Russian Army to Replace PKM Machine Guns With PKP “Pecheneg” Automatic Rifles

The Russian Army will be upgrading its automatic infantry support weapons soon. The legacy 7.65x54mmR PKM belt-fed general purpose machine gun will be supplanted in the dismounted role by the PKP “Pecheneg” automatic rifle designed at the end of the 20th Century, reports

Russian Armed Forces will have Kalashnikov 7.62mm PKM machine gun replaced by modern PKP Pecheneg (Russian designation: 6P45) machineguns, according to a source in Russian defense industry.

Russian Armed Forces will have Kalashnikov 7.62mm PKM machine gun replaced by modern PKP Pecheneg (Russian designation: 6P45) machineguns, according to a source in Russian defense industry.

“Kalashnikov PKM machinegun is one of the best machineguns in the world available for both dismounted soldiers and various armoured vehicles, including main battle tanks (MBT). It uses widespread and extremely effective Soviet 7.62x54R mm cartridge and has reliable belt-feeding system. As of early 2016, PKM remains the organic machinegun of Russian Armed Forces in both bipod and tank configuration. At the same time, TSNIITochMash scientific-research institute has developed PKP Pecheneg machinegun intended to replace the ageing PKM,” the source said.

He pointed out that PKM issued to Soviet/Russian Armed Forces in huge quantities would remain the main machinegun in the year to come. “We suppose that the process of PKM by Pecheneg replacement will be finished in the early 2020 to full extent,” he pointed out.

It should be noted that Pecheneg is developed for dismounted troops only. New armoured vehicles for Russian Armed Forces are equipped with upgraded Kalashnikov 7.62mm PKTM machineguns as co-axial/secondary weapon. PKTM has a combat weight of 14.1 kg, a length of 1098 mm, a firing rate of 800 rounds per minute, a muzzle velocity of 850 m/s and an effective firing range of 1,500 m.

The Pecheneg is based on the PKM, but sports a different non-removable actively air-cooled barrel with a heavier profile. The automatic rifle also features optics mounting brackets, and a newer model, the Pecheneg-SP sports Picatinny rails for both optics and accessories, as well as a quick-detachable Western-style (Harris-type) bipod.

Automatic rifles like the Pecheneg allow lighter, more mobile system due to not relying on spare barrels for heat management like their general purpose machine gun counterparts. However, as a consequence, they cannot sustain fire for the duration that general purpose machine guns can, and therefore are more well-suited to dismounted infantry operations than static defense. The Pecheneg alleviates this issue with its heavy-profile barrel and forced-air cooling system, at the expense of greater weight of the rifle itself (although total weight carried is still reduced since spare barrels are eliminated from the load). The Pecheneg saw use with Russian special forces in Chechnya, Ossetia, Crimea, Syria and elsewhere, and received very favorable reports that doubtless led to its adoption.

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 is also the author of the original web serial Heartblood, which is being updated and edited regularly. He can be reached via email at


  • The Pecheneg is a belt-fed general-purposes machinegun just like the PKM, not an automatic rifle like the RPK.
    Just saying.

    • Sianmink

      Everything I’ve seen classifies the Pecheneg as a Light machinegun, not a GPMG.

      • Tritro29

        It’s heavier than the PKM. Fires same round. It’s a GPMG. Only it has been classified, in a moment of folly as basically a SAW. Which no one regrets. But it’s not an RP.

        • Jonathan Ferguson

          A GPMG without a QCB isn’t General Purpose.

          • Tritro29

            I’m going to say that it really is. RP means exactly that Light Machine gun. The PKP is not an RP. Never has been and will never be. The PKP is used by people on the field like the old PKM with the catch that they aren’t force to “bubba” their receivers for optic mounts. People swear by it with the minor issue that it has become a bigger pig to carry compared to the PK. However, we’re going towards an “RP” PKP with the Pecheneg 2 that’s being developped. The gun is said to be slightly under 7 kg’s. Ironically the fresh 5.45 RP that’s about to come looks also like it is going to be around those waters weight wise. See even the Russians can make questionable choices out of thin air.

          • Mike11C

            Most people don’t understand that.

          • It is when the fixed barrel is capable of more sustained fire than the quick change barrel version with a full barrel (I.e., two) set.

            The Pecheneg can blow off about a full (infantry) basic load of ammo before overheating, and by the time you get more ammo, it will have cooled off.

