Thursday, June 27, 2013

A-91 Bullpub

The A-91 bullpup assault rifle (also known as A-91M) was developed during the 1990s by KBP (Instrument Design Bureau) in Tula, as an offspring of the A-91 family of compact assault rifles described above in the 9A-91 article. While the A-91 retains the basic gas-operated, rotating bolt action and a trigger unit design from 9A-91, it features a bullpup polymer housing, with an integral 40 mm single-shot grenade launcher mounted under the barrel. The earliest prototypes of the A-91 bullpup were fitted with the grenade launcher above the barrel, and with a front vertical foregrip; current models are fitted with the underbarrel launcher, which also serves as a forearm. The A-91 features a forward ejection system, initially developed in Tula by designers like Afanasiev during the early 1960s. In this system, the ejection port is located above the pistol grip, and points forward. Extracted cases are fed from bolt head through the short ejection tube to the ejection port, and fall out of the gun well clear of the shooter's face, even when firing from the left shoulder. As for now, the A-91 is made in small number and, probably, is used by some elite law enforcement units in Russia; it is also offered for export and domestic military and police sales.

7.62mm prototype A-91 bullpup assault rifle, as made in mid-1990s. Note unusual position of the integral 40mm grenade launcher, which is mounted above the barrel.

The controls include double triggers (front for grenade launcher, back for rifle), and a large fire mode / safety lever at the right side of the receiver, above the magazine housing. The rifle trigger is fitted with an additional automatic trigger safety. The charging handle is located above the receiver, under the carrying handle, and is easily accessible for either hand. The sights include a front post, mounted on a high base, and an aperture rear, adjustable for range, which is mounted on the integral carrying handle. The top of the carrying handle is shaped as a Weaver-type rail, and can accept a vide variety of scopes and sights. Folding grenade launcher sights are mounted at the front of the barrel.

Originally developed for 7.62 x 39 ammunition and standard AK-pattern magazines, the A-91 bullpup is now also available in 5.56 x 45 NATO chambering, which uses proprietary 30 round polymer magazines.

5.56mm NATO A-91 assault rifle, most recent version (2003).

Caliber: 7.62x39mm and 5.56x45mm NATO
Action: Gas operated, rotating bolt
Overall length: 660 mm
Weight: 3.97 kg empty (with integral grenade launcher)
Rate of fire: 600-800 rounds per minute
Magazine capacity: 30 rounds

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The 105mm Gun T8 was a proposed battlefield towed-artillery system for the United States Army

Developed during World War 2 - the peak of towed artillery usage - the T8 was intended to provide years of service as a battlefield stalwart in assistance to United States Army forces. Unfortunately for the system, the war all but over by 1946 - just as the T8 was entering trials in February of that year. With the world decompressing from a wartime atmosphere, the T8 fell along the wayside with a complete project cancellation after only seeing two pilot units produced.

The 105mm Gun T8 was intended to provide a much needed anti-tank punch to American ground forces, an element capitalized on by German and Soviet army units in World war 2.

The T8 featured two synthetic rubber road wheels on a split carriage, a sloped front facing armor for general crew protection and a 65 caliber barrel length with identifying muzzle deflector. The breech was of a vertical block type. Projectiles for the T8 would have been 39lb armor piercing types that the system could lob at targets a distance of some 1,000 yards away. Weighing in at approximately 8 tons, the 105mm gun could be towed into position by other land systems.

Monday, June 17, 2013


ASh-12.7 (АШ-12.7, which stands for “Автомат штурмовой 12.7мм” or “Automatic assault rifle, 12,7mm”) assault rifle is a dedicated CQB / Urban operations weapon, developed by famous Russian KBP design bureau on request from Russian FSB (Federal Security service). This weapon is intended for special units of FSB which operate in urban environment against heavily armed and organized gangsters and terrorists. According to the Russian press, first batch of ASh-12.7 assault rifles was delivered to FSB late in 2011.

ASh-12.7 assault rifle is being demonstrated by KBP's chief small arms designer, V.Zelenko

The ASh-12.7 is a dedicated “Close / Urban combat” weapon for high-risk law enforcement operations, which must combine high stopping power with limited penetration and short 'dangerous range', to avoid collateral damage to innocent bystanders or hostages. To achieve these goals, designers of ASh-12.7 assault rifle developed special large-caliber ammunition, loaded with variety of bullets. Ammunition for ASh-12.7 is based on the 12.7x55 straight-walled, rimless brass case, originally developed by same organization for silenced VKS sniper rifle. Standard loading for ASh-12.7 is a lightweight, supersonic bullet with aluminum core, exposed at the front and hollowed at the rear. It is partially enclosed into bi-metal jacket. Bullet weight is assumed to be about 7 gram / 108 grains, muzzle velocity is unknown. There also several other loadings, with heavy bullet (most possibly subsonic), AP with hardened steel core, and duplex load with two light bullets.

