Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Kalashnikov AK-101, AK-102, AK-103, AK-104, AK-105, AK-107 and AK-108 assault rifles


Kalashnikov AK-101 assault rifle with 40mm GP-30 under barrel grenade launcher

The AK-101 assault rifle is an export version of the 5.45mm Kalashnikov AK-74M assault rifle. The main difference between AK-101 and AK-74M is in ammunition used - the AK-101 is chambered for 5.56x45mm NATO ammunition. Otherwise it is basically the same as the AK-74M, which is current standard issue rifle of the Russian army.

Caliber: 5.56x45 mm NATO
Action: Gas operated, rotating bolt with 2 lugs
Length, mm: overall: 943; w/folded stock: 700;
Barrel length: 415 mm
Weight: 3.4 kg empty
Rate of fire: 600 rounds per minute
Magazine capacity: 30 rounds


The Kalashnikov AK-103 assault rifle is a modification of the current Russian standard issue AK-74M rifle for older 7.62x39mm ammunition. It is primary intended for export, although it is believed that few AK-103 are in use by various Russian special Law Enforcement groups, which prefer 7.62mm over 5.45mmfor its better stopping power. So far the biggest buyer for AK-103 assault rifles was the Venezuela, which in 2006 bought 100,000 AK-103 rifles and intent to purchase the manufacturing license and necessary equipment for domestic production of this weapon.

The AK-103 is technically similar to AK-74M except for caliber and magazines used; any 7.62mm AK / AKM type magazine can be used in AK-103, but rifles now are issued with new production 30-round magazines made of black polymer.

Caliber: 7.62x39 M43
Action: Gas operated, rotating bolt with 2 lugs
Length, mm: overall: 943; w/folded butt 700;
Barrel Length, mm: 415
Weight: 3.4 kg empty
Magazine capacity, 30 rounds
Rate of fire: 600 rounds per minute

AK-107 and AK-108

Modified AK-107 assault rifle, as displayed in 2011. Note new top cover with integral Picatinny rail. Night sight is installed

During 1960s and 1970s Soviet gun designers tried several approaches to improve hit probability of the standard infantry rifle, when firing in bursts / full automatic mode (which is primary mode of fire for ordinary infantry troops as per Soviet and Russian field manuals and practice). One of such approaches is known as a “balanced action”. First developed during late 1960s by designers Alexandrov and Paranin in Izhevsk, and by Tkachev in Klimovsk, this system used a counter-mass to compensate the recoil impulse, generated by massive bolt group, slamming against the receiver in its rearmost and forward most position during the reloading cycle. The counter-mass is linked with second gas piston and moves in opposite direction to bolt group. Synchronization is achieved using a simple rack and pinion system. In this system, only the impulse of the fired cartridge is transferred to the receiver, and through the buttstock to the shoulder of the shooter. The impulses of the heavy and fast-moving bolt group are compensated by the counter-mass, and do not affect the shooting, unlike the AK where the moving bolt group produces a lot of additional recoil and vibration. The “balanced system” was employed in the AKB rifle, developed by V.M. Kalashnikov (son of the famous Mikhail Kalashnikov) in Izhevsk, and in the AEK-971 rifle, developed in Kovrov, both unsuccessfully tested during "Abakan" trials of late 1980s.

AK-107 assault rifle

Despite the failure of both designs in the army trials, development was continued, with intention to produce weapons superior (in full automatic fire mode) to standard AK-74 for domestic police use and export. The Izhevsk entry, initially known as AKB, evolved into the AK-107 and AK-108 rifles, which differed only by the ammunition used - AK-107 was intended for domestic use and thus chambered for 5.45x39 ammunition, while AK-108 was intended for export and thus chambered for 5.56x45 NATO ammunition. Both weapons were widely advertised through late 1990s and early 2000s, although it appears that no significant orders were ever received by the IzhMash factory.

Illustration of the balanced action, with dual, counter-moving gas pistons above the barrel

AK-107 assault rifle, disassembled

The AK-107 assault rifle is gas operated weapon with balanced action. It employs fairy conventional rotary bolt with dual locking lugs which is operated by long-stroke gas piston located above the barrel. To provide balancing action, second gas piston is fitted in the front of the first one. When gun is fired, main gas piston moves rearwards, operating the bolt group, while balancing piston moves in opposite direction, being synchronised to the main one via simple rack and pinion system. In all other respects the AK-107 is quite similar to the standard AK-74M assault rifle, except that AK-107 / 108 were also offered with optional 3-round burst firing capability.

Close-up view on the receiver and controls of the modified AK-107 rifle. Note four-position safety / selector lever

In 2011 IZHMASh has displayed an improved version of the AK-107, with apparent intent to offer it as a replacement for AK-74M assault rifles. Major improvements include new top cover with integral Picatinny rail and new rear sight, which is now of aperture (diopter) type.

