MSPO 2016: A Year Before the Silver Jubilee
ABOVE: Modular turret weapon station from Dillon, the MMC-R.(Multi-Mission Compatible Rapid)
The 24th MSPO (International Defense Industry Fair) in Kielce, Poland was as large as the hopes of many manufacturers to feast upon Poland’s recently risen (to 2% GDP) military budget. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much to be seen for ordinary grunt hardware aficionados–unless they happened to be closet anti-ballistic missile lovers. But they would be disappointed to see that the Patriot battery displayed was just a mock-up loaded with dummies…
Both the helicopters and tanks seemed almost the same as last year, despite the repeated recitations of what happened to be tweaked this or that way in this year’s model.
Almost all of the interesting shooting stuff was concentrated in literally three places–out of 611 stands reported by the organizers, more than half of which (344) were manned by Polish companies. Let’s browse what was there interesting to see.
Contrary to what may transpire from the everlasting process of the introduction into the inventory of the Polish Army, the MSBS rifle family is alive and kicking. The focus of the FB Radom booth was the premiere of the MSBS-762 or the variant chambered in 7.62 x 39 mm. This seemingly outmoded and ancient chambering is still very much alive outside the politically correct part of the world, where even various monied militaries prefer its oomph and piercing capabilities to the rickety, tiny 5.56 mm. So far, to show the capability while saving money on new dies for a trigger group magazine well, the MSBS-762 uses the Colt-engineered horseshoe-contorted AR-style 7.62×39 magazine, but if the concept gets traction, perhaps a proper magwell for AK-style mags would replace it.
The Other-Than-Service-Caliber series of rifles started three years ago, when the Beryl M545 was being prepared for Vietnam (eventually not selected), then a year later there was a retrograde Beryl M762–or a Beryl in 7.62×39, almost 4,000 of which sold to Nigeria so far, and more are under discussion. If there is still a lively interest in tricked-out big-bore Kalashnikovs from Radom, why would the modern rifle chambered in it not sell as well? Time will show, but many foreign delegations present at the MSPO had shown lively interest in the new rifle.
The Tarnów Mechanical Works (ZM-Tarnów or ZMT) is Poland’s only surviving real machine gun manufacturer, after Poznan’s Cegielski Works (6 in oval) had thrown in the towel as of the early 1990s. Prior to that date the ZMT specialized in heavy machine guns: all Polish-made 12.7 mm (first Dushka, then NSV, now also chambered in .50 BMG), 14.5mm (KPVT) and 23 mm (ZU-23-2) machine guns were manufactured there. Nowadays two new lines appeared: rifle-caliber machine guns (the UKM-2000 line of 7.62×51 mm NATO-caliber PKM development using M13 direct feed links) and repeating sniper rifles.
The UKM-2000P (fixed butt) was recently updated to UKM-2000P-M, fitted with new rail interface system and totally new butt-, which looks rather like a piece of a biathlon rifle, than a “GPMG.” Also, it can be detached for vehicular use. There’s a new transfer handle, which is no longer a barrel handle, but which can be slided back, over the center of gravity and serves to actually lug the piece around. The manually operated sniper rifles are all of similar bull-pup layout and come in three flavors, mostly differing by size, in proportion to the size of the round. The smallest one is chambered in 7.62 x 51 (Bor in the military, 308 ZMT HS or Alex in mufti), the medium one is chambered in .338 LM (338 ZMT HS–so far no military designator) and the largest one is the .50 BMG rifle, called the Tor (also Wilk, which was the factory denominator before the military moniker was applied), with no civilian version.
The ZMT is still making the ZU-23-2, although it is much updated with state-of-the-art sighting equipment and power-steering, making it a weapon still viable in the 21st Century. This gun is also a part of the PSR-A Pilica aerial defense system, comprised of a ZU-23-2 twin cannon paired with Grom/Piorun MANPADS–a land equivalent of their Wrobel (sparrow) maritime AAA/MANPADS mount. These are usually deployed in mobile batteries with a computerized command vehicle, relaying the firing solutions to the individual sets, based on data supplied by a mobile radar system.
Another updated older generation Tarnow product is the WKM-B, which is a Soviet-designed NSV HMG re-chambered for .50 BMG. This year’s new model was a turret variation for the Kobuz ROWS (remote operated weapon station). The gun itself is almost untouched from the regular model, what’s new is the entirely new cradle fitted with handgrips and addition of the ammunition chute.
