Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW)
The Kalashnikov RPK-16 was unveiled in a Moscow-based exhibition during September 2016 - it is intended to succeed the Soviet-era RPK weapons.
Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited:
In infantry-level combat, many different weapon types come into play - automatic rifles, carbines, semi-automatic pistols, edged weapons, grenades and the like. There has always been thought given to expanding the firepower inherent in the infantry squad and this has eventually led to the development of portable machine guns fulfilled by various lightweight systems and "Squad Automatic Weapons" - or "SAWs". The SAW is unique in that it features the suppression capabilities of a true machine gun yet is chambered for a smaller, assault-style intermediate cartridge (as opposed to a full-powered rifle cartridge). While this reduces engagement ranges and penetration values at range, it provides the infantry squad with a weapon offering voluminous fire - the operator also being able to carry more ammunition into battle.
The "RPK-16" is being developed by modern Russian industry to provide a successor for the ages-old RPK-74 series Light Machine Gun (LMG) family of Cold War origin. The RPK-74, based on the Kalashnikov AK-74 assault rifle, was introduced in 1974 and was designed around the 5.45x39mm cartridge.
The RPK-16 follows suit in that it fires the 5.45x39mm intermediate cartridge. The weapon, weighing some six kilograms, is fed by way of a 30-round detachable box magazine or a 96-round hard drum. Overall length is 1,075mm and there are two barrel lengths to suit the mission need - 370mm and 550mm. The weapon ranges out to 800 meters. Sections of Picatinny rail - over the receiver, under the forend and along the sides of the forend - add modern flair and expand the tactical value of the system in allowing installation of various optics fits, a foregrip (or bipod assembly) and other tactical accessories. The muzzle has a slotted flash hider / suppressor and protrudes from under the gas cylinder seated over the barrel. The stock is of a collapsible design (similar in appearance to the AR-15/M16 style) to help decrease the weapon's profile when on-the-march or in close-quarters fighting.