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MOSCOW (Reuters) - Moscow announced plans on Tuesday to modernize the Kalashnikov, giving a new lease of life to the Soviet-era assault rifle that is the mainstay of the Russian army and weapon of choice for paramilitaries and gangsters around the world.
Part of a 20 trillion-rouble ($690 billion) modernization of Russia's armed forces that includes the addition of new armaments, submarines and aircraft by 2020, the new-look Kalashnikov will get a detachable sight and light, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin told parliament.
"We are planning deep modernization of the Kalashnikov assault rifle," said Rogozin, who oversees the defense industry. "This will be a weapon with detachable equipment, such as an optical sight and a lamp."
The Russian army said last September it had abandoned new purchases of the AK-74 assault rifle, the updated version of the AK-47 designed in the 1940s by Mikhail Kalashnikov. Rogozin said negotiations with the Defense Ministry on future acquisitions of the modernized weapon were ongoing.
The easy-to-use and much copied rifle has been described as the world's most dangerous weapon based on the number of deaths it has caused in wars and insurgencies, but industry critics say it no longer fully meets the requirements of modern warfare.
"With demands for precision and engagement range on the rise, a new weapon must replace the Kalashnikov in the very near future," Ruslan Pukhov, director of CAST, a Moscow-based defense think tank, told Reuters.
Rogozin said the army would also receive a new pistol by the end of the year to replace the semi-automatic Makarov, another weapon from the 1940s and now a Cold War relic.
Izhmash, Russia's top firearms producer, last week presented the prototype of an updated Kalashnikov, the AK-12, which some industry analysts lampooned, saying it offered only a cosmetic update. ($1 = 29.0450 Russian roubles)
(Reporting By Alexei Anishchuk; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)
|The Russian firearms manufacturer Izhmash unveils new Kalashnikov assault rifle AK-12.|
Russia's largest firearms manufacturer, Izhmash, has unveiled a prototype of its new Kalashnikov assault rifle with improved ergonomics and tactical flexibility. The new assault rifle, dubbed AK-12, is being designed as a basic platform for the development of nearly 20 different modifications of the weapon. It could be adapted for cartridges varying from 5.45x39 mm to 7.62x51 NATO.
The state tests of the rifle may begin at the end of 2012 despite the fact that the Russian Defense Ministry has not shown interest so far in the new weapon citing the financial difficulties of the Izhmash company and a huge surplus of AK-74 assault rifles (about 17 million) in the Armed Forces.
Izhmash said on Wednesday that the testing of the AK-12 will continue and the company will offer the rifle to foreign customers and Russian police.
Russia's Interior Ministry has reportedly ordered about a hundred AK-12s for testing by its personnel.
According to Izhmash designers, they “adapted the weapon to modern combat requirements, having preserved Kalashnikov's unique qualities - simplicity, reliability and relatively low production cost.”
The rifle features three firing modes: single shot, three-shot burst and automatic fire. The muzzle of the AK-12 has been designed to shoot foreign-standard barrel-mounted grenades.
The weapon is also equipped with Picatinny rails to mount optical, and night sights, grenade launchers, target indicators and other special equipment.
The AK-12 has a folding stock, and a height-adjustable heelpiece. The weapon can be used by both left-handed and right-handed people, and can be easily handled with one hand.
The development of the new family of sophisticated and effective assault rifles is a priority for the future of the company, which has been experiencing severe financial difficulties and even filed for bankruptcy.