Kalashnikov Concern is set to reveal the AK-19 rifle, part of its flagship export line, abroad for the first time.
“The AK-19’s world presentation will take place at the Middle East’s largest IDEX-2021 arms show that will run on February 21-25 in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates,” announced Kalashnikov’s press office earlier this week.
The AK-19 is a 5.56×45mm NATO-chambered export variant of the improved 5.45×39mm AK-12 assault rifle that was unveiled at Russia’s ARMY 2020 exhibition. The AK-19 was revealed at that same exhibition. From their L-shaped, adjustable stock to their redesigned pistol grip and sight systems, the two rifles share numerous design similarities. Additionally, the AK-12 and AK-19 feature the same barrel length and are within a hair’s breadth of one another in weight and total length. There are only a handful of distinctions between the two weapons aside from their different calibers, one of them being a new flash suppressor. It was previously reported that the AK-19 features a lighter buttstock, but there does not seem to be a significant weight difference between the two. Though the 5.56×45mm and 5.45×39mm calibers are broadly similar and occupy nearly the same battlefield roles, the former is widely believed to be marginally more accurate and damaging.
The AK-19 is not Kalashnikov’s first foray into the 5.56×45mm market. The AK-101 and AK-102, both launched in the mid-1990’s, made a small international splash. The AK-108, also chambered in 5.56x45mm, likewise generated little only modest interest from buyers. As with these prior attempts, Kalashnikov’s present market strategy is to undersell western competitors with similarly-performing but less expensive weapons. Further still, Kalashnikov insists that their weapons are more “reliable” than competing offerings: “We’re more reliable than the competition. Experience demonstrates that, the harsher the testing conditions and climate of the client country, the bigger chance we stand of remaining the only ones in the weapons-supply tender,” Kalashnikov spokesman Vladimir Onokoy previously told reporters. Indeed, the AK-19’s alleged durability in extreme weather conditions occupies a major aspect of Kalashnikov’s overtures to Middle-Eastern customers: “in a hot, humid and dusty climate, the AK-19 will provide the efficiency of its round-the-clock use, reliable operation and easy maintenance,” the company stated.
The AK-19 represents one of Kalashnikov’s latest attempts to carve out a strong market presence beyond the usual list of long-standing Soviet and Russian small arms clients, particularly in the second and developing world. The company believes that IDEX, the leading Middle-Eastern military exhibition, presents an ideal venue to promote the AK-19 to Middle-Eastern customers in the market for a rifle chambered in 5.56-45mm. “The AK-19 is chambered for the 5.56x45mm cartridge adopted in NATO and widely spread in the world,” Kalashnikov announced. “Therefore, our latest assault rifle is fully geared to the external market. While presenting the AK-19 at the IDEX world’s largest arms show, we are confident that it will evoke big interest from foreign customers whose requests we are already receiving.”
Mark Episkopos is the new national security reporter for the National Interest.