Russia has responded to the suggestion that US manufacturers made copies of their small arms designs for use by Special Operations Command and the US’ allies. With US-Russian relations at a low, recent press attention surrounding the US’ desire for American-made Russian small arms has stoked tensions.
Following an article from National Interest on a US SOCOM request for information regarding establishing a domestic production base for various Russian weaponry published last week, the Russian government has condemned the idea. The SOCOM solicitation was released last summer, the thinking behind the idea is explained on its SBIR solicitation page:
surrogate forces and allies have depended on foreign made weapons which are used in conflicts around the world. USSOCOM intermittently supplies surrogate forces and allies with foreign made weapons from international intermediaries. These foreign made weapons lack interchangeability and standardization which hinders field and depot level part replacement. Developing a domestic production capability for foreign like weapons addresses these issues while being cost effective as well as strengthens the nations military-industrial complex, ensures a reliable and secure supply chain, and reduces acquisition lead times.
Domestically produced Russian-pattern small arms would also be useful for foreign-weapons familiarisation classes run by all branches of the US military.
On the 10th October Russian news agency TASS reported that Kalashnikov had been unaware of US plans to clone Russian small arms noting, however, that they were not surprised and that it “highlights once again the reliability and quality of our weapons.” Kalashnikov Concern’s parent company Rostec, State Corporation for Assistance to Development, Production, and Export of Advanced Technology Industrial Product Rostec responded saying:
If someone wants to carry out this work legally, obeying all the rules, they should approach Rosoboronexport [Russia’s state arms exporter] and discuss it. Otherwise, this would amount to the illegal copying of Russian innovations or theft, simply speaking.
Several days later TASS reported that Viktor Bondarev, former Commander-in-chief of the Russian Air Force and current Chairman of the Russian Federation Council’s Committee on Defence and Security, responded to the prospect of the US cloning Russian weapons:
Several countries hold licenses for manufacturing Russian machine guns of this model, but the US is not among them. Of course, we should prevent any attempts to use Russian weapons developments without our permission. If US intentions evolve into real actions, if they start making concrete steps in an effort to use our technologies without permission, if they start re-engineering and manufacturing our heavy machine guns on the US territory, then we should react decisively and promptly.
How Russia might respond if PKMs and NSVs are reverse engineered in the US is open to speculation. Sadly, we haven’t been able to ascertain the progress of US SOCOM’s ‘Foreign Like Weapon Production Capability’ programme or whether it even left the Phase I feasibility study stage.