The Ukrainian army is preparing to abandon the AK-47

  • After the breakup of the USSR, Ukraine and other former republics had a huge stockpile of Soviet small arms, including AK-47s.
  • The Ukrainian army used the AK-47 extensively, but in the 2010s wanted a weapon similar to that used by NATO.
  • The result was the WAC-47, which resembles a longer-barreled M4 and was adopted by the Ukrainian military in 2017.

The Ukrainian army moves away from the AK-47: The AK-47 is a special weapon that deserves a category of its own when it comes to modern firearms. It has spread all over the world and symbolizes communism, terrorism and transnational crime.

Easy to fire, simple to clean, resistant to malfunctions and firing a powerful 7.62mm cartridge, the AK-47 is tough to beat. However, it will play a lesser role in the Russian-Ukrainian crisis, as the Ukrainian army switches to a new rifle that combines features of the AK and M4 weapon families.

Brief history of the AK-47

Mikhail Kalashnikov with an AK-74 assault rifle

Mikhail Kalashnikov with an AK-74 on the 55th anniversary of the release of the first Kalashnikov pistol, November 23, 2002.

Oleg Nikishin/Getty Images

Mikhail Kalashnikov was wounded fighting the Germans in 1941. The hospital stay that followed gave him pause.

He had the foresight to know that soldiers needed a semi-automatic rifle to engage targets within 300 yards. He had already made his own prototype automatic gun designed for tankers.

After his recovery, Kalashnikov worked with another engineer at one of the Soviet Union’s leading weapons developers. In 1944 Kalashnikov had a new model that would become the AK-47. Soon it was called the Avtomat Kalashnikova, and it went to the troops in 1949.

The rifle is said to be widely used in pro-Communist revolutionary struggles, especially ubiquitous when used in Vietnam by the Viet Cong, North Vietnamese Army, and other insurgents around the world.

Between 75 and 100 million AK-47s in all variants have been produced over the years – that’s enough for one in 70 people in the world. In parts of Africa and the Middle East, AK-47s can be purchased for as little as $10.

Ukraine had many AK-47s

ukrainian soldiers

Ukrainian soldiers on the front line in Zolote, Ukraine, January 20, 2022.

Wolfgang Schwan/Getty Images

After the breakup of the Soviet Union, former republics such as Ukraine inherited a huge stockpile of small arms from the Red Army, including AK-47s.

In fact, there is a whole gun culture in Ukraine. “estimates that the number of firearms in private (Ukrainian) hands ranges from 2.2 to 6.3 million. This suggests a median rate of 6.6 firearms per 100 people”.

But Ukraine wants to switch from the AK-47

Army Romania Ukraine Special Forces Green Beret

Romanian, Ukrainian and American special operations troops during an exercise in Romania, May 6, 2021.

Romanian Army/Capt. Roxana Davidovits

While the Ukrainian military widely used the AK-47 due to the excess stock of rifles, there was a shift in thinking about what rifle they would need in the future.

In the 2010s, the Ukrainians knew they would have a strategic challenge from Russia and the need for a weapon similar to that used by NATO members since Ukraine aspired to join the alliance. .

So they took design cues from the M16/M4 family of weapons and combined them with the stopping power of the 7.62x39mm cartridge from the AK family.

The WAC-47 rifle makes its appearance

WAC-47 Rifle of Ukrainian Soldier Cadets

National Guard Academy cadets armed with rifles march during the rehearsal of the Kiev Independence Day Parade on August 12, 2021.

Volodymyr Tarasov/Ukrinform/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

This resulted in the WAC-47 – originally adopted by the Ukrainian military in 2017 and ordered in larger numbers in 2018. It is chambered in 7.62mm x 39mm and the WAC-47 may one day appear with a NATO round 5.56 mm if Ukraine ever joins NATO.

The WAC-47 looks like a longer-barreled M4 (16 inches versus 14.5 inches on the M4). It has a rail system for views. It is based on an alloy construction, two piece receiver and similar assembly that you would see on an M4. It has an adjustable stock which gives it that cloned M4 appearance. The controls are also similar to those of an M4.

A downside is that the WAC-47 may require more cleaning and maintenance than the rugged AK-47, which is relatively impervious to dust and other dirt.

Taking the popularity of the heavier and more powerful 7.62x39mm round and combining it with the ease of the M4 is a good idea. Ukrainian troops will be the final judge, and the WAC-47 could be the key to who controls the battlefield if the Russians decide to invade Ukraine.

Currently editor of 1945 Defense and National Security, Brent M. EastwoodPh.D., is the author of “Humans, Machines and Data: Future Trends in Warfare.” He is an emerging threat expert and former US Army infantry officer. You can follow him on Twitter @BMEastwood.


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