The second half of the XX century was marked by preparation of Soviet Army for battles with NATO, that meant in the end a final stage of a nuclear war.India fought four wars with Pakistan with conventional arms. The post WW II light arms (assault rifles and machine guns) were already designed, produces and introduced into the armies and for a long time were regarded as quite sufficient for Army needs in both countries. Yet the development of new high technologies and new threats demand rearmament of armies not only with new tanks and strike aircraft but with new generation of light arms as well – more accurate, with longer range, more powerful yet without being too heavy.
I know that India now decides what way to choose for a rearmament of its Army with more technologically advanced light arms. Therefore these small notes of mine are quite timely…
In Russia that issue seems to be in the process of almost being solved – the new light arms are designed, tested. their production began but still these arms are not available at a large scale until the next year. Here I will mention only a 7.62 mm caliber “unified application” hand machine gun “PECHENEG” that was regarded as “ secret” weapon until this year. In the end of these notes , by the link, my readers can see a video of its action at a firing range, shooting through the wall of white “ silicate” bricks that are more hard ( up to two times) as compared with ordinary “ red” ( or brown) clay bricks.
In the 70-s there was a general trend in both American and Russian Armies to use smaller caliber – 5.45 mm in Russia for AK-74 and AKM, and almost the same caliber – 5.56 mm for M-16 and for more new Colt M-4 in the USA. Both M16 rifle and the M4 carbine are semi-automatic and automatic weapons. They are issued to U.S. troops and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) forces worldwide. The M16 was the standard U.S. military forces weapon from the mid-1960s and onward, but is being replaced by the M4, a smaller, more versatile carbine. The M16 competes with the Russian AK-47 in worldwide sales, and the M4 is expected to be sold more globally well before 2020.
The M4 came about when the U.S. Pentagon put a tender on the American arms market to replace the M16 Rifle with a carbine design using a shorter barrel for a close-quarter combat. As to Russians , the Soviet Union in 1978 began replacing their ” Stalin time” old AK-47 and more new AKM 7.62×39 assault rifles with a newer design- the AK-74 with smaller rounds 5.45×39. The effective range of American M-16 and M-4 are more or les the same with Russian AK-47 and AK-74 though at automatic fire mode the effective range of Russian weapons was about 100 meters less because of the stronger recoil. At the same time Russian AK-47 and AK-74 are much more reliable in real harsh combat situations and are not afraid of dust, water , sand or even mud. During the Vietnam war American soldiers used to say that in Vietnam rice fields filled with water they would prefer more robust AK-47 as M-16 is definitely better at a firing range but the real war conditions are not as at a clean American firing range.
War in Afghanistan has also shown, first to Russians and later to Americans, that both 5.45 and 5.56 rounds have smaller impulse in comparison with bigger caliber. Now Americans still prefer 5.56 caliber and its accuracy , while Russians, not abandoning completely 5.45 mm for some carbine versions, seem to return to the more powerful 7.62×39 that is a century old caliber. In new Russian AK-12 or AK-400 both calibers may be used. More of it – the war in Donbass in 2014-2015 proved that even old Soviet bigger caliber heavy machine guns are also necessary. This Russian machine gun named “Utyos” uses very powerful rounds 12.7 x 110 caliber and is used against light armored vehicles and helicopters. But the combatants value its range – 1500 meters that does not allow the enemy to approach to the effective light assault rifles range of 500-600 meters.
However let us return to the new “ secret” light machine gun “PECHENEG” that has only began to come to the Russian Army.
The key area of weapons development in 1980 was to enhance the probability of hitting the target with the first shot directly (with first rounds in automatic firing).It was necessary to solve the following problems:
improve the efficiency of shooting, without changing development for the production of weapons or cartridge;
improve the characteristics of accuracy;
it was needed to improve the resource of essential parts of weapons, as well as improve the overall performance properties.
Guns makers wanted a modernized Kalashnikov machine gun, but in the output, in fact, was a new gun. This 7.62-mm machine gun has entered into the army service under the name “Kalashnikov infantry machine gun”, as formally it was a modernization of Kalashnikov infantry light machine gun but the name given by the gun maker “Pecheneg” also stays.
“Pecheneg” is a powerful machine gun of fire support for the infantry, which combines high firepower of a heavy machine gun and maneuverability of the light hand machine gun. It has the range of 1500 meters ( as a heavy high caliber “Utyos” ) yet it weighs 8.2 kilogram. Its accuracy is 1.7 to 1.9 higher than of the previous “PKP” – Kalashnikov infantry light machine gun. The original design of the barrel and its cover makes it possible to ensure a uniform and enforced cooling of the barrel. “Pecheneg” machine gun has a much greater heat dissipation as compared with “PKP”, therefore it heats less and there is no need to change the hot barrel as it was provided in Nazi Germany similar machine gun MG-42 that is still used after a minor modernization in German Army today. But if necesary the barrel of ” Pecheneg” can be changen fast enough.
The exterior design of “Pecheneg” reminds of MG-42 that was the most efficient hand machine gun of the WW II. When in the end of the war Germans began to use cumulative grenade launchers “ FAUSTPATRON” that could burn a Russian tank from the distance of 30 meters, Russian tank men often took infantry soldiers on the armor outside a Russian tank, armed with German MG-42 in hand with which they shot at all suspicious places on the way of the tank to kill or to make retreat a Faustpatron men… Relatively light with a high tempo of firing it was a formidable weapon for the enemy infantry… ( The black and white photo below depicts Nazi soldier with MG-42). Increased vitality of Pecheneg ( the number of shots fired from one barrel) , up to 25-29 thousand rounds, made it possible to abandon the interchangeable barrel. While the change is possible and it is easy and quick. The drum magazine contains 100 or 200 rounds.
For special forces a shortened version of “Pecheneg” ( “bull pup”) version was also created. This new machine gun is shortened, in comparison with the usual “Pecheneg”, by the absence of a stock. Instead, there is a short L-shaped stock, forward hand grip and soft butt pad. Due to this modernization shortened gun became lighter by 0.5 kg and is only 93 centimeters long with the same barrel length . 65 cm.
Why I am writing it ? Russian light arms have proved at various wars that they are simple in use, relatively cheap in production and very reliable on a battle field. Unlike China India does not have a bad reputation of a buyer of Russian arms that later are sold everywhere in the world but “made in China”. So I think the newest Russian light arms are not as “secret” as S-400 and India could make a deal with Russia on buying some quantity of light arms made in Russia and at a later stage to jointly produce them in India itself in accordance with Shri Modi Program “ Make in India“ If that scheme works for supersononic aircrafts why should it be rejected for light arms from both sides? Russians trust Indians and they know that their newest arms will not appear on the world arms market as “ made in India”. This allows both countries for a deeper cooperation in a joint arms production, including the light arms.
Below is the video from a shooting range testung machine guns.
Сергей Всеволодович Строев
5 декабря 2016