Saturday, July 2, 2011

Modern assault rifles

Modern assault rifles, such as the Austrian Steyr AUG rifle, are commonly made from polymers and GRP (glass-reinforced plastic, or fibreglass). They are made in weapons "families": individual parts are interchangeable between models, and a rifle can be converted into a light support weapon in minutes. The Israeli Galil came from a different family that took design ideas from the Finnish Valmet, which itself had adopted them from the Soviet AK-47. The Soviet AK-74 is an update on the AK-47.

The Galil
During the late 1960s the Israel Defence Force (IDF) tested two replacements for the FN FAL rifles used by its soldiers. One weapon was designed by Uziel Gal and the other by Israel Galili, chief weapons designer for IMI (Israeli Military Industries). Drawing on the Finnish Valmet Rk 62 assault rifle, an improvement of the Soviet AK-47, Galili placed his rifle in competition with the M16A1, the Stoner 63, the AK-47, the HK 33 and a design by Uziel Gal. Galili's weapon eventually won the competition. It was selected as a new IDF assault rifle in 1973, but the Yom Kippur War of 1973 delayed its introduction.
The Galil was a superb weapon, rugged and soldier friendly; however, because the Israel Defence Force was offered the US M16 rifle at almost bargain prices, it adopted that instead.

The Galil is a versatile design that is available in several configurations. The full-sized AR and ARM, the compact SAR carried by vehicle crews and the MAR or Micro-Galil subcompact assault rifle are all in 5.56mm. An AR is available in 7.62mm NATO, while the Galatz is a 7.62mm semi-automatic sniper weapon. Most of the weapons fire at a cyclic rate of 650 rpm, the exception being the MAR, which fires 600-750 rpm. The 7.62mm AR/ARM has an effective range of 500-600m/550-655yd, while that of the 5.56mm AR/ARM is 450m/490yd. The little MAR has an effective range of 150-200m/165-220yd.

Galil rifles were exported to various Central American, African and Asian countries. In the first years of the 21st century, Estonia also took delivery of some Galils. In South Africa, Vektor (part of the DENEL defence and aerospace group) manufactures a modified Galil as the R4 and R5.

The AK-74
Chambered for a smaller 5.45 x 39mm round, the AK-74 is a modernized version of the 7.62mm AKM. Initially, NATO intelligence analysts thought that the AK-74 was a specialist weapon for airborne units of Special Forces. Produced from 1976, it was updated as the AK-74M, with a new muzzle brake and gas return cylinder, and since the early 1990s has been issued to the forces of the Russian Federation.
The AK-74 fitted with a grenade launcher. This enhancement copied from the United States proved very popular during the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan in the latter years of the 20th century.

Like the AK-47 and AKM weapons, the AK-74 is a magazine-fed, selective-fire, intermediate-calibre assault rifle with a rigid-piston gas system and rotating bolt-locking mechanism. In addition, it uses the stamped sheet-metal receiver of the AKM. However, the AK-74 differs from the AKM in several ways, notably with its distinctive muzzle brake, which drastically cuts the already mild recoil and muzzle climb of the AK-74 when it is firing on fully automatic at 600-650 rpm - although the muzzle brake does increase noise and muzzle blast. Current production versions of the AK-74M have a mounting rail on the left side of the receiver for fixing a telescopic or night-vision sight in place of the adjustable iron sights. It has an effective range of 457m/500yd.

The Steyr AUG
The futuristic-looking Austrian Steyr AUG rifle, with a distinctive green polymer frame and integrated Swarovski xl.5 scope, is actually one of a family of firearms first introduced in 1977 by Steyr Mannlicher. AUG stands for Armee Universal Gewehr, or "Universal Army Rifle", but is often used for the initial version - the 5.56mm NATO bullpup assault rifle. The family includes related weapons such as a submachine gun, sniper's rifle and LMG. Firing from a 30- or 42-round magazine, the rifle has an effective range of 450-500m/490-550yd and a cyclic rate of fire of 650 rpm. The weapon pioneered the use of translucent magazines, which allow the firer to make a quick visual check on how many rounds are available.
The Austrian AUG assault rifle adopted by the Austrian Army in 1979 is made under licence in Australia as the F88. The weapon shown here has the longer barrel; however, this can be changed in minutes.

The Australian and New Zealand version of the weapon, the F88, fires in semi-automatic mode when the trigger is pressed to a clearly felt point and then in fully automatic when it is fully depressed. Other modifications to the AUG include three-round or fully automatic fire. Besides Austria, Australia and New Zealand, users include Indonesia, Luxembourg, Oman, Pakistan, Republic of Ireland, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and Malaysia. The AUG has seen action with Australian forces in East Timor, Afghanistan and Iraq.

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