Have you ever wondered what an Eastern Bloc take on the legendary Stoner 63 modular weapon would look like?
Decades after the collapse of the Soviet Union (and the death of the Stoner), you just might have your answer in the form of the RPK-16, a new modular light machine gun which Kalashnikov Concern’s research and development division has been working on for the past few years.
The Stoner 63 was — at the time — the epitome of modularity, allowing end users (namely American special operations units in Vietnam) to customize the gun to the mission at hand.
The 63 could be adapted from a rifle to a fully-automatic light machine gun, to a fixed mounted machine gun fired by remote trigger.
Kalashnikov’s RPK-16 aims to give Russian infantrymen a gun with a similar underlying concept — one that can be easily and quickly transformed to suit the purposes of the mission ahead, giving platoons more versatility when in the field or in-theater.
Based on the new AK-12 rifle, also created and manufactured by Kalashnikov, the RPK-16 is designed to replace the aged RPK-74 automatic rifle, which has served the Russian military since the mid-70s.
While it comes with the gas-operated piston system Kalashnikov has essentially built most of their weapons on, it comes with a few differentiating features that make it a major improvement over its predecessor.
The RPK-16, which fires from a closed bolt, comes with two main barrels, 21.7 inches and 14.6 inches apiece. Both barrels can be easily removed and switched at the user or the armorer level.
The longer barrel is for the gun’s role as a light machine gun, delivering 700 rounds per minute at the cyclic rate. Should the user require it, the RPK-16 can be adapted into a ranged weapon by keeping the barrel and adding a magnified optic on the standard Picatinny rail.
For use as an assault rifle or a shorter-barreled squad automatic weapon (SAW), the user simply has to swap to the 14.6 inch barrel. The RPK-16 can field a detachable bipod, a variety of electronics and scopes, and comes with a folding buffer tube-style butt stock.
Chambered for the 5.45x39 mm cartridge -- currently the standard of the Russian military -- RPK-16 can feed from any 30 or 45-round AK or RPK-74 magazine in addition to the 95-round drum mag built specifically for the new gun by Kalashnikov.
According to Kalashnikov, the RPK is designed to function in a similar role to the US Marine Corps’ M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle, while boosting capacity with the larger 95-round mag.
There’s no official word on target dates for the RPK-16′s widespread adoption, but the company expects to complete testing by the end of Q1 FY2019. However, Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation has reportedly already signed a contract earlier this month with Kalashnikov to begin procuring the gun en masse.
As always, Russian “special purpose” Spetsnaz units will also be taking delivery of the new gun for special operations-type missions.