New machine gun based on RPK-16. Make something great out of good?

RPK-16 with drum magazine

In 2017, the Kalashnikov concern presented a promising RPK-16 light machine gun. In the future, these weapons were tested, and the development organization was preparing mass production; there were statements about the imminent acceptance into service. However, it has now become known that the design of the RPK-16 will have to be seriously revised – in fact, with the creation of a completely new model.

Tests and their results

As previously reported, in 2018, the RPK-16 machine gun passed factory tests and fine-tuning, after which it was offered to the Ministry of Defense. In 2018-19. a batch of such weapons went to the army to undergo military trials. The checks were to be carried out in different conditions in all major climatic zones. Long before the completion of the checks, Kalashnikov began to talk about the readiness to launch the series, and the Ministry of Defense – about the imminent acceptance of the product into service.

On July 2, RIA Novosti, citing its source in the defense industry, revealed the current state of affairs around the RPK-16. It is alleged that the machine gun has passed experimental military operation, as a result of which the Ministry of Defense has put forward a number of comments and suggestions. They must be taken into account when further fine-tuning the design.

The test results and the customer’s comments were taken into account and summarized. An improved version of the existing RPK-16 will now be created. At the same time, as the source of RIA Novosti notes, the design of the machine gun does not allow to fulfill all the wishes of the military. Because of this, its serious alteration is required, and in fact we are talking about creating a new model based on the existing one. Work on the processing of the machine gun begins this year.

Base sample

A new light machine gun for our army will be created on the basis of the existing RPK-16. This machine gun was first shown in 2017 and since then it has become quite widely known. RPK-16 attracted attention due to the presence of a number of curious features that set it apart from other domestic “handbrakes”. It was expected that the introduction of such a product into service would have a positive effect on the potential of rifle units.

The RPK-16 in its original version is a weapon of “automatic” layout and ergonomics. The structure is reinforced taking into account the main modes of fire. The automation is based on a gas engine with a long piston stroke, which is traditional for M.T. Kalashnikov. The weapon uses a low-impulse cartridge 5.45×39 mm fed from detachable magazines. Rate of fire – 700 rds / min. The trigger mechanism allows you to shoot single or bursts. Shooting – only from a closed shutter.

RPK-16 uses interchangeable barrels. A 580 mm barrel is intended for combined arms combat; a short 415 mm barrel is offered for combat in difficult conditions. Barrel replacement takes only a few minutes and can be done by the shooter himself, without the use of complex tools. Compatible with interchangeable muzzle devices.

The machine gun uses magazine ammunition. Retained full compatibility with box magazines for AK-74 assault rifles and RPK-74 machine guns. In addition, a new 96-round drum magazine has been developed to increase the density of fire.

The advantages of the RPK-16 were called ergonomics similar to the existing assault rifles, the possibility of long-term firing without replacing the magazine, compatibility with various “body kit”, etc. Taking into account all these factors, the new machine gun looked very interesting against the background of its predecessors.

Complaints and suggestions

It is known that according to the test results, army specialists have compiled a list of necessary improvements and innovations. Exactly what requirements were included in it is unknown. At the same time, certain wishes of the customer lead to the need for such a serious processing of the machine gun that we have to talk about a completely new model.

Usually, during military tests, various minor flaws in the field of ergonomics, maintenance, survivability of parts, etc. are revealed. Correction of such shortcomings is not difficult, and also does not have a significant effect on the design as a whole. After such revision, the sample goes into service and goes into production. At the same time, an improved version from the point of view of origin or name is often not distinguished from the basic one and is not considered as a separate design.

In the case of the improvement of the RPK-16, the actual development of a new “handbrake” on the basis of the existing one is declared. This allows us to assume that the list of wishes and requirements includes not only minor innovations in not the most significant areas. It is possible that individual claims could affect the main parts of the weapon or even the basic concepts of the project. This improvement actually turns out to be like developing a new project.

Improving the good

Judging by open data, the RPK-16 is a very successful weapon that has significant advantages over previous domestic light machine guns. However, domestic and foreign experience shows that such a design can be improved with new advantages.

One of the main tasks of a light machine gun is continuous firing in bursts – to support submachine gunners who do not have such an opportunity. The old RPK-74 could not cope with this work due to the small magazine capacity: 30 or 45 rounds did not provide a sufficient duration of firing without reloading. RPK-16 with a “drum” for 96 rounds has obvious advantages.

Foreign experience shows that troops can benefit from a light machine gun chambered for a low-impulse cartridge with the possibility of magazine and belt feed. Several samples of this kind have been put into service and are receiving good reviews. In our country, similar machine guns were also created, but the RPK-16 is not one of them.

The FN Minimi light machine gun is one of the samples for magazine and belt feed. In the foreground are soft tape containers (left) and pouches with magazines

It is quite possible that the army, taking into account domestic and foreign experience, demanded that the design of the RPK-16 be redesigned, ensuring the use of not only stores, but also tapes. A machine gun with such capabilities would be more interesting for the customer.

A serious problem of the RPK product line is the preservation of the “automatic” principle of operation with firing from a closed bolt. This leads to faster heating of the barrel up to the loss of accuracy and accuracy characteristics, and also gives the risk of spontaneous ignition of the cartridge in the chamber. To get rid of such shortcomings, a serious reworking of the existing bolt group and the firing mechanism is required.

Machine gun of the future

Work on the new version of the RPK-16 is only starting now, and it is not known what they will lead to. Any result can be expected. A promising “handbrake” may turn out to be the basic RPK-16 with a change in some details that do not affect the operation of the weapon, but simplify its operation. You can also expect a cardinal overhaul of all the main units with the preservation of only individual devices and principles.

At the same time, it can be assumed that the updated or rebuilt RPK-16 will more fully meet the customer’s requirements and therefore will be able to pass the necessary tests without difficulties and complaints. Accordingly, the machine gun will get a chance to enter service in the future. The army will be able to get a light machine gun that matches its wishes and is devoid of the shortcomings of its predecessors.

The timing of the appearance of such weapons remains unknown. Its development begins this year, and, depending on the specifics of the restructuring of the basic project, it can take several months or several years. Thus, the new machine gun is hardly worth waiting for before the future exhibition “Army-2021”. However, one should not rush in this area, because the main thing is the result.

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