Russian Military Testing Updated AK Rifles, New Weapon System

The AK-12 assault rifle has passed military field tests and is part of the Russian military's futuristic Ratnik weapons program.

The AK-12, chambered in 5.45x39mm.
The AK-12, chambered in 5.45x39mm.photo from wearethemighty.com

We've posted several stories in the past year about new firearms being considered by the U.S. Military. From the Army's new sidearm to the potential new choice for a new Marine Corps service rifle, things are certainly in flux.

But what is the Russian military, typically associated with the antiquated but revered AK-47 and variants, up to these days? It turns out, their cutting edge firearms are all variants of the guns U.S. forces have been facing since the beginning of the Cold War.

This story from wearethemighty.com says the AK-12 assault rifle has "passed military field tests and meets all of the Russian armed forces' design and operational standards."

The rifle is planned to be the standard firearm in Russia's future weapon system dubbed Ratnik, or "Warrior," the story says.

The design of the AK-12, which gamers will be intimately familiar with, began back in 2011 and it’s currently manufactured by Kalashnikov Concern representing the newest descendent of the AK-47 pattern rifle.

There are actually two variants of the rifle. The AK-12 is chambered for the 5.45x39mm cartridge and would replace the AK-74 family of firearms chambered for the same. The AK-15 is chambered for the 7.62x38mm round like the AK-47 and AKM families of rifles and submachine guns.

Both firearms keep many traditional AK features and can use magazines made for the AK-74 and AKM rifles, the story says. The upgrades have been made to improve accuracy in all conditions and to allow the aging platform to be fitted with modern accessories, and ancient ones like bayonets. Both rifles can also be fitted with a 40mm grenade launcher under the barrel and include modern synthetic furniture and accessory rails.

The AK-15, chambered in 7.62x38mm, fitted with a suppressor.
The AK-15, chambered in 7.62x38mm, fitted with a suppressor.web photo

The AK-12 would be paired with the AK-15 and the RPK-16 light support weapon, an updated version of the RPK-74, to make up the complete system.

The story says the AK-12 was successful in military tests back in 2012 when it was called the AK-200, but the Russian military requested a cheaper version. The second-generation of AK-12s were then produced using the 5.45 round with the AK-200 as a base model.

The story also says the Russians are hedging their bets and testing two other rifles also chambered in 5.45mm and 7.61mm made by Kovrov Mechanical Works.

But how different is the AK-12? From the story:

"Arms experts have said the AK-12 is not a grand departure from the AK-74, which is the current standard weapon for the Russian military." "'There are improvements but very modest on the background of excessive expectations triggered by a media campaign,' Mikhail Degtyarev, editor-in-chief of Kalashnikov magazine, told Army Recognition in May, making specific mention of ergonomic improvements."

Another shot of the AK-12, which includes modern furniture and accessory rails.
Another shot of the AK-12, which includes modern furniture and accessory rails.web photo

But the Russian military is likely not be done with the AK-74 by any means. The story says Kalashnikov Concern is also working on an AK-74 upgrade package including a folding and telescoping stock, rails for accessories, and a more ergonomic fire selector switch and grip.

As part of the Ratnik program, the Russian military has also been testing modernized body armor, bulletproof shields, tactical computers, and helmets equipped with night and thermal imaging technology, similar to tech being testing by the U.S. military.

One report from a Russian government-controlled news outlet say the military is also working on a combat suit with a powered exoskeleton that provides increased strength and endurance paired with high-tech body armor and a helmet with a visor that covers the entire face.