By: Warren Gray
Copyright © 2022
“Seeking potential sources to supply AK-74-type,
Kalashnikov Assault Rifles and Support Parts.”
— Army Contracting Command-New Jersey, 10/27/22.
On October 27, 2022, the Army Contacting Command-New Jersey (CCNJ) posted the notification above on their official web site, on behalf of the Program Manager for Soldier Lethality (PMSL) and the Combat Capabilities Development Command-Armaments Center (CCDC-AC), but they offered no specific details concerning the reason for the purchase or the ultimate disposition of the firearms.
The contracting request states that, “For the purposes of this effort, the AK-74-type Kalashnikov Assault Rifle is defined as follows: One (1) AK-74-type Kalashnikov Assault Rifle with fixed stock and approx. 16-inch barrel…the availability of…accessories (four magazines, a cleaning kit, an oil bottle, a shoulder sling, and an operator’s manual are highly desired) is dependent on the condition and source of the rifles, and may not be included…Weapon systems of interest are those that follow the design pattern of rifles from Romania (e.g. md. 86), Russia (e.g. AK-74), and East Germany (e.g. MPi AK-74.) Weapons manufactured elsewhere are also desirable, provided they adhere to the AK-74 pattern.
“Sources are sought for functional, AK-74 weapon systems. New-production items are preferred. Rifles in new old-stock/unissued, refurbished, or surplus conditions are satisfactory as long as they are determined to be safe-to-fire. Rifles assembled from previously-used or loose parts (i.e. ‘parts kits’) are also of interest.”
The Kalashnikov Concern AK-74 carbine in 5.45x39mm is currently the standard-issue assault weapon of the Russian Ground Forces (AK-74M or MR modernized versions) and the Ukrainian Armed Forces (AK-74 basic model), and the AK-74 is still in active use with the military forces of at least 26 nations, including Armenia, Belarus, Bulgaria, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Myanmar, Romania, Russia, Somalia, Syria, Tajikistan, and Ukraine.
The U.S. Army already maintains very small stocks of AK-74s and other Russian-made weaponry for testing and development purposes, opposing forces (OPFOR) use during training exercises, and for special operations units requiring plausible deniability for certain covert operations. But this latest effort is a large-scale purchase request, which is definitely not being made through the Kalashnikov Concern factory in Izhevsk, which produces about 95 percent of all small arms in Russia, and supplies to more than 27 countries around the world, making it the largest firearms manufacturer in Russia.
Probably not coincidentally, the Pentagon also just announced a massive, new, military aid package for Ukraine, including an unspecified quantity of small arms and 2.75 million rounds of related ammunition from existing U.S. inventories but also from external weapons purchases through a separate avenue known as the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI.)
As staff writer Joseph Trevithick recently noted for The Drive, “If the guns are indeed bound for Ukraine, it is perhaps somewhat ironic that the U.S. Army is now looking to potentially buy Russian-made rifles to help the Ukrainians fight back against Russia’s invasion. Regardless of what the intended purpose of this purchase of AK-74s might be, it may well prompt a response from the Russian government.” This is oddly reminiscent of the U.S. Air Force building the futuristic, ultra-high-speed, SR-71A Blackbird reconnaissance aircraft in 1964 using Russian-supplied titanium, specifically to spy on the Soviet Union using high-resolution aerial photography.
The nation of Georgia, in particular, is currently seeking to divest itself of a vast stockpile of outdated AK-74 and AK-74M assault weapons, formerly their frontline service rifle, in favor of the now-standard-issue, U.S.-manufactured, Colt M4A1 carbine with some limited use of the Czech-made ČZ 806 BREN-2 assault carbine. Georgia was savagely invaded by the Russian Federation in 2008 and now shares a special kinship with Ukraine in that regard with approximately 1,000 volunteer soldiers of the Georgian Legion stationed in Kyiv and fighting alongside Ukrainian forces daily in the current war.
The U.S. Army’s current bid to acquire huge quantities of AK-74 carbines certainly appears to be a well-timed and not-so-subtle effort to provide additional armament with which Ukrainian soldiers are already familiar, even though the Army is discreetly avoiding any mention of the exact purpose of the acquisition. In any event, it’s certainly an interesting development for the Army Contacting Command, and the Russians will likely be infuriated by the anticipated use of their own weapons of war against them. This strange and ironic twist of fate is the very definition of poetic justice!
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Warren Gray is a retired U.S. Air Force intelligence officer with experience in joint special operations and counterterrorism, and is an NRA member. He served in Europe (including Eastern Europe) and the Middle East, earned Air Force and Navy parachutist wings, four college degrees, and was a distinguished graduate of the Air Force Intelligence Operations Specialist Course, and the USAF Combat Targeting School. He is currently a published author, historian, and hunter. You may visit his web site at: warrengray54.vistaprintdigital.com.