The Kalashnikov AK-200 prototype assault rifle became a new incarnation of the ubiquitous AK-47 series thta debuted in the 1940s.
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Since the conclusion of World War 2 in 1945, there has been some version of the ubiquitous Kalashnikov AK-47 circulating about the globe. In fact, the ensuing Cold War was littered with both heroes and villains, patriots and terrorists brandishing the weapon throughout countless localized, regional and global conflicts that followed. The AK-47 was a product of Soviet engineering that was highly influenced on the German wartime Sturmgewehr 44 ("StG44") series - known widely as the "Father of Assault Rifles". With a solid pedigree in place, the original AK-47 went on to see production figures numbering in the hundred millions making it one of the most commercially successful firearms of the 20th Century. Since its inception, the AK-47 has been naturally evolved to coincide with the changing times. Versions eventually featured fixed wooden stocks, folding lightweight metal stocks, composite construction, integrated grenade launchers, box and drum magazine fittings, bayonet lugs - all firing some form of Soviet cartridge - primarily the 7.62x39mm. Specialized variants ultimately became squad-level, bipod-fitted machine guns with extra ammunition capacities, shortened carbine-type paratrooper weapons and hunting/sport automatic rifles. To that end, the AK-47 was itself continually updated throughout the decades. More recent developments have become the AK-101/AK-102, AK-103/AK-104, AK-107/AK-108 marks of the 1990s, each representing modernized versions (as well as carbine forms) of the famous assault rifle.
The latest incarnation of the fabled line is the "AK-200", prototypes first unveiled in 2010, which represent a more modular approach to traditional Russian assault rifle concept. The AK-200 designation was utilized for the weapon during the prototype period and the finalized production rifle form will take on the formal designation of "AK-12" (detailed elsewhere on this site). Production of the AK-12 is to be handled by the long-running Izhvesk Machinebuilding Plant, popularly known as "IZHMASH". Production is ongoing as of this writing (2013) and began in 2011. Trials of the weapon have been ongoing since November 2012.
Modern warfare has proven that the soldier needs to adapt to the ever-changing situation on the battlefield, often times within milliseconds. Observers the world over have watched closely the developments in Afghanistan and Iraq as well as other ongoing conflicts of the world, using these experiences to deliver new tools of the trade to give allied infantrymen the upper hand. As such, the new AK-200 sports widely-accepted features currently found on counterparts elsewhere, features that promote the AK-200 as a most modern "assault" system. Additions to the design include optional foregrips for a firm two-hand hold and various optics for accurized shooting in close-quarters fighting or at range. The system also can be fitted with a bipod for the fire suppression role. As with other Kalashnikov automatic weapons before it, the AK-200 is also designed to accept an underslung, single-shot grenade launcher for rooting out enemy elements under cover. The shoulder stock is made to be adjustable to suit the firer's requirements, a "finesse" quality found in many sniper rifles of the world today. Beyond traditional sighting scopes, the AK-200 will utilized a modular Picatinny-style rail system (three areas - top of the receiver, above the gas cylinder and under the forend) that will allow the operator to fit a myriad of aiming and illuminating devices as needed.
The AK-200 does, however retain some of the proven and popular features of AK versions before it. The weapon will be chambered for the 7.62x39mm cartridge but reports also suggest that the weapon will be convertible to suit 5.45x39mm and 5.56x45mm NATO cartridges - the latter most likely opening the AK-200 to be seen in an export guise for the foreign market. It is not out of the realm of possibility that the AK-200 will also exist in a shortened carbine form as in previous AK developments. The firing action will be the traditionally-Kalashnikov gas-operation with a rotating bolt. The weapon will be issued with the standard AK-style 30-round detachable box magazine but will also accept the "casket-type" 60-round box utilized in the AK-74 series.
Design-wise, the AK-200 maintains the basic form of the original AK-47, minus the utilitarian wood furniture. The AK-200 will, instead, make us of composites and plastics to keep operating weights at a minimum but recoil forces in check. The shoulder stock of the base production model will be "skeletal" for minimal weight and adjustable while the gas cylinder will still be featured over the barrel assembly - the truly defining identifier of the AK family line. The receiver will remain largely unchanged from the original AK-47 - to include the famous large cocking handle set along the right side of the body - and the curved magazine will feed conventionally ahead of the trigger unit. All told, the weapon will weigh a manageable 7.30lbs, sport a length of 37 inches and feature a 16 inch barrel. As the cartridge caliber may vary based on operator need, the barrel will be further designed as interchangeable to adapt. Rate-of-fire is listed at a healthy 800 rounds per minute which permits its use as a squad-level light machine gun (as in the American M249 SAW). Muzzle velocity is nearly 3,000 feet per second with an "effective" range out to 1,600 feet. Iron sights will be provided.
in-the-field, the AK-200 should compare favorably to the latest American M16 incarnation - the similarly modular M16A4. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin - in true politician style - has already praised the new AK-200 during a scheduled visit to the IZHMASH production facility.
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