The Ukrainian military is transitioning from the Soviet-designed AK-47 as the standard issue, infantry rifle to a variant of the U.S. designed M-16 rifle. The change is meant to move Ukraine further along in its quest for NATO standardization. The Kalashnikov has been Ukraine’s go-to weapon in its fight against Russian-backed separatists in the east. The rebels captured the country’s only small-weapons manufacturing plant early in the war and Kyiv has since relied on Soviet-era stockpiles.
Ukroboronprom, Ukraine’s nationalized defense industry conglomerate, announced a partnership agreement between the Ukrainian defense manufacturer Ukroboronservis and the U.S. company Aeroscraft to produce in Ukraine a variant of the U.S. M16 assault rifle, reports Newsweek.
“The M16 project was conceived some time ago, as the Ukrainian armed forces, border guards and National Guard will with time switch to NATO standards,” Aeroscraft founder and CEO Igor Pasternak said during a January 3 press conference in the Ukranian capital of Kiev.
The weapon will be called the WAC47 as it will still use Soviet ammunition. However, the military plans to modify the rifle to fire NATO ammunition at a later date.
“For our country and the Ukrainian Army, M16 production in Ukraine is a real step toward Euro-Atlantic structures…Ukrainian soldiers are already participating in joint maneuvers with NATO,” Ukroboronprom said on its website. “And in each case, one of the problems is logistics.”
Ukraine also plans to export the weapon. “Ukraine is rapidly increasing its military capacities,” Poroshenko wrote in the introduction to the 2016-2017 Ukroboronprom product catalogue. “To become among the world’s top-five arms exporters is our strategic objective.”