I was due to deploy to east Ukraine, and one of things I was wondering to myself was what weapons systems are being used there? I’d been to Syria a few months before, where I was embedded with Kurdish forces. The weapons that we had access to there were limited to AKs, a few M16s, and a little ammo to go with each rifle. I did not want to be rocking up at the most conventional conflict happening right now and be handed some busted old AK-47, five magazines, and told, “Go that way!”

I had little idea as to what to expect in terms of weapon systems being used over there, having watched the news like we all do. I’d seen AK platforms, Dragunovs, PKMs, RPGs, old Soviet tanks and BTRs, and of course artillery systems ranging from mortars to GRAD rockets. I was hoping the unit that I was joining had some good kit at their disposal to put up at least half a chance of a good fight. Because, like I have said, having a busted old AK with five magazines in this environment would not have gone down too well. In such a case, I would be better off just staying at home. I really hoped I was right in thinking they were better set up in this unit than my last one.

After what seemed like the longest journey of my life, I reached the base where my unit was staying. My friend and I made our way to the block where we would meet the team. I remember the first time I saw my room; it was here I got my first indication that this team was on the ball with the weapons.

There were three AK platforms: I could see two AK-74s (5.45 mm), one with all the tactical rail systems one could want. The other one was a regular AK-74 with nothing on it, but the rifle looked to be in great condition. The other one was a RPK-74 with a wooden stock that someone had decided to paint camo and put a top cover rail on. That one looked okay but was not my cup of tea. At the same time, I could see wooden ammo crates everywhere filled with rounds in both 5.45 mm and 7.62 mm. We also had tracer, ball, and armor-piercing bullets.