Close-up view on the rifle

This new Russian “.50-caliber” cartridge bears certain conceptual similarity to a family of big-bore cartridges, developed in USA for AR-15 platform, such as .499 LWR or .50 Beowulf, although Russian cartridge uses longer case. It also can use very light (for its caliber) bullets as well as heavy ones, while its American counterparts usually are loaded with heavy bullets weighting 19 gram / 300 grs and up.

ASh-12.7 assault rifle prototype with 3-shot revolver UBGL and silencer

12.7x55 ammunition for ASh-12.7 assault rifle, L-R: with light bullet, with duplex load, with heavy bullet, with AP bullet

The ASh-12.7 assault rifle itself is of bullpup layout, with stamped steel receiver and polymer housing / stock. It is believed to have gas operated, rotary bolt action. Firing controls include two separate levers – fire mode selector (Semi / Auto) at the rear and ambidextrous safety (Safe / Fire) above the pistol grip. There are several configurations of the basic rifle. First one features integral carrying handle with built-in rear diopter sight and folding front sigh. A length of the Picatinny rail is installed on the carrying handle to accept various optical sights. Another version that was observed on some photos features “flat top” configuration with Picatinny rail running atop of the receiver, and rear and front sights installed on folding bases. Other variations include either a Picatinny rail below the forend or an 40mm underbarrel grenade launcher. Muzzle devices include massive muzzle brake or quick-detachable sound moderator (silencer).

12.7x55 case compared to .499 LWR, .50 Beowulf and 7.62x39 for scale

Monday, June 10, 2013

Kalashnikov AK-12

Kalashnikov AK-12 assault rifle is a newest creation of the IZMASH factory. It is intended to replace in production older Kalashnikov AK-74M and AK-100-series rifles for domestic use (by Russian army and LE), as well as for export. It was first displayed to press in January, 2012, and is believed to be still in development. AK-12 apparently stands for “Avtomat Kalashnikova, 2012”. Kalashnikov AK-12 assault rifle is planned to be available in two versions – “light” and “heavy”, with former adapted for cartridges like 5.45x39, 5.56x45, 6.5 Grendel and 7,62x39, and the latter for more powerful cartridges like 7,62x51 NATO. The main goal in development of the Kalashnikov AK-12 assault rifle appears to be to improve ergonomics and tactical flexibility of the weapon, while maintaining traditional high reliability and simplicity of the parent weapon. It is yet to be seen if Kalashnikov AK-12 assault rifle will live up to these expectations.

Kalashnikov AK-12 assault rifle is gas operated, selective fire weapon using traditional “Kalashnikov type” action with long stroke gas piston and rotary bolt locking. Barrel has improved rifling for better accuracy, and a revised muzzle brake with NATO-standard external diameter of 22mm, allowing launching of rifle grenades of foreign manufacture. The receiver is redesigned, key modification being new top cover of more rigid design. It is hinged at the front and opens up and forward for disassembly and maintenance. Top cover latch release lever is located at the rear of receiver, right side, behind the safety. Safety / fire selector unit is also revised, to provide more ergonomic ambidextrous switch with 4 positions (Safe, Semi-auto, 3-rd bursts, Automatic). Safety / selector levers are located above the pistol grip, at both sides of the gun. Charging handle is moved forward to be removably attached to the gas piston, and can be installed on either side of the gun. New side-folding, telescoping adjustable stock is provided for AK-12. Kalashnikov AK-12 assault rifle features integral Picatinny rail at the top cover, and additional accessory rails at the top and both sides of the forend. Bottom section of the forend is available in two versions – with rail (to accept various ‘tactical’ accessories like lights and foregrips) or plain one (to accept standard 40mm grenade launchers like GP-25 or GP-30). In “light” version Kalashnikov AK-12 assault rifle will accept all ‘legacy’ magazines in its respective caliber, such as 30-round AKM or AK-74 and 40-round RPK/45-round RPK-74 magazines. Additionally, new, 4-stack, 60-round box magazine is planned to be issued for AK-12.

