At this years MSPO (Miedzynarodowy Salon Przemyslu Obronnego), a large defense exposition in Poland, an upgraded PKM was unveiled to the public. The UKM 2000P is a 7.62x51mm upgrade that will be replacing the Soviet era 7.62x54R mm PKMs currently in service with the Polish Armed Forces. The article from Jane’s mostly concentrates on the specs and figures, but this is a little background on the machine gun and history. The company producing the weapon system is Zaklady Mechaniczne Tarnow (Mechanical Plant, Tarnow), a Polish company that originally started in the railway business in 1917, being briefly interrupted by World War Two and currently producing mostly air defense, containers and industry level services for the Polish Armed Forces. Small arms seem to be a minor facet of the company, however they do have some odd designs, such as the Alex Tactical Sport Training and Training rifle, for the civilian market. Regardless, the UKM series of machine guns came about as Poland’s program into modernizing the PKM for standardization among NATO. There are a number of variants as put forth by the factory page–
It is produced in four versions: infantry version (UKM 2000 P with fixed butt),landing version (for landing troops- UKM 2000 D with folded butt), tank versions: UKM 2000 C –right feeding and UKM 2000 CL –left feeding
Regardless, the current version seems to be really taking the PKM to new heights. It is amazing to see these old operating systems, just still chugging away as they were 50 years ago, with relatively minor changes in the actual design of the machinegun. The addition of rails and a soft ammunition pouch as opposed to a metal one seemed like a much needed change, but the complete redesign of the retractable stock is probably one of the most ergonomic changes, with a rod for the gunner to hold on to, and the cheek pad being personally configurable to the shooter. That, along with rails seem to be indicative of a larger philosophy in small arms that is seeing more often the weapon systems being user configurable, as opposed to fifty years ago where a soldier got what he got, and too bad if he gets smacked in the face with the rear sight of his Garand every time he shoots it.
The new version has been created for a PAF requirement to improve the performance and ergonomics of its existing UKM-2000P machine gun: the PAF’s standard support weapon at squad level (three per platoon). The weapon is gradually replacing the Soviet PKM gun, chambered in the Russian 7.62x54R mm round, which was manufactured under licence in Poland until 2000. The UKM-2000P is chambered in the 7.62×51 mm NATO round and fed by a M13 disintegrating link belt in compliance with STANAG 2310. It can operate in temperatures of from -50°C to +55°C.
The latest modification features 26 alterations to the original PKM, and 69% of the weapon is made of new components. In total, 14% of its parts come from the unmodified UKM-2000, while 17% are still exchangeable with the PKM.
The modernised UKM-2000P is more reliable than the original UKM-2000P (test guns fire 37,000 and 53,000 rounds) and can fire all 7.62×51 mm rounds – both NATO and non-standard. It can be loaded by any type of link belt, including German DM60. The steel ammunition box was replaced by a 100- or 150-round soft bag. ZMT introduced a new folding and telescopic stock for both dismounted soldiers and paratroopers; an ergonomic handgrip; a front grip; and a carrying handle.
Poland placed a PLN24.76 million (USD6.53 million) contract for the delivery of 378 modernised UKM-2000Ps (30 in 2015, 138 in 2016, 106 in 2017, and 104 in 2018) back in June, although this only came into force on 28 August after the successful trials of two prototypes.