In March of 1999 longtime Warsaw Pact member Poland saw itself join the ranks of NATO but it faced the considerable task of standardizing its small arms to calibers different from those seen in its Soviet-influenced inventory. With that, a new program seeking a new standard General Purpose Machine Gun (GPMG) was established and the resulting design became the UKM-2000.
Design work on the new weapon was seen in the latter half of the 1990s and, in early the next decade, Zaklady Mechaniczne Tarnow (of Tarnow, Poland) delivered the weapon system. It was chambered for the NATO-standard 7.62x51mm cartridge while being belt-fed and its barrel air-cooled. Despite the Western cartridge, the machine gun took on a decidedly Soviet appearance with its pistol grip and hollowed-out shoulder stock being wood, the general form and function of the machine gun being very reminiscent of the Kalashnikov PK series (indeed the UKM-2000 was influenced heavily by the PK family of Soviet guns of which local Polish industry produced copies of).
The received was long and rectangular though clear of any major obstructions. The trigger unit was underslung in the usual way and a gas-operated, rotating bolt action used internally. The gas operation was managed through an underslung, adjustable gas cylinder along the barrel length. A carrying handle, used for transportation of the weapon, doubled as a hold point for exchanging an overheated barrel for a cool one. A slotted flash hider and forward sight were seen at the muzzle and, over the receiver, lay a rear sight. Optics support was added in later service models. A bipod assembly could be affixed to the gas cylinder section for using the weapon in the fire support role. The large ejection port was set to the weapon's right side with feeding from the left. 100-, 200- or 250-round belts were used in either soft or hard case forms.
The UKM-2000 exhibited an overall weight of about 8.5 kilograms with an overall length of 47.5 inches and a barrel measuring 21.5 inches long. Rate-of-fire was 600 to 700 rounds per minute with a bullet outgoing velocity of 2,755 feet per second.
Since its introduction and the practical service use that followed, the UKM-2000 family has been broadened into a few notable variants. The standard form is the UKM-2000P while a folding stock model, for airborne forces and specialist troops, is the UKM-2000D. A coaxial vehicle-mounted form is the UKM-2000C and modernization programs have produced the UKM-2000Z (since abandoned), the UKM-2013C (seen in 2012, based on UKM-2000C model) and the UKM-2013P (seen in 2012, based on the UKM-2000P model). New versions have improved base ergonomics and support for accessories (such as optics). Additionally revised internals, operation and furniture have all been witnessed. One of the most modern forms of the weapon is the UKM-2000M (UKM-2015).
To date (2016) over 1,200 examples of this machine gun have been produced.