In 1961, the Soviet Army began wide-scale adoption of the PK General Purpose Machine Gun (GPMG) which utilized the tried-and-true 7.62mm Russian rifle cartridge through a belt-fed mechanism and gas-operated system. It was adopted beyond the Soviet realm by political and military allies to become a permanent, and rather lethal, fixture in the wars to follow - Vietnam, Yom Kippur, Iran-Iraq, the Chechen wars among others. Amazingly, the PK family line has withstood the test of time to remain in wide-reaching use today and has since been modernized through the "PKM" form.
At the turn of the century, the Russian military began evaluation of a new, modernized machine gun form intended to serve in the squad-level role. As such, the design would become highly portable and intended for true suppression effect. The design was headed by TsNIITochMash and the weapon came to be known as the PKP "Pecheneg". It was then formally adopted for frontline use in 2001. Granted the military designation of 6P41, it has since seen service with the Russian Army and SPETSNAZ special forces while adopted in varying degrees by Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.
At its core, the PKP remains a gas-operated machine gun system capable of full-automatic fire while being fed by way of 100-, 200- or 250-round belt magazines held in a hard box under the receiver. It retains use of the same 7.62x54R cartridge seen in the PK/PKM and features a rate-of-fire reaching 600 to 800 rounds-per-minute. Muzzle velocity is 2,700 feet per second while effective firing ranges reach out to 1,500 meters.
Outwardly, the PKP showcases a workmanlike appearance with a solid, rectangular receiver in an all-black finish. The receiver naturally houses the critical internal working components of the action including the feed mechanism and firing chamber. There is a lightweight, skeletal stock for support at the shoulder and the barrel sits above the gas cylinder at front. Iron sights are provided though optics can be affixed as required. An integrated carrying handle is useful for quick relocation of the unit. A standard fixture at the barrel is a folding bipod assembly. Sling loops allow a shoulder strap to be used which is a must for quick-moving infantry. An ergonomic pistol grip handle and easy-reach trigger group provide a familiar operational functionality to the weapon. Unlike other GPMGs, the PKP does not feature a "quick-change" barrel facility for in-the-field management of a hot barrel. Instead, the assembly is designed with a forced-air, air-cooled arrangement.
Overall weight of the PKP (with its bipod affixed) is approximately 8.7 kilograms. It features an overall length of 47 inches while the barrel assembly measures some 26 inches long. When affixed with a night vision device, the 6P41 becomes known as the "6P41N Pecheneg-N". Other designations include the Pecheneg "Bullpup" which is a reworked form to the bullpup configuration, retaining its full-length barrel and containing the action/magazine feed to the rear of the trigger group. The Pecheneg-2 is considered an "improved" based on the original Pecheneg model and is currently (2014) in the development phase.
The PKP has recently seen combat actions in the Russian takeover of Crimea by Army and special forces elements.