While Russia has chosen their new line of service weapons and gone with the latest in the Kalashnikov series of rifles, Ukraine has gone a different route. Ukraine has opted for a modernized version of the American designed M4 carbine, designating it the M4-WAC47. During the testing and evaluation, it will be determined if Ukraine’s soldiers make better use of the new platform over their outdated Kalashnikovs (AKM74s). The Ukrainian army was also given the rights to produce the Israeli designed Tavor but the rifles have been viewed as sub-par by the soldiers using them. Ten (10) M4-WAC47 rifles have been sent to the Ukrainian National Guard Special Operations Forces for use and feedback. Among that first batch, one rifle was given to the regular Army brigades being deployed to the Donbas region.
As Ukraine is planning to adopt the 5.56×45 standard NATO round by 2020, they are still employing and manufacturing the old Soviet 7.62×39 and 5.45×39 rounds in their current arsenal. To accommodate both these needs, the WAC47 will be capable of using both of the calibers (by swapping parts around), a feature that was requested by the Ukrainian army specifically. The weapon is being manufactured by a U.S. based company called Aeroscraft and thanks to the unique capabilities of the M4 clone, Ukraine will be able to shed it’s old soviet ways for a more western styled military force. Live fire testing by the military will continue into April and at that time Ukraine will decide if it will officially adopt the rifle into service. If the rifle is chosen it will be thrown into an on going war with Russia and Separatist proxies currently occupying eastern Ukraine.
Aeroscraft, a California based company, was founded by a Ukrainian-American immigrant and in January of 2017 signed a cooperation memorandum with Ukroboronprom to provide the Ukrainian military with a new modernized M4 variant. It’s primary selling point is that it would be able to fire the 7.62×39 cartridge, a caliber relevant to many of Ukraine’s weapons, used by platforms such as the RPK and AKM rifles. NATO forces weapons, under the STANAG 4172 regulation, employ the 5.56×45 cartridge so ammunition is synonymous for all NATO soldiers despite weapon differences; something the WAC47 will be able to do in the future.
As Ukrainian soldiers continue to interact with NATO forces regularly the difference in caliber continues to be a hindrance during training and advising scenarios. One particular unit, Lithuanian–Polish–Ukrainian Brigade (LITPOLUKRBRIG), a combined arms brigade comprised of elite Polish, Lithuanian, and Ukrainian soldiers has experienced significant difficulty because of this difference in caliber. Other instances of the nonconformity being a hindrance have occurred in Afghanistan with Ukrainian minesweepers and with Ukrainian forces deployed to the Congo and Lithuania; both missions involved heavy interaction with western allies. The continuation of this in-continuity would be seen should another joint Brigade between Ukraine, Romania and Bulgaria be formed, something that has be proposed for the near future.
There is a major symbolic significance to arming the Ukrainian military with an American designed and branded weapon. Aeroscraft’s CEO told reporters, “when you see a Ukrainian soldier with a NATO weapon in his hand, it is a strong political message to Russia.” The move to NATO ammunition and an M4 based carbine are clearly an attempt to mark Ukraine’s western affiliation while providing its forces with a modern weapon platform.
The general idea and proposal by Aeroscraft was to design and provide a weapon system that could be used with Ukraine’s current ammunition but that could easily be retrofitted for the 5.56 cartridge. Soon after the plan was realized, the first rifles were demonstrated by National Guard soldiers at a firing range in Kiev. The first versions seen appeared to be extremely modular and were rated at 850 rounds per minute at a cyclic rate. The WAC47 is fitted with a 16 inch barrel, free float hand guards that are M-lok compatible, a flat top receiver, and collapsible stock. The rifle is heavier than a standard M4A1, coming in at 3.4 kilograms and longer by nearly 2 inches. The rifle is capably of swapping barrels and parts out very easily and can be outfitted with any of the accessories available to an infantryman including an M203 under barrel grenade launcher.
To convert the rifle to a 5.56×45 caliber it takes around 20 seconds. Ukroboronservice representative Serhiy Zhydkov stated, “One just need to unfasten the rifle’s barrel receiver off the platform in a couple of moves and then mount a necessary caliber, a 5.56 NATO barrel in our case. And that’s it, a piece of cake. It can be done immediately in action, without any tools in one’s hands.”
Featured Image courtesy of Wikimedia.