US may ink 16 inch barrel Kalashnikov assault rifle deals

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WASHINGTON — The US Army is ready to sign deals with suppliers of the notorious Kalashnikov AK-74 assault rifles. The Army Contracting Command-New Jersey [CCNJ] is the division of the Pentagon that publishes the announcement of future contracts on its website. The CCNJ statement does not make it clear about the quantities or purpose of the Soviet/Russian submachine guns. CCNJ did not say where the assault rifles would be sent, but experts speculated that some [or all] of them would go to Ukraine.

Photo credit: SOFREP

The statement from CCNJ raises more questions than answers. However, the service to the Pentagon has written exactly what AK-74 assault rifles they are looking for. I.e. each Kalashnikov assault rifle has a fixed butt and a 16-inch barrel.

It is a well-known fact that during the years of the Cold War and the Soviet bloc, many countries that followed the Soviet communist policy received licenses to manufacture Kalashnikov assault rifles. For this reason, CCNJ makes an important clarification – the Kalashnikov quantities that the US Army is interested in must follow the design of rifles from Romania [e.g. Md.86], Russia [e.g. AK-74], and East Germany [e.g. MPi AK74].

Bulgaria was one of the largest producers of Soviet AK-74 assault rifles during the USSR. At the moment it also remains so, but the fact that CCNJ does not want Kalashnikovs from Bulgaria is interesting. The situation is the same with the Polish equivalent of the Soviet weapon – Tantal.

The problem can be explained by the current production in Bulgaria. The Arsenal arms company produces the AR-SF machine gun [a copy of the AK-74], but in the NATO standard 5.56×56 mm and the old Soviet design 7.62×39 mm. That leaves one possibility – the US is looking for the 5.45x39mm AK-74. But Bulgaria has a large stockpile of licensed AK-74 from the Cold War era, which fully meets the conditions of American requirements. The problem is that the US military is looking for new products, and as for obsolete and stockpiled weapon systems – only those that are safe and do not pose a problem to the soldier will be taken.

Photo credit: Wikimedia

However, it is not clear why exactly the East German and Romanian Kalashnikov AK-74 assault rifles are completely acceptable. The East German MPi-AK-74s are literal copies of the Soviet AK-74s, while the Romanian PA Md. 86 is a hybrid that is chambered in 7.62x39mm. It is striking that the caliber is the same as the Bulgarian Kalashnikov assault rifles, but it remains a mystery why the Romanian ones are preferred over the Bulgarian ones.

The largest producer of Kalashnikov assault rifles and specifically the AK-74 remains in Russia. There are other countries that over the years have produced the infamous machine gun, or have stocks of it. It should also be noted that copies were also made in the USA, and submachine guns were assembled from different parts.

Certainly, a part of the machines will be destined for Ukraine. But still, the whole order remains a mystery, as well as what the US military will do with the other part. History shows that the US has been buying Russian weapons systems throughout the years of rivalry between the two countries to conduct targeted training programs to train US soldiers and spy on the enemy.

The Pentagon follows strict procedures to such an extent that even in the USA there are quite a few F-16 fighters painted in the camouflage colors of the Soviet Union/Russia so that they serve to better train American pilots.

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