Ukrainian Tavors – Fort-221 / Fort-224

In this video/article we’ll examine Ukraine’s other bullpup – the Fort-221 – the Ukrainian Tavor. 

In a recent video/article we looked at the Ukrainian designed and produced IPI Vulcan, a bullpup based on the AK platform, and the two have been confused in some media. The Fort-22 series Tavors originate from Israel’s IWI. Introduced in the early 2000s the IWI Tavor has been purchased and seen service with militaries around the world. Ukraine’s Tavors were offered by RPC Fort or State Research and Production Association “Fort” of the Ukrainian Ministry of Internal Affairs. The company was originally established in 1991, initially as a regional organisation and in 1998 it became a state enterprise. Located in Vinnytsia, in western Ukraine, the company initially focused on a line of pistols, pump-action shotguns and AKM variants.  

National Guard personnel armed with Fort-221 with M5 optics (Ukrainian National Guard)

From a survey of Fort’s website we know that IWI weapons first began to appear in the company’s product lists in late 2008 following an agreement to potentially license manufacture IWI products in Ukraine. This included pistols, submachine guns, rifles and the Negev light machine gun. 

In 2011-12 media reports suggested the Tavor was being produced in Ukraine and the guns appeared at a number of trade shows with RPC-Fort markings, including a company crest in the moulded stock. There is, however, some doubt about whether the weapons were manufactured in Ukraine, merely assembled or if they were produced in Israel with some Fort markings and shipped to Ukraine. The nature of the partnership is undisclosed but it has been suggested that if Fort gained substantial sales for the weapons then further manufacturer may have been transferred to Ukraine. 

Close up of the RPC Fort on a 5.56×45mm Fort-221 (Ukrainian National Guard)

In 2014, Colonel Vitaly Otamaniuk, the head of the artillery and missile management board of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, announced that the Fort-221 and Fort-223/224 carbines were adopted for arming the Ukrainian army, with an initial 500 ordered. While no further orders were publicly recorded we know that Police and internal security forces were issued the rifle as of 2016. The adoption of the rifles by Ministry of Internal Affairs units and the Ukrainian National Guard (which falls under the Ministry’s control) may be explained by the fact the Ministry owns RPC Fort.

Various Fort-22 series rifles on display (Ukrainian National Guard)

From photographs released before the February invasion we know that National Guard units including the Special Purpose units like the “Scorpion” Special Forces Detachment (Nuclear industry protection) and elements of the Special Operations Forces or SSO. These units are believed to include the 1st and 3rd Special Purpose Detachments based in Kyiv and the 8th Special Purpose Regiment in Khmelnytskyi as well as elements of the Ukrainian Ministry of Internal Affairs.

Member of the Ukrainian armed forces with a Fort-224 carbine (via social media)

There is some confusion around the Fort-22 series’ designations. From Fort’s website, circa 2020, we can see here that the majority of the IWI rifle range was on offer. There is some confusion around the designations with Fort-222 and Fort-223 not being listed here but there are photographs of Fort-223 marked 5.56  X-95 pattern guns seen trade shows, which suggests that for a time at least the 223 designation was used. But as we’ve seen from Fort’s 2010 website Fort-223s were not listed. The Tavors are listed as follows:

  • Fort-221 in 5.56x45mm and 5.45x39mm (TAR-21) – 468mm / 18.4in
  • Fort-224 in 5.56×45 and 5.45x39mm (X-95) – 330mm / 13in
  • Fort-224 in 9×19 (X-95 SMG) – 330mm / 13in

We can also see that the Uzi Pro is listed as the Fort-226 while the 5.56x45mm Galil Ace is listed as the Fort-227, the 7.62x39mm chambered version is the Fort-228 and the 7.62x51mm version is the Fort-229. The Ukrainians designed the Galatz accurised Galil the Fort-301 and the Negev light machine gun the Fort-401 both of which have been fleetingly seen in the field.

Further survey of Fort’s website shows that the Tavor series of rifles ceased to be listed on the page in March 2021 and IWI and Meprolight were removed from the site’s ‘Partners’ section in April 2021. Perhaps suggesting the end of the IWI-Fort partnership. The Tavor-pattern rifles are not listed by SpetsTechnoExport, Ukraine’s state export enterprise, but the IPI Vulcan is.

Member of the Ukrainian armed forces with a Fort-221 rifle (via social media)

Despite this we have seen a considerable number of the Ukrainian Tavor variants in the field. Since the Russian invasion in February the Fort-22 series have been most frequently seen with internal security forces and Ukrainian Army and National Guard special forces.

Within 48  hours of the Russian offensive Russian forces shared videos from what was said to be a captured Ukrainian National Guard depot. The video shows more than a dozen Fort-221s piled on top of crates. Around the same time they were seen to be equipping Ukrainian forces said to be linked to the Azov Brigade. 

Members of the Ukrainian armed forces with a Fort-224 carbines (via social media)

On 7 March former Ukrainian presidents Petro Porochenko and Oleksandr Turchynov were seen. Rallying Territorial Defence Force units in Kyiv, Turchynov was seen armed with a Fort-221.

On 9 March an unknown number were captured by Russian forces which seized the National Guard armoury near the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Plant. At least one Fort-221 was shown by Russian state media.