The most varied and interesting display of the three was that of the Katowice, Poland, based company called Works 11, sporting the familiar oval logo with 11 inside. This is not a coincidence: the company owner Mr. Michal Lubinski started his business 11 years ago by buying almost all of the then-liquidating original Radom factory inventory: parts, prototypes, TDPs, up to the factory’s colors (displayed at this year’s stand as a coveted trophy)–and the Commie-era ‘11’ logo, which the freshly re-started in 2000 Fabryka Broni Radom shunned in favor of the prewar triangular FB logo. Whereas the company has an 11 in name, and last year they were too busy to celebrate their 10th anniversary, this year they have thrown a big party to celebrate their 11th!
The Works 11 being as it is a trade company, not a manufacturer, is always a very interesting place to visit at the fair. More so, its forte seems to be supplying the Special Forces with high-end fighting hardware: small-arms, explosives and ammunition. Each year there are more new and interesting bang-sticks in this sole booth, than throughout the rest of the show combined!
The first and still up and running Works 11 success in this field was the Czech VTUVM ultralight 60 mm mortar, the Antos, which still continues to earn bread and butter for the growing company. This year’s display contained its bigger brother, the Antos-LR (for Long Range). As opposed to the original Antos, being a hand-held mortar with integral plastic base-plate and aluminum tube reinforced with titanium (making it a 5 kg combat ready-weight mortar with up to 1500 meters range), the LR looks more like a classical mortar, with separate base plate, bipod and tube. Its combat-weight is three times the ultralight variation, yet still not too heavy at 15 kg with a range of 3,000 m. Keeping to “artillery,” Works 11 has also 81 and 98 mm Slovakian light mortars and a wide range of RPG-7 and 7D class Bulgarian Arsenal grenade launchers with a wide variety of ammunition, comprising rounds with AT (HEAT and tandem), HEI (thermobaric) as well as HE-Frag warheads in various tastes, from pencil-thin to dust-bin shaped and sized. And for all of us, who would like to use the RPG-7 to shoot the 7.62×39 bullet instead, there was an RPG trainer, the PUS-7 (as well as PUS-9 for tripod mounted SPG SPG-9). The trainer round is a mock-up of the RPG-7V round with wooden stem for the propellant charge and a short barrel chambered for the 7.62 x 39 cartridge and firing mechanism matching the launcher’s firing pin.
The crowd-pleaser at each public function was the other Works 11 merchandise–the Dillon M134D Minigun, which the company sold to the Air Force and Special Forces. Nowadays Miniguns are used on Polish Air Force troop-carrying helos, as well as on the Special Forces boats and vehicles. A wide selection of mounts and complete mounting solutions enabling various platforms to be armed with a Minigun is likewise offered, including the MMC-R (Multi-Mission Compatible Rapid) vehicle turret / boat mount, compatible with almost that fires and is used by both regular and unconventional warfare users: starting with 40 mm AGLs, (both MK 19 Mod 3 and HK GMG), .50-cal. HMGs (both M2 and NSV-derivatives or DshK), down to a Minigun and various GPMGs (MAG/M240, PK, M60E6 etc.). This year’s premiere was the modified helicopter and fixed-wing aircraft gun pod, the DGP2300, fitted with Soviet-style electric connectors to make it eligible for many Soviet- and Russian-design rotary wing aircraft still utilized throughout Europe. The gun pod contains the Dillon Aero M134D-H 7.62-mm Minigun with 3,000 rounds of ammunition and power system to operate the machine gun. The gross weight of the complete, ready-for-action gun pod is around 170kg.
US Ordnance of Reno, Nevada is another American machine gun-manufacturing partner of Works 11’s, offering the thoroughly modernized offspring of the M60 GPMG, the 7.62-mm NATO M60E6–about the only version of the classic Pig in the world that really works reliably. As the patent rights have long expired, US Ord. also manufactures variants of the Pig’s main opponent, the FN MAG-58–the Americanized M240 in Bravo/Golf (M240B and G, GPMG), Charlie (M240C, vehicular) and Delta (M240D, helicopter door gun) flavors. The rejuvenated M60 has been thoroughly re-designed (from scratch), fitted with hydraulic buffer and finally, all of a sudden, started to work as intended half a century ago. The new E4-Series (Mk 43 Mod.0) were first generally met with a shrug outside the US Navy that was long the only to understand the gun’s potential. Then the M60E6 followed and shot the hell out of new HK121/MG5 in the Danish machine gun contest, sending all machine gun experts ballistic! The company is currently proposing it to a number of Central and Central-East European NATO countries as a replacement for PK family, in hot contest with FN’s Minimi 7.62 Mk 3.
