Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Nikonov AN-94 Assault Rifle

The AN-94 assault rifle had been officially adopted by the Russian Army and the Ministry of Internal Affairs in 1994 as a possible replacement for the venerable Kalashnikov AK-74 series assault rifles. The AN index means "Avtomat Nikonova", or Nikonov Assault rifle. This rifle had been designed by Gennady Nikonov, a Russian arms designer, at the IZHMASH state factories, during the late 1980s and early 1990s. This rifle, initially known as the ASN prototype, had been developed for and submitted to the Russian Army trial contest, held in the early 1990s. This contest, known under the code name "Abakan" (a small city in Russia), was intended to develop the more effective replacement for the AK-74 assault rifles. The ASN was tested among the many other prototypes and eventually won the trials, and was consequently adopted. Originally it was intended to replace most, if not all, AK-74 rifles in the Russian service, but it soon turned out that the complete replacement is impossible due to the economical (mostly) and some other reasons. At the present time the AN-94 is considered as the "professionals' choice", and issued in limited numbers by the elite forces of the Russian Army, police and Internal Affairs Ministry. The main body of the Russian armed forces are still armed with the Kalashnikov assault rifles, and AK-type rifles will remain in service for a long time, most probably.

AN-94 assault rifle, buttstock in the open position

The key improvement of the AN-94 over the AK-74 is the introduction of the 2-rounds burst mode, added to the standard single shots and full auto mode. The two rounds bursts are fired at very high rate of fire, and a trained shooter can make a single hole in the target at 100 meters in this mode.This allows for significant increase in lethality, stopping power and body armour penetration over the single shot mode, with the same "singles hot" accuracy. The full auto mode of AN-94 consists of the two stages -first two rounds are fired in the "high rate" fire, and the remaining rounds are fired in low rate of fire, until the trigger is released or the magazine is emptied.

AN-94 rifle, buttstock folded

Caliber: 5.45x39 mm
Action: Gas operated, rotating bolt; moving barrel-receiver-gas drive group for delayed recoil action
Overall length: 943 mm (728 mm with butt folded)
Barrel length: 405 mm
Magazine capacity: 30 rounds
Weight, without magazine: 3.85 k g
Cyclic rate of fire: 1800 and 600 rounds per minute variable
Maximum effective range: 700 meters

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Kalashnikov AK-74 series

The idea of the reduced caliber ammunition for military shoulder arms was played with for a very long time. Each time the technology leaped forward, the standard calibers were reduced - from the 0.45 - 0.50 inch (11.4 - 12.7mm) of the mid-1800 to the .30 of the mid-1900s. The idea of further reduction of the caliber down to 6.5 - 5.6 mm (.240 - .220 inch) was also considered in many countries since the beginning of the 20 century, but it was not until the 1960s when the idea of the low impulse, small-caliber, high velocity round came up to something real. When US Army adopted the M16 rifle in the mid-1960s, everybody else eyed Americans with interest. And as soon as the idea of small caliber rifle was found worthwhile, the total rearming began.

Experimental Konstantinov SA-006 assault rifle, ca. 1970

Soviet army started the development of its own small-caliber ammunition in the early 1960s. After some years of development, a new round was created. This round featured a bottlenecked, tapered case 39mm long made of steel, loaded with slim, relatively long bullet with nominal caliber of 5.45mm (actual bullet diameter is 5.62 mm). The bullet featured a combined steel and lead core with the hollow nose, muzzle velocity from the 415mm barrel was about 900 m/s. It must be noted that the new 5.45mm ammunition featured a new case of smaller diameter (compared to 7.62x39 M43 cartridges); this allowed for lighter round and also solved the problem of loading of the 7.62mm ammunition into the 5.45mm weapon by mistake (which other wise might result in a catastrophic failure of the weapon).

