an improved quality manufacturing of barrel (more precise), furniture replaced with all-plastic, full-body folding stock, optic mounting rail.

            It took US to update M-16 from A1 to A2 almost 20 years. Then how long did it take for A3 and A4 to enter production?

          • Uniform223

            Contact, fanboy my 12 o’clock!

    • John Sjöström

      Isn’t the US doing the same to Colt and other american gun manufactures?

      • toms

        Not really, the procurement system is different here, and the Us doesn’t have nationally owned or subsidized small arms producers, springfield armory shut down a long time ago. Colt doesn’t make military contract rifles anymore. FN, a belgium company does.

  • LCON

    Putin’s Russia is trying to clean up form the dirt of the lost decades of the 80’s, 90’s and 00’s you see them making a hard push to reestablish Russia as a Super power. This is spread across the breath of the Russian Military.
    We see it in there Navy with the Mistrals, the New SSN’s and SSBN’s
    We see it in there Air Forces with the PAkFa and PakDa
    We see it in there Army with the Armata and Bomerang projects.
    and We see it with Ratnik. Now will the entire Russian Army be geared with Ratnik? No. But there most elite units and VDV will. look at the Crimea operation. Modern Russian Troops with modern gear and vehicles in good working order. Some of that kit was early Ratnik.
    What we will see is slowly issue of improved helmets, body armor rail retrofits and other kit. Chances are there huge stock of AK74’s and AK105’s will be retrofitted and the oldest kit sold off for surplus.

  • Uniform223

    I know this is website mostly about fire arms and anything pertaining too but… is it just me or does that new Russian camouflage just looks TOO green.

  • Max Glazer

    *facepalm* The very same media outlets were referring to S-37 Berkut, AKA Su-47, as 5th generation fighter. I spend time not on google but on Russian news sites and Mihail Pogosyan himself stated that FGFA is a plane that is BASED OFF PAK-FA and it is FGFA that is being funded by India. However FGFA is being designed and built totally separately. India is funding its own part of it. The T-50 PAK-FA will not be exported to ANYONE. FGFA will be.