Kiev – the Kalashnikov assault rifle is one of the most recognizable symbols of the Soviet army.
The AK-47, AKM, AK-74 and AK-103 are ubiquitous reminders of the legacy of the red Army in the modern armed forces of the former Warsaw Pact countries and other States from the sphere of influence of the Soviet Union.
The fact that today, Kalashnikov rifles are terrorists and mercenaries around the world, serves as a grim proof to the proliferation of Soviet weapons during the cold war.
January 3, under a long-term plan for the implementation of the military standards NATO, Ukraine took a step towards liberation from this relic of the Soviet past.
The ukroboronprom state defense conglomerate of Ukraine announced the signing of a partnership agreement between the enterprise “ukroboronservis” and the American company’s Aeroscraft on the issue in Ukraine is one of the versions of the American M16 rifle.
“The project to issue the M16 was conceived some time ago, as the Ukrainian armed forces, border guards, the national guard moving in the future to NATO standards”, — said the founder and CEO of the Aeroscraft, Igor Pasternak during a press conference held in Kiev on 3 January.
In Ukraine will be produced a modification of the M16 called WAC47.
In WAC47 use Soviet ammo, not the standard NATO rounds of 5.56×45 mm.
However, the plan for the production of M16 in Ukraine is the first step in the transition to NATO standards. It is that objective which, according to the decree of the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko, the Ukrainian army needs to achieve by 2020.
WAC47 can be modified for NATO ammo, and the ability to “change gauges” was one of the reasons why Ukroboronprom has decided to release the M16.
“Its production in Ukraine means a real step of our country and the Ukrainian army in the Euro-Atlantic structures”, — reads the statement of “Ukroboronprom”, published on his official website.
By the time Ukraine will fully switch to military standards of NATO, it will have a stock of M16 rifles that can be modified for munitions NATO.
As representatives of “Ukroboronprom”, the problems faced by Ukrainian soldiers during a joint operation of the Ukrainian army with NATO forces, pushed them to the decision to start producing American rifle in Ukraine.
“Ukrainian soldiers are already involved in joint maneuvers with NATO, — said on the website of “Ukroboronprom”. And every time one of the problems is logistics.”
For example, Ukrainian troops deployed to support the NATO mission in Afghanistan, had to borrow a German assault rifle at the Lithuanian military due to problems with the incompatibility of ammunition.
The NATO standard assault rifle, but only an agreement to use the same caliber ammunition small arms. The NATO agreement for standardisation No. 4172 sets a new standard for small caliber weapons — the 5.56×45 mm.
In theory, the troops of NATO countries can exchange ammunition in a battle, even if they use different types of weapons.
M16 became the standard rifle of the U.S. infantry in 1967. In the American modification of the M16 uses standard NATO ammunition.
Meanwhile, WAC47 (modification of the M16, which will be produced in Ukraine) designed for cartridges of caliber 7,62×39 mm, which are used in Soviet weapons like the AK-47 and AKM.
The Ukrainian army is planning to move to NATO standards by 2020. Therefore, the Ukrainian weapons need to adapt NATO ammunition.
According to military experts, that reporters of The Daily Signal caught up, rifles WAC47 can be modified for NATO 5.56×45 mm, but the price of this undertaking could be prohibitive.
“Recalibration of the rifles chambered for other cartridges may be committed under certain circumstances”, — said a senior researcher at defense programs at The Heritage Foundation’s Dakota wood (Dakota Wood).
“It requires a huge investment, so it is cheaper to buy a new rifle designed for the NATO rounds.”
To modify the Ukrainian M16 NATO ammunition will have to replace the slide and barrel, says Brian summers (Brian Summers), US army veteran and military expert.
“It will be necessary to replace only what I would call elements that are normally changed over time, as you use, — said summers. — However, you will need to replace the store because it is designed for a specific caliber.”
M16 consists of two main components — the upper and lower receivers. According to summers, to the NATO ammunition after the Soviet caliber, you need to modify only the upper receiver to replace the barrel and slide.
In its configuration and caliber, the M16 system is “one of the most versatile weapons platforms”, according to summers. “The troops can train on one platform, and in the transition to a new caliber won’t need to be taught how to use the new system… – platform lower receiver, is not changed. Besides, any optics can be moved”.