AK-74 5.45mm assault rifle

As soon as the new ammunition was available and accepted by the Soviet Military, it was decided to develop a new family of small arms around this cartridge, and an official requirements for new family of small arms were issued to all development organizations in 1966. Trials of new weapons commenced in 1968, and it must be note that most rifles, submitted for trials, were of highly advanced designs, as the main goal of the new weapon was to significantly improve hits probability (compared to 7.62mm AKM rifles). Most weapons were build using so called "balanced action", in which additional mass is added to the action to counter-recoil synchronously with the bolt group, to minimize its effect on the gun stability. About the only weapon of the more or less conventional design was the entry by Kalashnikov team - this was more or less the old AKM rifle, adapted for new 5.45mm ammunition.

The standard issue '7N6' 5.45x39mm ammo (note lacquered steel case and slim,long bullet)

After extensive and torturing tests two weapons were put forward for extended troop trials - the conventional A-3 assault rifle by Kalashnikov and 'balanced action' SA-006 rifle by Konstantinov. During field trials the latter was found to be much more accurate (and thus more combat-effective), especially in the hands of the average trained soldiers, while being adequately reliable. Despite that, trials commission have recommended the Kalashnikov entry for adoption, as its design was already familiar to both industry and troops, and possibility of teething problems during production and use was relatively low, compared with entirely new design by Konstantinov. New Kalashnikov rifle also was simpler in design, lighter and somewhat cheaper to manufacture.

AK-74M with buttstock folded

Following the decision of trials commission, Kalashnikov 5.45mm assault rifle was officially adopted by Soviet army early in 1974 as" 5.45mm Avtomat Kalashnikova, obraztsa 1974 goda (AK-74)". Basically, it was the same old AKM weapon, adapted to smaller 5.45mm ammunition and fitted with relatively large muzzle brake. Another distinguishing feature was found on the buttstock, in the form of two lightening oval cuts on either side. The folding butt version, known as AKS-74, which was intended for airborne troops, also featured a new type of folding buttstock - instead of the earlier pattern of underfolding stock, found on 7.62mm AKMS rifles, the AKS-74 featured more rigid and robust side-folding metallic buttstock, which folded to the left side of the gun.

AK-74M with GP-30 40mm grenade launcher installed

Early production guns featured polymer pistol grips and wooden buttstocks and handguards. Later in production all furniture was made from polymer The "Night" version, known as AK-74N, was manufactured with the night/IR scope rail added to the left side of the receiver. The latest variation of the AK-74 family was introduced circa 1991 and replaced in production both AK-74 and AKS-74. It was the AK-74M rifle, which is still in production and currently is a standard issue rifle of the Russian army. The AK-74M externally differs from the AK-74 of late 1980s production by having the side-folding,solid black plastic buttstock and the scope rail, mounted on the left receiver as as a standard. Some minor improvements also were made in the production process and external finish of the new rifle. AK-74M retained almost all advantages and disadvantages of the earlier Kalashnikov designs, including reliability, simplicity of operations and maintenance, and less than ideal "human engineering" and ergonomics. At the present time the AK-74M, along with earlier AK-74/AKS-74 is the standard shoulder arm of the Russian Army. The plans of replacing it with the widely advertised Nikonov AN-94 assault rifle were not carried out to any significant extent - the AN-94 is (and most probably will be) issued only certain "elite" units of the Russian Army, police and the Internal Affairs Ministry troops. The AK-74 type 5.45mm assault rifles also were manufactured in the East Germany, Bulgaria, Poland and Romania. Most of these designs after the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact were converted to the 5.56mm NATO ammunition.

AK-74M. The latest variant, issued to the Russian troops since early1990s. Key differences from the earlier AK-74 rifles are the side-folding plastic buttstock and the scope mounting rail on the left side of the receiver.

