OPERATORS: Afghanistan; Albania; Algeria; Angola; Bulgaria; Cambodia; China; Cuba; Czechoslovakia; Egypt; Eritrea; Estonia; Ethiopia; Finland; Hungary; India; Iraq; Iran; Kurdistan; Laos; Lebanon; Libya; Mali; Mongolia; Mozambique; Myanmar; North Korea; Nicaragua; Pakistan; Panama; Poland; Romania; Russia; Somalia; Soviet Union; Sudan; Syria; Ukraine; Yemen; Vietnam; Zimbabwe
In the post-World War 2 period, the Soviet Army entered a phase of massive modernization and rearmament that included introduction of a new heavy-caliber machine gun system - the "KPV-14.5" (KPV = "Krupnokaliberniy Pulemyot Vladimirova"). The weapon was in development as far back as 1944 and chambered for fire the same massive 14.5x114mm cartridge used by the wartime Simonov PTRS and Degtyaryov PTRD Anti-Tank Rifles (ATRs). Since its introduction in 1949, the KPV has gone on to see fielding as a vehicle mounted/coaxial machine gun, dedicated Anti-Aircraft (AA) gun, and naval/watercraft machine gun.
The KPV has a cylindrical receiver with a perforated jacket (for air-cooling) set over the barrel and conical flash hider attached to the muzzle. The complete weapon weighs 108lb and features a length of 78" with the barrel assembly measuring 53" long. Internally, the action is of short-recoil and feeding is through 40-round belts. Simplicity is key to the internals of the weapon, allowing for ease of cleaning, repair, and replacement with little formal training. The barrels are chromiun-lined for durability and is designed for quick-changing when hot. Sighting is through standard iron fittings but the weapon does support optics for accurized ranged fire.
The 14.5 bullets exit the barrel at 3,300 feet-per-second and can reach ranges of 4,000 meters (3,000 meters effective). Rate-of-fire is 600 rounds-per-minute.
Three types of cartridges are supported in the KPV: the B-32 round is an Armor-Piercing (AP) incendiary-type with a tungsten core useful in penetrating the armor of modern light vehicles. The BZT cartridge is similar but carriers a steel core and the MDZ cartridge is High-Explosive (HE) incendiary round for general purpose usage.
Over the decades, the KPV has earned a reputation for simplicity, reliability, and durability to the point that it has been adopted by a myriad of national powers - from Afghanistan and Albania to Vietnam and Zimbabwe. It has seen combat action from the Korean War (1950-1953) and the Vietnam War (1955-1975) to modern day entanglements such as the Libyan Civil War (2011) and the Syrian Civil War (2011-Present). This sort of reach has kept the weapon in production since 1949.
The "KPVT" is the vehicle version derived from the KPV design and is utilized in both trainable (pintle-mounted) and coaxial weapon mountings on tanks and Armored Fighting Vehicles (AFVs). Changes to the gun include a heavier-duty barrel jacket and a reduced-length receiver but the basic efficient and lethal function of the weapon remains. This form feeds from a 50-round belts as well.
The KPV machine gun is also the featured weapon aboard the ZPU series (ZPU-1, ZPU-2, and ZPU-4) of towed anti-aircraft systems. The ZPU-1 is a single-gunned system while the ZPU-2 and ZPU-4 utilized two and four guns, respectively, and these products have also seen widespread adoption by Soviet-aligned states and nations.
Despite its Cold War origins, the KPV series of heavy machine guns is still used worldwide - a testament to its excellent design. The modern Russian Army relies on the type as do many foreign armies, security forces, and rebel groups. China produces the machine gun as the Type 75-1.