Caliber: 5.45x39, 5.56x45, 7,62x39; 7,62x51 NATO
Action: Gas operated, rotary bolt
Length, mm: 945 / 725
Barrel length, mm: 415
Weight, kg: 3.3 (less magazine)
Rate of fire, rounds/minute: 600/1000
Magazine capacity, rounds: 30 or 60

Thursday, June 6, 2013

9A-91 compact

The 9A-91 9 mm compact assault rifle was originally developed as a part of the A91 family of compact weapons, which included versions chambered for 7.62 x 39, 5.45 x 39, 9 x 39 and 5.56 x 45 ammunition. Of those, only the 9 mm version survived and entered small-scale production at the Tula Arms Factory in 1994. Designed by the famous KBP design bureau in Tula, the 9A-91 was originally intended for an Army PDW (Personal Defense Weapon) role, but instead found some favor in the ranks of MVD and Russian police troops, as a less expensive (and somewhat more versatile) equivalent of the SR-3 "Vikhr" compact assault rifle. The 9A-91 also served as a basis for a silenced "para-sniper" weapon, the VSK-94, also chambered for 9 x 39 ammunition.

9A-91 compact assault rifle (current production model) with attached silencer and red-dot sight

The 9A-91 rifle is a gas operated, rotating bolt weapon, which utilizes a long stroke gas piston, located above the barrel, and a rotating bolt with 4 lugs. The receiver is made from steel stampings; the forend and pistol grip are made from polymer. The steel buttstock folds up and above the receiver when not in use. The charging handle is located on the right side of bolt carrier (it was welded solid on early production guns, or can be folded up on current production guns). The safety / fire selector lever was located at the left side of the receiver on early guns, but was since relocated to the right side, to clear space for the sight mounting rail. Safety / fire selector lever has 3 positions and allows for single shots and full automatic fire. The flip-up rear sight has settings for 100 and 200 meters range, but the relatively short sight base and steep trajectory of the subsonic bullet effectively restricts the 9A9-1 to ranges of about 100 meters, at which the 9 x 39 ammunition is clearly superior in penetration and hitting power to either 9mm pistol ammunition from submachine guns, or 5.45 and 5.56 mm ammunition from compact assault rifles like AKS-74U or HK-53. To aid aiming, current production 9A-91 rifles are fitted with mounting rail on the left side of receiver, which allows installation of mounts with day (telescope or red-dot) or night (IR) sights.

9A-91 compact assault rifle (current production model) with red-dot sight

Caliber: 9x39 mm
Action: Gas operated, rotating bolt
Overall length:605 mm with open butt, 383 mm with folded butt
Weight: 2.1 kg empty
Rate of fire: 600-800 rounds per minute
Magazine capacity: 20 rounds

9A-91 compact assault rifle (current production model) with silencer detached and shoulder stock folded

9A-91 compact assault rifle (early model) with buttstock in open position

Monday, June 3, 2013

The M2 Flamethrower improved upon the lessons learned

The M2 flamethrower became the standard flamethrower of the US military during and after World War 2, replacing the M1 and M1A1 series. The M2 would go on to see service in the upcoming Korean and Vietnam wars and still play a role in today's modern military (used in field testing). Production of the M2 series was more than that of the M1 family and totaled nearly 25,000 examples.

It goes without saying that fire had always maintained a prominent place on the battlefield even dating as far back to ancient times. It was readily available and the only issue revolved around its adequate delivery onto the heads of enemy formations.

"Liquid fire" was nothing new by the time of World War 1 and the Germans used such a flame-spewing weapons to good effect in the trenches against their French enemies. While these systems were large and cumbersome components, they instilled much fear against their intended targets in the fire zone and served as a tremendous psychological presence nonetheless - fire, it seemed, had a way of motivating any living thing to move from its held ground. By the time of the 1930s, the Germans had more or less perfected a man-portable backpack flamethrower (the "Flammenwerfer") that saw good use from it, leading to an ever-growing list of improved forms. It was only a matter of time that the Allies followed suit and developed their own serviceable models. For the Americans, the M1 became such a development - itself being loosely based on the original German design.

When the M1 was pressed into evaluation service by 1941, it was quickly shown to have some reliability issues in both design and operation. The system was hardly robust enough for the rigors of the battlefield and the ignition system - relying on hydrogen being ignited by the spark of a battery - often failed its users to the point that soldiers would use whatever means necessary to ignite the flame gun - burning bits of paper, cigarette lighters etc...

The M1A1 was unveiled as an improved, more robust form in 1943 but the system still had a ways to go. Additives were now being added to the fuel stores to produce a "thicker" stream compound, increasing the weapon's range and damage cone. The weight was further "lightened" from 70lbs to make for a more portable system at 65lbs. However, the ignition system originating in the M1 remained unchanged in the M1A1, leading to some of the same problems during combat use.

