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SOF Handguns, PDWs, Technology, and Gear

Small is beautiful

 

As tactical demands continue to evolve across the modern battlespace, so too do the small arms requirements for special operations forces (SOF) seeking to maintain the competitive advantage over “near-peer” adversaries.

In this contemporary operating environment (COE), special mission requirements range from demands for enhanced lethality and maneuverability – particularly relevant in urban environments where small unit teams can find themselves operating in confined and congested areas – through to increased situational awareness (SA) and command and control (C2), most of which can be achieved through improved signature management and intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance (ISTAR) technology.

Examples include the MA sub-compact carbine, designed as a personal defense weapon (PDW) solution for close quarters battle in urban environments as well as clandestine surveillance/reconnaissance missions. This offering provided operators with a significant upgrade in PDW technology over a short-barreled variant of the legacy AK-74 assault rifle.

Hence the reason why the SOF community continues to consider a variety of technology upgrades, including alternative calibers and ammunition enhancements; increased proliferation of shorter barreled weapons; upgraded optical weapon sights; and 3-D-printed suppressors.

AK-12-SOF-handguns

The Russian Federation has adopted the AK-12 for its forces. Kalashnikov concern photo

Emerging requirements from the COE, NATO, and non-NATO entity partner nation forces (PNFs) continue to lead to uplifts in capability. Near-peer adversaries, including Russia’s “Spetznaz” brigades and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army SOF units, are also upgrading and adapting.

Russian SOF, having been very active and effective operating in Syria over recent years, continue to receive upgrades in small arms capabilities, designed to provide operators with increased lethality, precision, and survivability on the battlefield.

Examples of these upgrades include the adoption of next-generation AK-12 and AK-15 assault rifles, both manufactured by Russian original equipment manufacturer (OEM) Kalashnikov Group, as well as the 5.66 x 39mm APS underwater assault rifle designed to support maritime SOF elements.

In addition, Kalashnikov Group showed various other weapons at the Army 2017 exhibition near Moscow in September 2017, designed to provide Spetsnaz operators with an expanding toolkit of small arms solutions to be adopted across a variable COE.

AK-15-SOF-handguns

The Russian Federation has adopted the next-generation AK-15. Kalashnikov concern photos

Examples include the MA sub-compact carbine, designed as a personal defense weapon (PDW) solution for close quarters battle in urban environments as well as clandestine surveillance/reconnaissance missions. This offering provided operators with a significant upgrade in PDW technology over a short-barreled variant of the legacy AK-74 assault rifle.

Designed to feature Russian standard 5.45 x 39mm ammunition, the MA sub-compact provides operators with a short-stroke piston, gas-operated weapon measuring a total of 75 centimeters in length and weighing 2.9 kilograms. Carrying a 30-round magazine, the weapon is capable of being fired in semi-automatic and automatic firing modes and can be fitted with a red dot sight for rapid target acquisition.

Personal Defense Weapons

Responding to small arms improvements from near-peer adversaries, the international SOF community continues to upgrade its own inventories of small arms, particularly in regard to the development of PDW technology and proliferation of alternative calibers.

Following the decision by Netherlands Maritime SOF (NL MARSOF) in July 2015 to procure a limited number of SiG Sauer MCX carbines in 300 Blackout (300 BLK or 7.62 x 35mm) – part of a wider evaluation considering alternative caliber types for increased lethality and reducing the burden on dismounted teams – U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) has followed a similar roadmap with its PDW program.

This particular effort is aimed at providing operators with the capability to upgrade the in-service 5.56 x 45mm M4A1 carbine with the Close Quarter Barrel Receiver (which comprises a 10.3-inch barrel) with a 300 BLK conversion kit that, according to official program documents, must be capable of being achieved during “field conditions” in less than three minutes.

USSOCOM’s decision to progress with an alternative caliber size over standard NATO 5.56 x 45mm cartridges (along with NL MARSOF and other PNFs) illustrates how the international SOF community is slowly gravitating toward the potential for a wholesale change in small arms ammunition in the future.

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