New diopter-type rear sight of the improved AK-107 rifle

Caliber: 5.45x39mm (5,56x45NATO for AK108)
Action: Gas operated, rotating bolt with 2 lugs, balanced bolt-carrier/bolt group to reduce recoil jumping
Length: 943 / 700 mm
Barrel lenght: 415 mm
Sighting range,m: 1000
Weigth: 3.8 kg empty
Magazine capacity: 30 rounds
Rate of fire: 850 (900 for AK108) rounds per minute

AK-102, AK-104 and AK-105

5.56mm Kalashnikov AK-102 assault rifle (AK-105 looks exactly the same)

The AK-102, AK-104 and AK-105 rifles are essentially similar to one another, being different only in the caliber and type of magazine used. All three are 'compact' versions of the 5.56mm AK-101, 7.62mm AK-103 and 5.45mm AK-74M, respectively. The main visible differences between those 'Hundredth series compact assault rifles' and earlier 5.45mm AKS-74U compact assault rifle are that 'Hundred series' rifles use somewhat longer barrels and full length gas pistons, as opposed to shorter AKS-74U, and solid, side-folding polymer stocks. In fact, other than shorter barrels with special muzzle devices (flash / blast reducers) those compact rifles are similar in details to their respective full-size variants.

7.62mm Kalashnikov AK-104 assault rifle

Caliber: AK-102 5.56x45 mm NATO; AK-104 7.62x39 M43; AK-105 5.45x39 M74
Action: Gas operated, rotating bolt with 2 lugs
Length, mm: overall: 824; w/folded butt 586
Barrel Length, mm: 314
Weight, 3.0 kg empty
Magazine capacity: 30 rounds
Rate of fire: 600 rounds per minute

Friday, January 4, 2013

Aichi E13A

Based on number alone, the Aichi production E13A series of floatplanes (dubbed "Jake" by the Allies) was the most important such aircraft type for the Japanese Navy during the Second World War. The system was fielded in quantity in the early 1940's and were charged with reconnoitering the American Navy based at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, prior to the infamous December 7th attack. A tremendous design with durability and endurance to boot, the E13A would serve through the end of the war, notoriously in Kamikaze attacks on advancing American naval convoys.

The Aichi E13A Jake became the most important floatplane for the Japanese Navy in World War Two.

The E13A was a three-crew low-monoplane aircraft with pontoons fitted in place of traditional landing gear systems. The initial need for the floatplane stemmed from a Japanese naval requirement for a new floatplane to replace the aging Kawanishi E7K2 series. As such, offers to the Aichi, Kawanishi and Nakajima aircraft firms were made to promote a competitive trial. At the end, only a Aichi and Kawanishi design remained, with the Aichi design getting the go ahead. A prototype was then produced and ordered into production after 1940.

Though limited in number at first, the E13A series made some initial carrier-based land-strikes and reconnaissance missions that promoted the use of this aircraft type. As such, the floatplane would be fielded regularly with future cruiser groups and mounted to catapults on Japanese battleships. Standard armament would consist of 1 x 20mm downward-firing cannon and a single 7.7mm machine gun in the rear cockpit. External stores were limited to a single 551lb bomb or depth charge as needed.

Aichi "Jakes" were utilized more importantly for their reconnaissance initiative than their strike capability (limited as they were in that respect). Reconnoiter missions would include the scouting of Pearl Harbor and the famous miscommunication reconnoiter mission for American battle groups in the early rounds of the Battle of Midway, leaving many carrier-based attack aircraft ready for action on the Japanese carrier decks, but waiting for the reconnaissance reports to come in.

The Aichi E13A would serve through to the end of the war, though limited with each passing month by the power of the new generation of American carrier-based fighters and the ever-advancing American forces. "Jakes", as other aircraft of this type, would later be relegated to Kamikaze attacks on American ships in the hopes of damaging psyche and disrupting supplies and combat capabilities. In the end, the masterful aircraft would be highly regarded as the best floatplane that Japan could field and the 1,418 such production models would attest to that.

Specifications for the Aichi E13A1a (Jake)
Length: 37.07ft (11.3m)
Width: 47.57ft (14.50m)
Height: 15.42ft (4.70m)

Maximum Speed: 234mph (377kmh; 204kts)
Maximum Range: 1,298miles (2,089km)
Rate-of-Climb: 0ft/min (0m/min)
Service Ceiling: 28,642ft (8,730m; 5.4miles)

Armament Suite:
1 x 20mm cannon (in downward-firing ventral position)
1 x 7.7mm machine gun (in rear cockpit position)

Maximum external bomb loadout (bombs or depth charges) of 551 lbs.
Accommodation: 3
Hardpoints: 1
Empty Weight:5,825lbs (2,642kg)
Maximum Take-Off Weight:8,818lbs (4,000kg)

Engine(s): 1 x Mitsubishi Kinsei 43 14-cylinder radial piston engine generating 1,080hp.



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