AK-74 rifle of the late production, with black plastic furniture and the new pattern bayonet

 Experimental Kalashnikov 5.45mm assault rifle, ca. 1970

AKS-74. Folding butt version for the airborne troops

AK-74 AKS-74 AK-74M
Caliber: 5.45x39mm
Action Gasoperated, rotating bolt with 2 lugs
Weight, empty 3.07 kg 2.97 kg 3.4 kg
Length: 940 mm 940 / 700 mm 942 / 704 mm
Barrel length 415mm
Rate of fire 600- 650 rounds per minute
Magazine capacity 30rounds standard

Monday, April 15, 2013

The SCUD SS-1 Gained a Prominent Role in the 1991 Persian Gulf War

The SCUD missile system was the Soviet military long-range missile mainstay throughout the 70's and 80's. The system gained notoriety during the first Gulf War in 1991, where Saddam Hussein launched attacks against Israel and Saudi Arabia using these missile systems with some success. The SCUD missile is set upon a mobile 9P117 8x8 truck, which made it difficult for Allied aircrews and special forces to zero in on their locations (SCUD crews would launch their missiles and immediately move to a new location).

Country of Origin: Soviet Union
Initial Year of Service: 1957
5,600kg battlefield missile

985kg warhead

The SCUD missile system was the Soviet military long-range missile mainstay throughout the 70's and 80's. The system gained notoriety during the first Gulf War in 1991, where Saddam Hussein launched attacks against Israel and Saudi Arabia using these missile systems with some success.

The SCUD missile is set upon a mobile 9P117 8x8 truck, which made it difficult for Allied aircrews and special forces to zero in on their locations (SCUD crews would launch their missiles and immediately move to a new location). The SCUB missile itself stemmed from post-World War Two Soviet engineering based on captured Geran V-2 rockets. The design firm of Korolyev was responsible for the research along with captured German scientists and engineers.

The missile itself was measured at 11.25m (36.9 ft) with a weight of 5,600kg (5.6 tons). The warhead consisted of a single payload measured at roughly 985kg and could be armed with conventional, nuclear or chemical armaments. The rocket was propelled by a single-stage liquid booster and had an overall range of 300km (186.4 miles). Once the rocket motor would give out, the missile system became completely unguided making the weapon extremely inaccurate.

Though reportedly not very accurate, the Cold War-era World War 2-devised SCUD system worked well enough under combat conditions as televised in the Iraq war of 1991 and served as a potent weapon for causing much angst in the Israeli public. About 30 deaths from SCUD missile attacks were reported from that war's use. Missile programs of Pakistan, North Korean and Iran have been reported to use the Soviet Scud-based technology to produce battlefield missiles capable of reaching up to 1,500km in range (932 miles). Add this range with the potent ability to deliver a payload of explosive, chemical, biological or even nuclear warheads and these armies gain a certain tactical advantage on the battlefield. A modernization program for the Scud missile system began in 1999, though the system is widely being replaced in most inventories.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The 37mm M3 Gun

In the development stage, the US War Department, like most national militaries, first looked at foreign guns that met the weapon standards and purchased them or co-opted the desired elements into the existing system to make for a pseudo-indigenous end-product.

The 37mm Gun M3 became America's first anti-tank gun system to enter service.
Even before World War 2, the United States Army had already begun development of an anti-tank gun. The system was required to weigh less than 1,000 lbs, able to be towed by the standard jeep and field a projectile that could pierce tank armor of the then-current tank systems of the 1930's.
Two of the field guns being evaluated were the French Hotchkiss 25mm and the German Rheinmetall 37mm gun. In the 1930's, the German gun had the capability of destroying any tank in service anywhere in the world.

In January of 1937, the US Army Ordnance Department assigned the infantry branch to oversee design work. They sought a lightweight gun which could be moved about the battlefield by a crew of 4 to 6 personnel. This desire for mobility restricted use of larger-caliber guns greater than the 37mm.

The Army felt confident with the caliber, as did other armies around the globe during the 1930s (to include such types as the Swedish Bofors, Japanese type 94 and Type 1 and both Czechoslovakian vz. 34, vz. 37 guns). As such, the US military opted to go with the German 37mm design as their template, resulting in the American "M3" - a design, despite her origins in the German product, was significantly revised for American use and even used different ammunition.