            *How* you manage heat doesn’t make a gun a GPMG or not. A PKM does it (like almost all GPMGs) by swapping barrels. This does it by using mass and forced air flow.

            The logical conclusion of your line of reasoning would be that anytime a gun team neglects to bring the spare barrels (as is fairly common in dismounted operations in most countries), their GPMG is magically transformed to an automatic rifle. Heck, you could say the same thing about any MG team moving without their tripod and T&E.

            The fact that it doesn’t fit the vehicular coax and aux MG mounts doesn’t affect the classification, either, anymore than the fact that Germany maintained the MG34 for vehicular use rather than changing the fittings to match the MG42 made the MG42 anything but a GPMG.

        • Exactly.

          As for the QCB requirement for general purpose machineguns, the PKP has none because (at least according to their manufacturers) can fire over 600 rounds in sustained fire without interruption and still need no barrel change. Marvels of a Century-old design: radial cooling ribs, Lewis-style, and a cooling jacket.

          I’m skeptical, but nonetheless the PKP Pecheneg fills all the boxes it needs to be a GPMG. First of all overall weight, overall length, and non-intermediate caliber.

          • I would agree with Jonathan that the lack of a quick change barrel (and the way the Russians have been consistently using it) means that GPMG is not a good fit for it.

            Then, of course, the distinction between “light machine gun” and “automatic rifle” is so razor thin I felt pretty secure using the latter term. I wanted to illustrate the difference in roles of the PKM and PKP without causing confusion by calling the PKP a “light” machine gun, even though it’s heavier.

          • Fedor Vaschilov

            Pecheneg is a GPMG designed to get rid the need of spare barrel. That’s the main idea and feature of its design.

    • randomswede

      The PKP doesn’t really need a quick change barrel, but a GPMG arguably does, at least by definition.

  • BattleshipGrey

    I thought this was all they needed:

    • jay

      I’d vote for him over killary and obama. Wouldn’t you want a man with the testicles to actually run his country and not worry about offending little people who are continuously offended? Or that men can’t use the ladies room?

      • Matt Grizz Gregg

        Putin must love how his cult of personality is so good even Americans fall for it. Never thought I’d see so many cheerleaders for the former head of the KGB/de facto dictator of Russia.

        • jay

          Come on now, I wouldn’t really vote for him. Besides he’s not running for office here. ;-} Seriously, it’s a poke at the very poor choices we have here in the US. Immoral, amoral, criminal, socialist (soft dictator), and no real men with values, such as honor. See where I’m going? And Putin isn’t de facto, he’s the real deal. He is the Dictator of Russia. We truly need a man in the White house who has testicles, and the fortitude to stand up to him, iran, n. korea, etc. I’m trying to be humorous, but in truth it’s not funny.

          • Cookie Vranish

            You can have one with testicles. Vote Trump 2016!

          • jay

            I am. I would have preferred Cruz, but yes I will vote Trump. Thing is, he still isn’t on the level of Putin. I guess it’s because he’s had to be polite, that is how you do business after all…

        • Martin frank

          George bush 1 was head of the CIA, how is that any different?

          • MichaelZWilliamson

            DCI for one year is not even close to the same thing as 16 years in operations and command of KGB counter-intel.

        • Cookie Vranish

          Putin surely knows how bad our leader is! China knows too. We are in trouble!

    • jcitizen

      Only if he is riding his Grizzly bear, or whatever that big Russian bad ass bear was he was seen riding(special effects?)

  • Ergo

    i wonder if the russians are worried about thermal drift

    • micmac80

      On the Eotech , mounted on a machine gun ? i doubt it.

      You don’t even need thermal drift on some optics ,Elcan often usen on MGs drifts around up to 1,3mil on its own no temperature drift needed LOL

  • MPWS

    This is a direction confirming the trend – 7.62 caliber, not 5.45 for support weapon. It also seems that Russians solved internal cooling on PKP masterfully; thus the barrel is solid mounted and not wiggly like is on Minimi. I suppose there is something to learn here.

    • Tritro29

      Wait for my posts to get approved. You’re going to be disappointed. State has invited to submit 5.45 belt-fed machine gun…yeah crazy!

      • micmac80

        Indeed Nikonov Kord 5.45 MG is probably the main contender

        • Tritro29

          A bit more complicated than that. There are least three possibilities, including something that bears a lot of the Negev which was the initial “Tokar”.