In 1990-e years the company Colt Defense, the first manufacturer of M16, has released a special civilian version of military assault rifles intended to use the Soviet ammunition of 7.62×39 mm.
“I have such a rifle. If I want to shoot out of a 5.56-millimeter caliber, I simply change the upper receiver to the corresponding chamber and the magazine, says summers. — It takes just two minutes.”
The agreement to issue the M16 in Ukraine — it not the first case of its production in Ukraine of foreign weapons under Soviet ammo.
Ukrainian arms company RPC Fort is releasing a version of the Israeli Tavor rifles, which the Israeli forces went after the M16.
The Israeli Tavor uses the standard NATO 5.56×45 mm. the Ukrainian version, meanwhile, is designed for the Soviet caliber, but can be modified for NATO ammo.
Stocks of Soviet weapons
For nearly three years, the Ukrainian army engaged in an indirect war with Pro-Russian separatists and the military the regular Russian army in Donbass, South-East of Ukraine.
Since the beginning of the war in 2014 Ukraine is trying to rapidly rebuild, re-equip and modernize its army.
According to Ukrainian media reports, in 2014, Pro-Russian separatists seized the country’s only enterprise producing small arms ammunition — cartridge plant in Lugansk.
Since then, the Ukrainian army is inventory remaining at its disposal since Soviet times.
In June 2016, a group of Ukrainian military officials announced plans to create domestic production of ammunition.
“Ammunition inherited from the Soviet army… not unlimited, a considerable part of them were thoughtlessly disposed of or sold at a time when no one thought I would have to fight,” — said Alexander Turchinov, the head of the national security Council and defense of Ukraine.
“This is an important large-scale task and we have no other way but to implement it quickly, as it affects the security of our country,” he concluded.
In the product catalog of “Ukroboronprom” for 2016-2017 has not entered a ammunition 7.62×39 mm and 5.45×39 mm is the two calibers, the most widely used in the armed forces of Ukraine.
According to experts the weapon is now in service with the army of Ukraine there are a million AK-47s and light machine guns RPK-74. Both of them are used in the Soviet cartridges of 5.45×39 mm.
May 20, 2016 President Poroshenko signed a plan for major reform of the armed forces called Strategic defense Bulletin.
The document calls for a complete revision of the military doctrine of Ukraine, the system of training of the armed forces and rules of operations, to eventually Ukraine could join NATO.
“We are finally moving away from the build system of the Soviet army and build real and effective Armed Forces. For me this is very important because it is proof that NATO and Ukraine speak the same language and understand well each other”, — said Poroshenko.
In the Strategic defence Bulletin stated that the Ukrainian army needs to implement NATO standards by 2020. It also States that Russia is the enemy number one in Ukraine.
Start of production of the M16 in Ukraine is a step, though largely symbolic, the separation of Ukraine from its Soviet past, by the refusal of Soviet weapons and, thus, to the rapprochement with NATO.
“Every country that broke away from Russia’s orbit, have passed, or is undergoing this difficult stage, which takes many years and requires great efforts”, — reads the statement of “Ukroboronprom”, published on his official website.
The resale price
Ukraine plans to produce the M16 rifle for their own use and for export. Thus, this agreement is part of a wider plan for the reform and extension of the Ukrainian defense industry.
Joint ventures with foreign partners are a key element of reforming the military-industrial complex of Ukraine.
“The production of weapons in accordance with NATO standards is an important part of the development and reform of the Ukrainian defense industry”, — said Sergei Mikityuk, the head of “Ukroboronservice”.
The American company’s Aeroscraft, which cooperates with the “Ukroboronservice” for the production of M16 is an aviation company based in California and specializing in the production of lighter than air ships, including airships, intended for use by the us military.
Pasternak, founder and CEO of the Aeroscraft, was born in Soviet Kazakhstan, and his first company he founded Aeros in Ukraine. According to published on the website Aeroscraft Pasternak biography, he emigrated to the United States in 1994.
Ukrainian officials also want to make Ukraine one of the leading arms exporters in the world.
“Ukraine is actively increasing its military potential, — wrote Poroshenko in the introduction of the catalogue of products “Ukroboronprom” for 2016-2017. — Our strategic goal — to enter the top five arms exporters”.
According to the Stockholm Institute for peace studies, at the end of 2014, Ukraine entered the top ten exporters of weapons.