Ever since General Valery Gerasimov’s paper on gibridnaya voina was published back in 2013, term hybrid war or hybrid warfare has become somewhat of a catch phrase amongst Russian defence and security experts alike. Add to that terms such as hybrid economy or hybrid state, often encountered in the West in reference to modern day, resurgent Russia, and hybridising an AK – Russia’s biggest brand, by far – seems a very logical step. Perhaps not. But we thought it makes a timely headline.
In April 2016, Russian Ministry of the Interior(MVD) issued a tender to undisclosed Russian arms designers for a new modular gun, that is to arm special units(spetsnaz) of the National Guard (Rosgvardiya), the Presidential Security Service(SBP) and the Federal Security Service(FSB) – or more precisely its Centre for Special Purpose(CSN) units. The project was codenamed Tokar-2 by the MVD. Its reported cost was 25.56 million rubles. It is somewhat of a mystery as to why would the MVD issue a tender on behalf of such powerful federal organisations. Perhaps it was to do with the fact that Rosgvardiya’s tenders and acquisitions department was still too nascent to undertake such an endeavour. If the gun is accepted, Rosgvardiya would become its main customer. Solely due to a larger number of active spetsnaz operatives in its ranks, in comparison to both, FSB’s and SBP’s smaller but more elite spetsnaz units. All this is just mere speculation and it is difficult to know for certain why was the tender issued by the MVD.
Partial MVD specification for the Tokar-2 project is available here. (In Russian)
Exact details of the Tokar-2 project are still sketchy and veiled in mystery. It seems that the “main participant” in the “tender” was Kalashnikov Concern, whose initial response was RPK-400 – essentially, the next generation RPK-74 light machine gun. RPK-400 was also inspired by the recent AK-400 assault rifle – which is to be issued with Ratnik-2 combat gear and has received a GRAU designation – 6P70. Then in early September 2016, at the ARMY 2016 exhibition, new RPK-16 was unveiled to the public for the fist time. Apparently developed on Kalashnikov Concern’s own initiative, and self-funded, RPK-16 was a follow-on project from RPK-400.
This new modular machine gun/assault rile is gas cycled and utilises a long-stroke piston with rotating bolt locking mechanism, based on the venerable AK platform. It has two interchangeable barrels – one short and one long as per the original MVD spec, although a promotional poster(see video still at the top of this page) displayed at the recently held prospective weapons and technologies exhibition features three barrels of varying lengths. RPK-16 is chambered for the Soviet 5.45×39 cartridge. New 96-round drum magazine has been especially developed for both RPK-400 and RPK-16. It is still not clear whether RPK-16 will have three-round burst mode, as is the case with AK-400. At the time of writing, RPK-16 has still not been officially accepted into service but it is quite likely that in the near future, give or take some further modifications, hybrid AK will feature in the spetsnaz inventory.