          • MPWS

            Actually, Negev in both versions is very good gun – light and capable of sustained fire. In would not surprise me that given relationship between both states and previous help of Israel with drone technology, there would not be some “voyentorg” in small arms.

          • Tritro29

            Actually, the Negev is about almost 2kg heavier than the Soviet PU-21/71 that was a dual fed R/PKM of sorts. And this thing goes completely against what most people on the ground say and even what Israel has done with the Negev (developed upgrade from 5.56 to 7.62Nato) From the state program it’s clear this thing will tip the scales at 7kg give or take. Which is unacceptable given how the PKM would be barely heavier with a more powerful round. But this is Russia the country that makes mistakes just to prove we can be as dumb as the rest of the world.

          • I’ll bet it’s super-controllable in long bursts, though. ?

            Maybe *too* controllable. It doesnt help if you put an entire 9 round burst into the left shirt pocket of ONE guy, rather than scatter the rounds about in a “squad sized” beaten zone. Sure, that one guy is deader than the Tsar, but his 8 or 9 buddies are unhurt and pissed off. ?

      • Max Popenker

        the Kord-5.45 a.k.a. Tokar is funded by MVD rather than Army. Go figure.

    • ballan

      Also probably doubles as a proper sniper rifle, not a DMR rifle. (which they have too)

  • MPWS

    Just shortly to previous discussions elsewhere that “rifles do not win the war”.
    It is known that wherever you need to win and hold ground, you need to put foot soldier there. Also, foot soldier is indispensable for protection of armour. Russian experience demonstrates that policy in form of troops hanging on their WWII tanks. That’s how they ultimately took Berlin.

    • Tritro29

      In WW1, a cross range tandem Machine gun position (2 machine guns covering each other) would literally stop thousands of rifles. It’s all about context. Also once again holding ground is done mostly by your support means in a deep defense strategy or an active defence tactical employment. Not by individual riflemen. It’s a food chain type of thing. How we took Berlin has nothing to do with how the basic strelok tied his boots. It has to do with what we looked for when battling the Germans. And that wasn’t confrontation at the rifleman level, it was suppression by fire-power. Breaching and exploiting the rear lines. That was mostly done by mechanized troops. Basically the troops were as much part of the defensive system of the tank that offensive (and vice versa).

  • Major Tom

    From what I’ve heard the PKP is just as good as any M60 or FN MAG variant or MG3 in the sustained fire role if not better and some versions of the M60 and some barrel profiles of the FN MAG can put out a great many rounds before they melt.

    And I’ve also heard the Pecheneg is as good or better than the Lewis Gun at heat dispersion and nobody ever accused the Lewis Gun of being incapable of sustained fire or chronically overheating.

    • gunsandrockets

      The Lewis cooling worked? I thought it was more theoretical than actual.

      • jcitizen

        Used mostly in aircraft – that did help the cooling – lighter than the converted water cooled MGs generally used. It was only good for defensive positions though, not a direct assault MG firing through the props.

      • The Lewis handles heat as a ground LMG pretty well. Of course, once it gets hot, it stays hot a while.

        This gun takes the basic Lewis idea, and does it more efficiently because the designers had modelling tools available to accurately do fluid dynamic modelling, unlike in the Edwardian era.

  • wetcorps

    “Soviet 7.62x54R mm cartridge”
    Isn’t it Tsarist in origin?

    • John Yossarian

      And now they have an “organic machinegun” from which to fire the fiesty little Tsarinas – All kinds of press release fun. All I know is that I WANT ONE!

    • UnrepentantLib

      Introduced in 1891.

    • jcitizen

      Still one of the best rounds out there, and don’t forget that Russia used to dominate the Olympic shooting sports for about 30 years using that cartridge and the Mosin Nagant platform.

    • That’s like quibbling with people who refer to the 9x19mm as “9mm NATO”.

      The Soviets issued the cartridge almost four times as long, and did far more development than Tsarist Russia did. In addition to being pretty much the guys responsible for it having any major overseas awareness.

  • Greg Kelemen

    That heavy barrel profile makes for some amazingly tight groups on full auto.

    • Paul Joly

      Well it’s just a factor not a result. You don’t see the barrel here but the shroud, so the profile is thinner. The barrel is radially ribbed, nor longitudinally so it pretty much doesn’t affect the stiffness.