The gun was manufactured by Watervliet Arsenal, New York that was founded in 1813 (and still in service today, though referred to as 'America's Cannon Factory'). The barrel was small enough to be forged as a single unit. The decision of the all important rifling became 12 right-hand twisted grooves and a single turn in 25 calibers.

The breech mechanism selected was of the vertical sliding block type. The square breech ring maintained the breech end of the barrel screwed into it. The breech ring was a solid piece with the center removed to allow the block to slide vertically up and down inside it. The vertical type was liked by the crews because the top face of the block could act as a loading tray for the shell, and the block could not jam the trail if the breech was opened at a high elevation. The breech ring and block were designed to withstand the violent rearward caused by the propellant gas pressure when the gun fired. The mechanism was made up of seven main parts: the breech ring, breech block, gearing (to open and close the breech), breech block buffer, extractors (to remove the empty cartridge), devices to limit movement and safety devices to prevent firing until the block and/or gearing was fully closed.

The carriage was built by the Rock Island Arsenal in Illinois. The arsenal started producing ordnance and other military items in the 1880's and is now the largest government-owned weapons manufacturing arsenal in the United States. The carriage was of a split-trail type with pneumatic air-filled tires allowing for better towing by a jeep.

When the gun was detached from the towing vehicle, the crew would move the gun into position for firing by hand. For stability, the wheel segment supports mounted on the axle next to the wheels could be lowered to provide a more stable firing position. They could then be raised before the gun was moved to the next firing position.

The telescopic sight and both elevation and traverse controls of 60 degrees were located along the left side of the system so the gunner could aim the weapon. The maximum elevation was +15 degrees and the maximum depression could be -15 degrees. The traverse gear had a release mechanism which allowed free movement of the barrel in case a quick traverse was needed with the normal 5-man crew.

Other than practice and dummy rounds, the primary ammunition used with the M3 were made up of three types - the M51 APC, M63 HE and M2 canister projectiles. The M51 anti-tank armor piercing capped shot shell (APC) which weighted 3.48 lbs (1.579 kg) and had steel shot with a 3-second tracer and could penetrate 2.4 inches of armor at 500 yards with a maximum range of 7,500 yards. The M63 was a "general purpose" high explosive (HE) shell weighing 3.13 lbs (1.420 kg) and having a maximum range of 12,800 yards. The explosive round was encased within a steel covering and fitted 0.85 of a pound of TNT with a BD fuse. The M2 canister anti-personnel round weighed 3.49 lbs (1.583 kg) and contained 122 lead balls.

The US Army organized the M3 within infantry anti-tank battalions. Four 37mm guns were assigned to be towed by 10-ton trucks or jeeps and twelve such guns had 10-ton trucks as their prime movers. A division fielded twenty-four guns with many of these towed by M2 halftracks. By 1942, the Army had formed its first airborne divisions and forty-four M3's were assigned to field parachute artillery. The new 10th Mountain Division had twenty-five of the 37mm guns assigned to its infantry regiments. During 1942, all Army armored divisions had a total of sixty-eight M3's in service. At the beginning of the war, the Marine Corps was committed to using the 20mm gun for the anti tank role but were furnished the newer, more effective 37mm gun within time. By 1943, the 37mm gun had become the AT weapon of choice of the Marines. 

