Combat Equipment and Arms for the Russian Infantryman in the XXI Century
“Future Soldier Programs” has become a term for many nations, and now Russia has equipped its armed forces personnel with Ratnik (Warrior) Infantry Combat System
17 June 2014, the press got a presentation of the new combat gear for the Russian soldiers who are equipped with a variety of tactical gear and accessories during combat and in training. The modern soldier’s gear includes reconnaissance and navigation tools (binoculars, night vision goggles, compass), individual protection gear (gas mask, gloves, etc.), modular gear (backpacks, Kevlar type vest with pouches, body armor, issued chest and back plates like the U.S. Army SAPI-insert centric system), survival gear, etc. This second generation complex integrated system’s design is similar to Western systems with some differences. In this program with 5 sub programs, special attention was put on the survival of soldiers. The soldier is the most important element in the system, but it is not said that other systems were neglected. The multilayer helmet of composite materials can resist the hit of a bullet fired from a distance of 5 to 10 meters. Its strapping system has no metal, gives the head good ventilation and the shape will not hamper the soldier laying in firing position aiming his weapon. The helmet has a fabric cover with camouflage patterns. The goggles give a ballistic protection and are compatible with devices such as day-/night-/thermal sights. The camouflage pattern of the field uniform makes the soldiers less visible to infrared cameras. The uniforms of reinforced-fiber fabric of polymeric compounds protects the soldier against open fire and minor splinters/ballistic shrapnel, while the body armor vest, reinforced by ceramic and hybrid inserts, is effective against small arms, including armor-piercing bullets preventing bullet penetration and trauma. Together with the helmet and remaining gear the combat equipment ensemble weighs total about 20 kilograms and is fit for action in all conditions any time of the day. Although the gear is made up of dozens of components, one can take it off in a matter of seconds.
Testing of Individual Combat Equipment for Russian Army in 2013
Combat equipment is an aggregate of functionally and by purpose an interconnected element and means for personal and team usage, providing a serviceman with personal protection, life support and target elimination for effective accomplishment of combat missions. Trials have been conducted for evaluation of elements of combat equipment of domestic and foreign production. Domestic companies provided more than 200 examples of gear and 41 elements of combat gear being in service of foreign armies were acquired for evaluation trials. Handling characteristics of all elements were being tested during regular combat training and at the lab base of TSNIITOCHMASH – also known as “TsNII.” TsNII was created in 1962 at the time of the USSR and it is known worldwide for its achievements in the field of armaments for the Soviet armed forces. Based on results of the trials, the best domestic models were determined, which have tactical-technical properties not inferior to foreign counterparts. As a result of examination of combat gear for servicemen of Germany, Israel and the USA, it was determined that versatility and modular layout are the main principles of their production. Meanwhile, further improvement of combat equipment follows the trend to increase the role of command systems and reduction of weight and dimension properties of each element. Control and Command systems provided for uniforms produced in Israel and Germany have similar functions and weight-dimensions properties. In the interim, the Russians meant that foreign control-and-command systems are developed for Special Forces Units and they cannot be used in general military operations. Main functions provided by these systems are: Command and Control (C2) of soldiers’ actions belonging to the same unit, transmitting of co-ordinates of soldiers’ location, transmitting information about targets located by reconnaissance devices and ability of sending video footage from video-cameras installed on soldiers’ firearms or helmet. System for reconnaissance and command “Streltsy” (shooter) provides coordinates of every soldier’s location and mission assignment to them, reception of coordinates of targets spotted by reconnaissance devices, radar reconnaissance devices and UAVs. Combination of “Streltsy” with a thermal sight “Shakhin” provides the possibility for aimed fire when line of sight is different to the line of fire, i.e. firing around a corner.