Design of the M2 began in 1940 and continued on into 1941. With extensive use of the M1 and M1A1 systems, the Chemical Warfare Service - the group responsible for design and delivery of the original flamethrowers - used this experience to develop a more refined weapon system. The prototype came under the designation of "E3" and formed the basis of a new line of more robust and reliable flamethrowing systems. The experimental E3 was eventually accepted into service as the "Portable Flame-Thrower M2-2". The weapon system eventually entered service in 1943 and succeeded both the M1 and M1A1 when numbers made it possible. However, where it was not so, Army and Marine personnel continued use of the M1 family.

The M2 retained the same thickened fuel format as the M1 family but the biggest addition was the new cartridge-based ignition system. The old battery-actuated spark system was dropped from the design, instead replaced by a new six-shot revolver-type magazine fitted to the end of the flame tube. Each revolver well held an ignition cartridge (for a total of six possible ignitions before reloading). The new system proved much more reliable under combat conditions than the original method, requiring reloading only after all six cartridges had been spent.

The M2 maintained an empty weight of 43lbs while she filled in at 68lbs when full of fuel and propellant. The weapon system could fire for up to a second for every half-gallon in the fuel store (or up to 7 seconds straight). Effective range was out to 65.5 feet while maximum spray range was 132 feet. Like the M1 and M1A1 before it, the M2 was worn like a backpack consisting of three tanks - 2 x gasoline tanks fixed vertically and 1 x Nitrogen propellant tank set between the twin fuel tanks. The mixture was fed to the flame gun by way of a tubing line. The flame gun was held with two hands as would a conventional combat rifle. The flame gun was essentially a pipe with a rear vertical handgrip having a controllable valve. The forend featured a pistol-grip style appendage with a ring-enclosed trigger controlling the ignition. The M2 was discernable from the M1 in that the M2's flame gun differed visually at the forward end and lacked the hydrogen canister fitted lengthwise on the gun. No sights were afforded the weapon and firing was generally "from the hip". Most photography showcases the operator down on one knee, angling the flame gun upwards for a firing arc.

The M2 was soon to see action in 1944 on the island of Guam against the fanatical Japanese defenders. Deliveries were slow along some fronts to the extent that American forces in operating in Italy did not see arrival of the new flamethrower until March of 1945. The war in Europe would be over by June of that year with the Pacific Theater seeing closure in August. The M2 would see additional combat actions in the Korean War of 1950-1953.

The inherent dangers of operating a fuel-laden backpack flamethrower in open space were readily apparent with the M2. The operator still needed to expose at least his upper torso to enemy fire before he could squeeze a burst of flame fuel towards the enemy position. The enemy was quick to learn and began targeting flamethrower infantry as soon as they could be spotted. A single well-placed shot could engulf the system and its unfortunate operator (and those around him) within seconds. Conversely, American infantry soon learned to apply covering fire for their flamethrower brethren. Flamethrowers proved ever-popular in the Pacific Theater where their use was high when compared to that of European Fronts. They were adept at clearing out dry cover brush or flushing tunnels, bunkers and foxholes of hidden/dug-in enemies. Some Japanese infantry stood their ground and paid the terrible price of being burned alive while others surrendered at the sheer sight of an incoming M2 unit.

The M2A1-7 variant was a modernized version of the World War 2-era M2 system and used in the Vietnam War. The M2A1-7 was ultimately replaced during the Vietnam War by the M9 family in the M9A1-7 version. The M9A1-7 was, itself, later replaced by the M202A1 "FLASH" ("Flame Assault Shoulder Weapon") model.

Operators of the M2 system included the United States, Australia, the Philippines, Brazil and Japan. The Australians had begun work on an indigenous flamethrower design known as the "Ferret". After some of the American M2s were passed down to Australian ranks, design and development of the Ferret ceased in favor of the M2. Japan became a post-war user of the M2 family and featured it in their rebuilding army known as the Japanese Self-Defense Force (JSDF). The M2 was later replaced in Japanese service by an indigenous Japanese flamethrower system - though this system was itself based on the American M2 design.

The M2, as effective as it was, was never the final solution to the US Army need. As such, development of other experimental models continued throughout the war years. However, the end of the war pulled most military funding away and many projects under development died in the ensuing months of peace. Any improved man-portable flamethrower program would either be terminated, shelved for a time or forgotten altogether. Additionally, portable flamethrowers were generally dropped from some actions by the end of the war with the advent of flamethrowing tanks. These tanks were nothing more than existing tank chassis with specially-modified turrets housing a flame gun and applicable fuel stores. This arrangement allowed for even greater spray ranges while also affording the crew inside the protection of thick tank armor.



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