In the Battle of Kasserine Pass of 1943 in North Africa, advanced medium and heavy tanks systems fielded by the Germans had already made the 37mm gun a marginal anti-tank weapon. The M3 did prove useful against lighter Italian armored components, however, and was effective against the smaller Renault R35 tanks throughout the Italian Campaign. Similarly, in the Pacific Theater, the Japanese Army was keen on using light tanks and the M3 proved adequate in stopping them. On Guadalcanal, US Marines and, later, the Army, used the M3 with good results against the Type 95, Type 96, and Type 97 tanks with their 12mm armor. The Japanese "bonsai" attacks - essentially suicidal front offenses - were perfect for the canister shot of the M3 and, with the system being very mobile, the gun could relatively easily be directed to fire all over the island and against mountain terrain - no Japanese Army cave or pill box was safe. At the Battle of Tarawa, Marines are known to have picked up a M3 over a five foot seawall to fire directly at Japanese bunkers.

If the M3 proved to have a limitation, it was in her rather smallish shield meant to protect the crew against incoming enemy fire. As a result, American Marines would take it upon themselves to weld additional shielding onto the M3 structure. Though this increased her operational weight, it provided priceless protection for her all-important crew. 

The M3's wartime use was exceptional and her reach made sure she would be remembered in World War 2 history. Her combat forays made for great marketing and she was introduced within the inventories of foreign nations within time including many American-allied nations in South America. Despite being phased out of service with the American Army soon after the end of World War 2, the M3 survived in a frontline role with other armies into 1970. Notable operators included the Soviet Union (via Lend-Lease), the United Kingdom, Canada and France. South American operators settling on the M3 included Bolivia, Chile, Columbia and El Salvador. Cuba also armed with the M3, as did China.

T3 was used as the prototype designation. T7 was another prototype but this fitted with a semi-automatic sliding breech. The T8 was yet another prototype but differed in fitting a Nordenfelt sliding breach. The T9 prototype was a 37mm automatic cannon that became the M4 production model. The M10 prototype became the M3 production model and sported the manual vertical block breach. The M3 designation signified the base production series family line. The M3A1 was noted for the introduction of a threaded barrel to accept an optional muzzle brake - this being introduced in 1942. The M5 was a tank-mounted version of the M3 gun with a shorter barrel and introduced in 1939. The M6 was another tank-mounted version with the original barrel length, a semi-automatic breech and introduction beginning in 1940.

Overall Length: 12.86ft (3.92m)
Width: 5.28ft (1.61m)
Height: 3.15ft (0.96m)
Weight: 0.5 US Short Tons (413kg; 911lbs)

Monday, April 1, 2013

Kalashnikov AK-9 compact

The AK-9 is the most recent addition to the line of the Russian-made weapons, built for the family of the sub-sonic 9x39 ammunition, which includes SP-5 ball and SP-6 armor-piercing rounds. The AK-9, developed by the Izhevsk Machine building plant (IzhMash, the home of Kalashnikov assault rifles) is intended to compete with already established weapons such as AS silenced assault rifle and 9A-91 and SR-3M multipurpose compact assault rifles. The AK-9 is intended for use by special elements of the Russian army (recon troops) and by various Law Enforcement agencies, engaged in anti-terror, anti-drug and anti-organized crime operations.

The AK-9 is based on the so-called "hundred series" of Kalashnikov assault rifles, such as AK-104, but with certain improvements. It features same tried and proven gas operated, rotary bolt action and same "Kalashnikov-style" controls including reciprocating bolt handle, safety/fire selector lever and overall layout with side-folding polymer buttstock. Polymer furniture is improved with addition of the accessory Picatinny rails on the bottom of the forehand, and the left side of receiver is fitted with Russian-standard scope rail. Barrel can be fitted with specially designed quick-detach silencer (sound moderator), which is especially effective with 9x39 subsonic ammunition. Magazine is made of black polymer, holds 20 rounds of ammunition and appears to be of proprietary design, not compatible with other (competing) weapons of the same caliber, which are already in service with Russian military and law enforcement.

Caliber: 9x39 mm SP-5, SP-6
Action: Gas operated, rotating bolt
Overall length: 465 / 705 mm; 646 / 881 mm with silencer
Weight: 3,1 kg with empty magazine, 3.8 kg with silencer installed
Magazine capacity: 20 rounds



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