A series of successful solutions were discovered in foreign examples during evaluation of protection means. These were possibility of changing bullet-proof vests’ level of protection thanks to modular design and fastening of night vision goggles, monocular and flashlights to a helmet. Individual means of protection were tested for convenience of use during combat training. Their bullet resistance was also tested. Conclusions based on the results of the trials can be made that foreign means of individual protection have same level of protection comparing to the domestic ones; meanwhile the domestic vests and helmets are lighter by 2 kg and by 300-400 grams accordingly. Following the results of the trials, the helmets and vests in mass production were improved in the following aspects: Possibility of altering of protection level thanks to modular construction; fastenings of night goggles, monocular and flashlights to a helmet and system of fastening for additional pockets and pouches used in transportation vest. Fragments of about 1 gram in weight comprise about 60% – 80% of striking elements at the battlefield. A ballistic suite is used for reduction of combat and medical casualties. It provides protection against splinters for 90% of serviceman’s body. Its use ensures execution of missions by servicemen during extended time wearing of the suit. Testing the anti-splinter protection of the overall showed that there were no penetrations after being hit by a splinter. The test for anti-splinter protection of protective mask showed no penetration after being hit by a splinter. Protective uniform for crew members of armored vehicles provides protection against secondary splinters, which appear in case of penetration of vehicle’s armor and against open fire for 30 seconds providing possibility for evacuation of a crew member who had lost his
Firearms were tested for their handling characteristics and for their MOA grouping hits at different distances. AK74s provided fire with no jamming during test with its barrel filled with water. Meanwhile the M16A1 jammed right after the first round because of deformation of the bolt carrier and the receiver. AK74M and M16A1 were subjected to fine dust tests in a special chamber for gun’s resistance to dusting effect. The domestic example presented failure-proof operation again. Assault rifle M16A1 provided single fire mode only after forced hand ramming of round into chamber by the shooter. Weapons had been tested for service durability in case of free fall. Examples, loaded with mock-up cartridges, were thrown at a concrete plate 5 times in a row on the base of their magazines, from a height of 1 meter. And again the domestic assault rifle provided jamming-proof fire. The M16A1 had a misfire, caused by a jam of a bullet into the barrel’s base because of deformation of magazine’s bending after the fall. AK74M exceeded by a small margin the foreign example in MOA grouping test in auto mode. Meanwhile, the domestic machine gun “Pecheneg” presented results 3 times better than the Belgian machine gun FN MAG. Tests were conducted for optic-electronic sights for firearms. Use of collimator sights reduces time needed for target’s engagement, and it almost doubles the grouping. The main property for thermal and night vision sights is distance for identification of a full height figure target. Following distances were achieved during trials: “Saratsin” (a Saracen- night vision device) – distance of identification of full height figure target – 500 m. BH3 – 600 m, night vision goggles PN-105 – 200 m and Thermal sight “Shakhin 2-2” – 750 m.
The following conclusions were done after comparison of foreign and domestic elements of life support systems. The main directions in design and manufacturing of combat equipment for servicemen of the USA, Germany and Israel are versatility, modular layout and reduction of uniform’s weight. During trials the most interesting solutions implemented in foreign examples were determined and the following constructive solutions used in field uniforms of the USA and Germany deserve attention: Positioning of sleeve and breast pockets at angle of 30-45 degrees, cut of winter and summer coats below a serviceman’s waistline by 20-30 cm. that protects the back from undercooling when wearing outside without use of a belt. It should also have a removable insulation for winter coats. Windproof and water-repellent materials should be used in the winter uniform. Various examples of basic load and military uniforms and accessories designed for Special Forces Units were provided by the industry for comparison in the trials. Uniforms and accessories developed in OKR “Chereshnya” were acknowledged as the most complying with provided demands and they had implemented the aforementioned solutions. In analogy with foreign life support systems, the following items were introduced to the composition of the domestic set: A raid backpack, 60 (15.85 gallon) + 20 liter (5.28 gallon) for transportation of items, a sleeping bag with a mat, camouflage means and off-season items, – a 24 liter (6.34 gallon) backpack for transportation of personal items, engineering means, means of chemical protection, rations and other life support items.