US Ordnance’s bigger propositions, Works 11 also showed the .50-Cal. M2A2 and M3D heavy machineguns, modern iterations of the venerable Ma Deuce–or Browning M2HB HMG. The M2A2 (also as conversion kit) is the QCB (Quick-Change Barrel) model, enabling quick and easy barrel change due to fixed headspace that does not need adjustment on changing. The M3D is a quick-firing model, offering rate of fire doubled from standard 450 rpm to 900, and still firing from closed-bolt, like the classic Ma Deuce. The heaviest ordnance offered is the Mark 19 Mod 3 40-mm AGL fitted with chrome-lined barrels for durability, able to fire a wide array of HV (High Velocity) 40-53 mm grenade ammunition.
Besides the guns, U.S. Ordnance also offers a wide array of gun mounts, such as the Mk93, Mk97 or Mk82 designed in cooperation with Military Products Group.
Enter the Knight’s ARMAMENTS CORP.
Another American gun company represented by Works 11 is another big name in small arms business–KAC (Knight’s Armaments Corporation) of Titusville, Florida. The most famous KAC product is of course the SR-25 or M110 SASS (semi-automatic sniper system)–being in point of fact a re-born and highly modernized variant of Eugene Stoner’s underestimated masterpiece, the AR-10. Besides the SASS and its commercial alter ego, the SR-25, KAC also manufactures a wide variety of other AR-10 and AR-15 clones, chambered in various calibers, from 5.56 x 45 mm, thru .300 BLK to 7.62 x 51 mm. KAC only offers DI rifles, shunning the fashionable piston-operated ARs as border-line blasphemous. Which does not mean that pistons are total anathema in Titusville–their belt-fed 5.56 mm Stoner LMG A2 is piston-operated, because it was designed to be so from the start. But otherwise: If it ain’t broken don’t fix it, and would you please keep your dirty pistons off Stoner’s gems?
Upping the Ante to Forty Mike-Mike
Milkor-USA is the American division of the South African company specializing in six-shot revolving grenade launchers. Those of the readers who thought they are just 40 mm revolvers, should take a closer look at these. They are in fact gas-initiated, spring-driven weapons, a curious hybrid of revolver with a gas-operated semiautomatic weapon. Upon firing the round (by DAO trigger), a portion of gas is tapped-off to release the cylinder, which is rotated by means of a pre-wound spring (one is winding that spring while the chambers are loaded, before the cylinder is closed again). A cylinder-stop hand is lowered at the same time to hit one of the pegs on the front face of the cylinder to limit the rotation to one sixth of the revolution. If one chooses to omit that chamber, a cylinder-stop lever can manually release the cylinder to allow the spring to jump one chamber. Thus one can control which round to fire in case different loads are used–or in a case of a recalcitrant dud, failing to fire despite several blows with DAO hammer. The Milkors are a familiar sight in the US military since it was standardized in the USMC as the M32A1 launcher, but they are available in different flavors as well, differing mostly in barrel length. The MGL-LTL is a riot-police variant for Less Than Lethal (hence the LTL in designation) ammunition (teargas, baton rounds etc.) which would not take combat (lethal) ammunition. Recent variations of the MGL family are all chambered in two ammunition types: the obvious 40 mm LV (40×46 mm, 90 mps muzzle velocity) and the German-designed 40 mm MV (40×51 mm, of 140 mps muzzle velocity).
The new kid on the block this year was the MFGL–the hand-held automatic grenade launcher, so far only shown in plastic mock-up. Those familiar with the GL scene would recognize at a glance that this is a German transplant–formerly known as Rheinmetall Hydra, a semi-blowback operated SELECTIVE FIRE grenade launcher, fed with 4, 6, 8 or 10 round detachable magazines for 40 mm LV or 40 mm Magnum (being a pumped up 40×46 mm, while the original Hydra was chambered in 40 mm MV as well).