      • Greg Kelemen

        The section of barrel between the foresight and gas port is not solid barrel you say.
        So its a PKM profile under that shroud going all the way to the muzzle?
        Unless I read it wrong the literature states a heavy barrel not unlike the RPK, as well as the air-cooled component.
        I’ll look for the vid I saw ages ago but I tell ya on full-auto the dispersion was unusually tight, I mean when you watch it being fired its almost like a rock in comparison to the PKM.

        • Paul Joly

          No it isn’t a pkm profile barrel, but it’s possible that the profile minus the ribs is similar to the one of a pkm. The better grouping on full auto may be due to the muzzle brake, barrel/ammo, barrel attachment to the receiver, the shroud or even the bipod position. I’m surprised every day by testing design iterations.

  • Ed

    Old news, been a year since I red about this. In a way its a improved PKM any way with newer features. PK will live on.

  • I am working on a post on that weapon as well, as a follow up.

  • guest

    OId news, and since when is a GPMG an “automatic rifle”?
    This is right down the alley of deliberate mistakes like AKS-74U being a “submachine gun”.

  • gunsandrockets

    Meh. Is combining belt-feed with a fixed air-cooled barrel in a LMG ever a good idea?

    • micmac80

      Barrel is still quick change its just issed with one ,heavier barrel.

      How often do you see barrel change in ‘action’

    • Most armies rarely carry a spare barrel on dismounted patrols.

  • Tritro29

    Which is perfectly correct. The rifleman is at the base of all this. His weapon has a lot of value in the battlefield but also (and probably moreso) in the spreadsheets and accounts.

  • Max Popenker

    Although originally designed as a 7.62mm LMG (and not an automatic rifle) PKP Petcheneg is now issued as a standard GPMG, and it can be employed from bipod, standard tripod or vehicle mounts
    Its barrel is quick-removable (as the receiver is exactly the same as PKM) but gun is normally issued with only one barrel.

    • Tritro29

      Don’t leak pictures of Kazakh Death Star…

  • Max Popenker

    No it is not
    This one is not for military, but for MVD

    • Tritro29

      For sake of clarity of other posters. I’ll answer in English. Yes I was told that, but I can’t exactly see how such a project will stay within the limits of MVD given the role of fomerly OMON (RosGvard) and SOBR. Basically it doesn’t make any sense (unless it’s book keeping trickery) to have this branch develop that Machine Gun.

  • ToddB

    Its funny the Russian military is just like ours. They are forced to design around existing ammunition, belts, and magazines. The US military keeps asking for new rifles, but have to use the M16 magazine. Because they do not want to go buy new ones, even tho that is a big flaw in the M16, is the magazine. Yes the new ones are good, but the original ones are not that great. So the Russians will stick with the 7.62x54r, not saying its bad but surely they could modernize it to use push thru disintegrating belts vs the same ones they have been using for over a century. Tho I suppose it does ensure a supply of cheap 54r ammo to feed our Mosins for a long time.

    Looking at the pic I have no idea how this ‘active cooling’ would work. The Lewis had the barrel shroud and cooling fins. A heavy barrel takes longer to get hot, but also takes longer to cool down. So may end up like the RPD and RPK, you hope you run out of bad guys before the gun overheats.

    • M.S.1

      The Czechs had push-through belts for 7.62x54R in the vz.59 GPMG. (Yes, push-through belts for a rimmed cartridge.)

      Disintegrating belts are certainly possible. 14.5mm belts disintegrate into sections of 10 or so links. Putting the two together could be done.

    • jcitizen

      My troops never had a failure in over 5000 rounds fired using the standard 20rd magazine, as long as it was made in Parsons Kansas; all the one marked Colt or something else were junk.- double feed, stove-piping POS!!! We were just getting the 30rd mags when I transferred to Armor, so I never really got to experience them after that, as I was issued a grease gun and/or standard 20rd M16A2 after that until Desert Storm was over.

    • In a typical standard ammo load, you’ll run out of ammo just as the gun gets too hot. Which, I’m sure, was the plan.

      And if you’re firing at a more measured rate than “Chinese hordes at the Chosin”, you can probably get two or more basic loads through the gun before it gets too hot.

  • Cookie Vranish

    Looks like Russia along with China is getting ready to take on the USA!

  • jcitizen

    To tell you the truth, I’ve never had to change the barrel of the PKM under sustained fire – so to me, only accuracy would be the goal with this new LMG. It was fortunate they kept the Russian rimmed ammo – I’ve seen good performance with it.

  • Cmex

    There really isn’t a difference here. One has a fixed barrel. One has a changeable barrel.