Developed by TSNIITOCHMASH – Made in Russia – Combat Gear for Russian Soldiers
TsNII has developed a family of integrally silenced 9mm weapons, which included the VSS “Vintorez” silenced sniper rifle and the AS “Val” silenced assault rifle. Both weapons are based on the same action and integrally silenced barrel. AS is widely used by Russian Army recon units, as well as by MVD (Internal Affairs Ministry) and FSB (Federal Security Bureau) Special Forces. The most famous from TsNII are certainly individual silent or used underwater weapons, special weapons dedicated to the fight against terrorism, or even artillery systems for Russian paratroopers. The common link is their extreme versatility to adapt them to various uses. In terms of individual protection, TsNII achieved in recent years some interesting technical breakthroughs with their own equipment. The focus is finally put on the most recent achievements in TsNII electrical sources and chargers for the proper functioning of individual weapons and radios. Russian soldiers will from 2014 be outfitted with an ensemble of futuristic gear including firearms, body armor, communications equipment and other technologies. The combat equipment of the Russian infantryman of the 21st century is thus formed around five areas considered essential: weapons, protection, C2, survival equipment and independent sources of electrical power. All these materials are obviously connected to meet the current criteria of modern combat and C2, and also having adequate optronic tools. The soldier set includes a multi-layer helmet and an armor vest 6B43 with ceramic armor plates capable of stopping sniper 5.56mm and AK74 rounds, including armor-piercing and high penetration, even at close range, and pieces of shells, mines, grenades and machetes. Basic package (weight – up to 9 kg) includes ballistic modules (circular protection of the torso and neck) made of aramid fabrics Rusar and bulletproof modules (armor) made of composite on the basis of corundum ceramics. For instant dumping of products in an extreme situation (no more than 3 seconds), the ??6B43 (BZ) is fitted with emergency relief, combined with the individual fit to the figure. The external pouch vest is made of wear resistant fabric, has a camouflage color, reduces visibility in the visible and infrared wavelengths, and has a unified system of fastening pockets and cartridge pouches compatible with the staffing vest transport universal 6SH112. ?? 6B43 is available in 3 sizes, which cover the full range of dimensional characteristics of typical figures of soldiers. The full name for ?? 6B43 is Combined Arms Assault Vest with improved tactical and technical characteristics 6B43. The set’s camouflage smock and body armor weigh about 10 kilograms. Together with the helmet and remaining gear the combat equipment ensemble weighs about 20 kilograms. The modern soldier’s gear includes reconnaissance and navigation tools (binoculars, night vision goggles, compass), individual protection gear (gas mask, gloves, etc.), modular gear (backpacks, a Kevlar vest with pouches, belt), survival gear that include universal shelter equipment, multifunction knife, lighting lamp, clock, winter and summer bilateral camouflage kits, standalone heat source, raid backpack, personal water filter, small infantry shovel, respiratory protection, means of radiation and chemical control, special treatment and first aid filter clothes. The Russian Defense Ministry plans to get 50,000 Ratnik sets annually. This will allow the industry to fulfill the task of providing the Army with 70 percent of the new equipment. The weapons-making agency has also started creating a new combat gear that is set to replace Ratnik in coming years.
AK-74M Kalashnikov 5.45mm Assault Rifles
An improved AK-74M was introduced in 1991, and is still in service. This is a 3.4 kg (7.5 pound), 94.3 cm (37.1 inch) weapon with a 41.5 cm (16.3 inch) barrel. It has rails for sights and can use a 30- or 45-round magazine. Rate of fire is 650 rpm on full auto, and the maximum effective range is 600 meters. The AK-74 looks like an AK-47 and has the same technology. The AK-74M Kalashnikov assault rifle is chambered for the 5.45x39mm Russian round. It has a folding buttstock. Forearm, magazine, buttstock and pistol grip are made of high strength plastic. Protective coatings ensure excellent corrosion resistance of metal parts. There is a dove-tail side rail for optical and night sights. The design of the AK-74M makes it possible to attach the GP-34 40mm under-barrel grenade launcher or a knife-bayonet. A muzzle brake provides for cyclic fire accuracy and further reduces muzzle climb and burst recoil. Company quality control system and all-round test programs ensure superb quality of the AK-74M. The Russians AK-74s whose magazine is loaded with 5.45 “steel core” ammunition may be extremely lethal against any kind of body armor.
AK-12 Assault Rifle
The Russian army has made several attempts to develop and introduce a replacement for the AK-74. Some special operations units got the new AN-94 in the 1990s, but most troops are still using elderly (in design and manufacture) AK-74s. The troops want something that can match the improvements in Western assault rifles and the AK-12 recently passed the tests. No decision has been made yet on the assault rifle. The rifle should be offered in different modifications, for mechanized infantry, for tank crews, paratroopers and task forces. The rifle also needs a set of sights to fire at daytime and at night. The Kalashnikov Concern was formed earlier this year with the merger of Izhmash – the Izhevsk-based manufacturer of Kalashnikov rifles – with several other defense enterprises. The Kalashnikov Concern is planning to develop a modernized main assault rifle for the Russian Army. The Russian military had been planning on standardizing on a single modernized rifle, the AK-12, to replace three aging rifle models. No announcement has yet been made by the Defense Ministry about modernizing the AK-74, but Kalashnikov will move forward with trials of the AK-12 assault rifle for law enforcement agencies.
