Two bullpup rifles have been frequently seen during the war in Ukraine. The Ukrainian designed and produced IPI Vulcan, a bullpup based on the AK platform and Fort-22 series Tavor. The Fort-22 series Tavors originates from Israel’s IWI. Introduced in the early 2000s the IWI Tavor has been purchased and seen service with militaries around the world. Ukraine’s Tavors were offered by RPC Fort or State Research and Production Association “Fort” of the Ukrainian Ministry of Internal Affairs.
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RPC Fort was originally established in 1991 and in 1998 it became a state enterprise. Located in Vinnytsia, in western Ukraine, the company initially focused on a line of pistols, pump-action shotguns and AKM variants. From a survey of Fort’s website, using the Wayback Machine, we know that IWI weapons first began to appear in the company’s product lists in late 2008 following an agreement to potentially license manufacture IWI products in Ukraine. This included pistols, submachine guns, rifles and the Negev light machine gun.
Back in 2011-12, TFB reported that the Tavor was being produced in Ukraine and the guns appeared at a number of trade shows with RPC Fort markings, including a company crest in the moulded stock. But it’s unclear whether the weapons were manufactured in Ukraine, merely assembled there or if they were produced in Israel with some Fort markings and shipped to Ukraine. The nature of the partnership is undisclosed but it has been suggested that if Fort gained substantial sales for the weapons then further manufacture may have been transferred to Ukraine.
In 2014, Colonel Vitaly Otamaniuk, the head of the artillery and missile management board of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, announced that the Fort-221 and Fort-223/224 carbines would be adopted for arming the Ukrainian army, with an initial 500 ordered. While no further orders were publicly recorded, we know that Police and internal security forces were issued the rifle as of 2016. The adoption of the rifles by the Ministry of Internal Affairs units and the Ukrainian National Guard (which falls under the Ministry’s control) may be explained by the fact the Ministry owns RPC Fort.
There is some confusion around the Fort-22 series’ designations. From Fort’s website, circa 2020, we can see here that the majority of the IWI rifle range was on offer. There is some confusion around the designations with Fort-222 and Fort-223 not being listed but there are photographs of Fort-223 marked 5.56×45mm X-95 pattern guns seen at trade shows, which suggests that for a time at least the 223 designation was used. But as we’ve seen from Fort’s 2010 website, Fort-223s were not listed. The Tavors are listed as follows:
- Fort-221 in 5.56x45mm and 5.45x39mm (TAR-21) – 468mm / 18.4in
- Fort-224 in 5.56×45 and 5.45x39mm (X-95) – 330mm / 13in
- Fort-224 in 9×19 (X-95 SMG) – 330mm / 13in
Further survey of Fort’s website shows that the Tavor series of rifles ceased to be listed on the page in March 2021 and IWI and Meprolight were removed from the site’s ‘Partners’ section in April 2021. Perhaps suggesting the end of the IWI-Fort partnership. The Tavor-pattern rifles are not listed by SpetsTechnoExport, Ukraine’s state export enterprise, but the IPI Vulcan is.
Despite this, we have seen a considerable number of Ukrainian Tavor variants in the field. Since the Russian invasion in February, the Fort-22 series have been most frequently seen with internal security forces and Ukrainian Army and National Guard special forces.
Within 48 hours of the Russian offensive, Russian forces shared videos from what was said to be a captured Ukrainian National Guard depot. The video shows more than a dozen Fort-221s piled on top of crates. Around the same time, they were seen to be equipping Ukrainian forces said to be linked to the Azov Brigade. On 9 March, an unknown number were captured by Russian forces which seized the National Guard armoury near the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Plant. At least one Fort-221 was shown by Russian state media.
The Ukrainian Tavors continue to surface in imagery from the conflict but it is difficult to tell where they’re being used and by which units. They are often seen being used as the personal weapon of snipers and marksmen, alongside their precision rifles. The majority of the Fort bullpups seen in photographs appear to be chambered in 5.45x39mm.
Both the Fort-221 rifle and the 224 carbine have been seen in the field, though it is often difficult to determine their chambering as the clearest indication – the shape of the magazine – is invariably tucked under the user’s arm. They are most often seen equipped with Meprolight M5 and M21 sights and a number of the weapons have also been seen to be sporting camouflage paint jobs.