January 04, 2012
By Marco Vorobiev
Marco Vorobiev was a member of the elite Soviet Spetsnaz in Afghanistan in the 1980s. He's a U.S. citizen now and conducts training courses that draw on his special forces training. He'll have a new installment every Wednesday.
The modernization and supposed rearmament of Russia's armed forces has led to some contradictory statements from military men and politicians.
Just within last month there were two such statements coming from Gen. Nikolai Yegorovich Makarov, the Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Russia and most recently from Russian Defense Minister Anatoliy Eduardovich Serdyukov. Both statements were concerning my beloved AK-74 rifle.
At the end of November, Gen. Makarov while announced the Russian armed forces will get away from using the Kalashnikov rifle because it is not par with foreign made rifles. No more AK-74 rifles would be purchased from Izhmash Arsenal. This pretty bold statement sent shockwaves not only through Russia, but around the world. After all, Mother Russia without its beloved AK is simply inconceivable.
As always happens in politics, the explanations did not make us wait long. Three week later, when asked about the general's statement, Serdyukov clarified the situation by saying that Makarov meant the Russian armed forces are not being rearmed, but rather would simply stop AK-74s, since huge stockpiles are on hand.
The number on hand ensures the AK-74 will be used for years to come. The 1 million-strong military has several times over this number of rifles.
Though the defense minister's clarification caused a sigh of relief, it also had a deeper meaning. If there are no more orders, what would the large Russian firearms industry do? (to be continued)
First adopted for service in 1974, the 5.45mm AK-74 rifle continues to be the main battle rifle of the Russian armed forces, and will continue for years.
Every branch is armed with some variation of AK-74. A push is underway to replace older models with the AK-74M, featuring a solid polymer folding stock.
The AK-74M continues to be a main gun of Russia's various special purpose and anti-terrorism units, even though the underlying design is 65 years old.