9mm AS Special Assault Rifle
The SR.3MP 9mm modernized small-sized assault rifle is designed for engaging enemy personnel wearing Class II armor vests as well as unarmored equipment at ranges up to 400 m. This is the next version of the SR.3M assault rifle. The SR.3MP can be equipped with a silencer and has Picatinny rails for attaching different kinds of sights, laser designator, tactical light and other necessary devices. The assault rifle is a gas-operated weapon with a rotating bolt and is selective fire. When engaged, the safety locks the trigger and bolt carrier to prevent an accident shooting. When the bolt is unlocked, a premature shooting is prevented by the auto release. The assault rifle uses 20-round or 30-round detachable staggered box magazines. The optical and night sights allow aimed firing at ranges up to 400 m at day and up to 300 m at night correspondingly. The folding steel stock allows reducing the dimensions of the assault rifle when carrying it. The design of the assault rifle enables aimed firing with folded or unfolded stock. The SR.1MP allows attaching the stock to the lower side of the handle to provide effective use with a visor. The detachable silencer allows reducing sound and flash of a shot. The assault rifle has a folding front grip. The SR.3M modernized small-sized assault rifle was designed and is manufactured by TSNIITOCHMASH.
Sniper Rifle VSS “Vintorez”
This is a silenced sniper rifle VSS “Vintorez” (a thread cutter). It fires special 9mm sniper cartridges and it allows silent liquidation of targets protected by light bulletproof vests. The rifle shoots so quietly, that the enemy won’t ever realize where the shot came from. The VSS has only one disadvantage – short range of fire, not more than 400 m.
7.62mm Pecheneg Standard Machine Gun
The 7.62 mm Pecheneg machine gun of new generation is in mass production for the Russian Army and is designed to engage personnel and enemy weapon systems providing fire support to infantry units. It combines great firepower of a heavy machine gun and mobility of a light machine gun. The Pecheneg machine gun is a derivative of the worldwide famous PKM machine gun. The modernization was aimed at increasing accuracy of fire, service life of parts, and improving operating capabilities of the weapon. Pecheneg is gas operated. Its barrel is blocked by rotation of the breech. A striker type trigger mechanism is activated by the breech block. It has a rear sear and provides for automatic fire only. A safety catch blocks the trigger and sear when activated. Special design of the barrel assembly allowed for reduction of non-removable barrel temperature warp, thus immensely increasing accuracy of fire. Ensuring high survivability, the non-removable barrel improves operating characteristics of the weapon. A handle for carrying the machine gun also plays the part of anti-mirage belt, thus decreasing aiming errors resulting from the haze when the barrel is heated. An open-type sight includes a foresight and an adjustable sector-type backsight with a device for lateral adjustments. The machine gun mounts a standard attachment point for various optical and optronic sights. Reliability of moving parts together with superb accuracy of fire and high survivability open vast prospects for the weapon. Pecheneg can fire all types of 7.62x54mm rounds. The weapon is fed from a 25- or 50-round disintegrating metal belt. Loaded belts are transported in boxes for 100 and 200 rounds each. In comparison with the best modern analogues it has the following advantages: the absence of a changeable barrel; delivering high-accuracy fire (200 rounds) in any possible mode of shooting without the change of the barrel. Barrel’s total life is no less than 25,000 rounds. Accuracy and grouping of automatic fire compared with PKM are improved by a factor of 2.0; the negative effect of “mirage” on aiming process is practically ruled out.
Russian test thermal Weapon Sight of the Future
Russian engineers have unveiled a unique thermal weapon sight for the Ratnik (Warrior) combat gear of the future. The tests of prototype Russian made thermal weapon sights visualizes for the user to see enemy soldiers in pitch darkness or in smoke on the battlefield. The system sensors can discriminate between objects even when the temperatures differ by one tenth of a degree. One cannot see camouflaged soldiers standing behind foliage with conventional night sights because they are blending with the terrain, but thermal imagers detect body heat. The new thermal sight becomes part of the Ratnik future soldier system and can detect enemy forces at ranges up to 1,200 meters. The gun sight is synchronized with a special helmet mounted eyepiece display. The soldier can put the rifle behind the corner by attaching the gun’s sight to the rifle. The soldier will see everything around the corner in real time while remaining safe. Every thermal sight undergoes a number of tests including heat tests inside special compartments that simulate temperature fluctuation between minus 50 to plus 70 degrees Celsius as well as tests to see how they react to vibrations and impact. The Ratnik combat gear gun sight undergoes to up to 350 G which exceeds the recoil of an assault rifle by about 100%. The system has so far passed all factory tests and state acceptance tests and should be made to issue it to military units.
All the items (weapons, body armor, optic, communication and navigation devices, medical, and power supply systems plus uniform items including knee and elbow pads) have been tested and accepted.
This new generation Ratnik (Warrior) Infantry Combat System will make Russian troops the fully-capable soldiers of the future. Use of this second generation combat equipment reduces the rate of casualties by a factor of 3 and increases the effectiveness of the troops by a factor of 2.5.