Earlier this week news began to filter onto English language defence news sites from Russian media sources that the Russian Military may be considering a move away from 5.45×39 back to 7.62×39. This is not the case.
The story stems from a short passage in an article written by an officer of the 3rd Central Research Institute of the Russian Defence Ministry. The article, titled ‘The main directions of development of the missile and artillery armament system of the Ground Forces of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation‘, postulated about the continuing use of 5.45 and a potential focus on a 7.62 calibre round, but this was not the main topic if the piece. The article said (translated):
The existing system of small arms is based on samples of individual weapons (machine guns, sniper rifles) and machine guns of two calibers – 5.45 and 7.62 mm. In the future, it is possible to abandon the use of 5.45 mm weapons in the Ground Forces due to the insufficient penetration of bullets for personnel in personal protective equipment at medium and increased firing ranges and to concentrate efforts on upgrading and improving the performance characteristics of ammunition and 7.62 caliber weapons mm Artillery ammunition.
This was reported by several Russian media outlets, including TASS. From the context, it was assumed that the 7.62 calibre weapons referred to were 7.62x39mm chambered but they may also have been referring to the larger 7.62×54mmR still in use with Russian forces – which has much more armour piercing potential.
Since the initial coverage in the media, however, Russian Military sources have denied any suggestion that 5.45 may be on the way out. Interfax, a Russian news outlet, reported that “In practical terms, this issue is not being considered now”. The Russian Army’s recent decision to adopt the new AK-12, chambered in 5.45×39, also casts doubts on the suggestion Russia might abandon their intermediate calibre. While the article may not represent the Russian military’s official position it does show that concerns about armour penetration are not just confined to the West.