A Fort-224 in 9×19mm (via social media)

The Ukrainian Tavors continue to surface in imagery from the conflict but it is difficult to tell where they’re being used and by which units. 

Both the Fort-221 rifle and the 224 carbine have been seen in the field, though it is often difficult to determine their chambering as the clearest indiction – the shape of the magazine – is invariably tucked under the user’s arm.  They are most often seen equipped with Meprolight M5 and M21 sights and a number of the weapons have also been seen to be sporting camouflage paint jobs.  

Thank you to those who have helped me collect images of the Ukrainian Tavors in the field, including Sad_Sand and DixieMauser and thank you also to Remigiusz Wilk.


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Bibliography

Interpolitex 2011, Vitaly Kuzmin, (source)

Ukraine Manufacturing Tavor in 5.45x39mm, TFB, (source)

Shield and Sword of Ukraine: Main Achievements of thr Defense Industrial Complex for 2017, Defense Express, (source)

Fort.vn.ua, via WayBack Machine, (source)

Kyiv Police being introduced to 9x19mm Fort-224 carbines in 2016, Kyiv Police, (source)

Vulcan / Malyuk: Ukraine’s Bullpup

One of the most interesting small arms we’ve seen during the fighting in Ukraine is the Vulcan [Vulkan] or Malyuk bullpup. Available in 7.62x39mm and 5.45x39mm the weapon is built around the action of either an AKM or AK-74. Most frequently seen in the hand’s of Ukrainian special forces the weapon appears to be a well-designed adaptation of the proven AK platform.

Ukrainian troops with unsuppressed 5.45x39mm Vulcan bullpups (via social media)

Development of the weapon reportedly began in 2005, following efforts by Ukraine’s State Space Agency to adapt an AK-74 into a bullpup. This project began in the early 2000s and was known as the Vepr, not to be confused with the Russian shotguns and rifles produced by Molot-Oruzhie , and resulted in a fairly basic, non-ambidextrous conversion, notable for its AR-15/M16 style front sight post.

Ukrainian Vepr prototype (60менге CC BY-SA 4.0)

The design and development of the Vulcan was undertaken by a company called InterProInvest (IPI). IPI market the weapon under the name Vulcan (Malyuk), as does Ukraine’s state export company SpetsTechnoExport. The weapon’s nickname ‘Malyuk’ translates into English as ‘baby’ or ‘little one’. Unlike conventional rifles bullpups place the breech and magazine behind the trigger and pistol grip. This has the advantage of creating a more compact package while maintaining a full-length barrel.   

The weapons are manufactured at the ‘Krasyliv Aggregate Plant’ in Khmelnytskyi Oblast, western Ukraine. The Krasyliv Plant is part of Ukroboronprom, Ukraine’s state-owned defence industry enterprise. The plant produced a number of civilian and military products and also produces parts for the Stugna-P ATGM.

In an interview with Ukrainian Defence Review in 2015, IPI’s Vice CEO, Serhiy Luhovskoy, said that the prototype development of the weapon was “done under a contract that we got from Ukraine’s Security Service [SBU].” Following positive feedback from the SBU elements of the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence became interested in around 2008. 

A demonstration to Ukrainian Armed forces c.2015 (via Ukrainian Defense Review)

The Malyuk was unveiled publicly in 2015 and was first evaluated by the Ukrainian Army in 2016. Ukroboronprom announced in late 2016 that the rifle had been accepted by the Ukrainian armed forces, stating it had successfully passed testing. It appears that a relatively small but significant number have been procured by Ukraine’s special forces.

The basic design of the weapon changed very little between 2015 and 2019, but refinements appear to have been made. The most significant external refinement is the removal of the AR-15/M16 type front sight (similar to that seen on the earlier Vepr) and fixed rear sight assembly in favour of a full length top rail and folding back up iron sights. With this change the latch for the upper assembly appears to have been moved from the side to over the top of the barrel. 

A 7.62x39mm chambered Vulcan (IPI)

As the weapon went into production continued improvements were made, in 2017 the weapon still used an AK-style selector lever but by 2019 this had been replaced by smaller selectors on either side of the receiver. The latest version of the Vulcan has a number of new features including an adjustable gas block which may suggest that the barrel and block are now of new manufacture (rather than repurposed from old AKs). There is also a new five position adjustable stock. 

The 7.62x39mm and 5.45x39mm rifles appear to be made using a mixture of new and old parts. This has been confirmed by images of examples seen in the field. We know that the rifles are made using the barrels, trunnions, bolts and sections of the original AK-pattern rifle’s receiver. The receiver is cut down, the front sight assembly and rear sight block are removed and a new gas piston is installed in the bolt carrier. The recoil spring appears to be held captive in the upper receiver. When the upper is detached the spring and guide rod hang from the rear of the upper.

A 5.45x39mm chambered Vulcan (IPI)

The weapon can be fired from the left or right shoulder and has ambidextrous controls with selector levers on both sides at the rear of the receiver. The charging handle is non-reciprocating and can be swapped from left to right. The chassis has a large polymer brass deflector which protects the shooter when the weapon is being fired from the left shoulder. The magazine release is located directly behind the weapon’s trigger and can be operated when firing from either shoulder. The 7.62 and 5.45 rifles feed from standard pattern AK magazines. In addition to the magazine release behind the trigger there is a thumb release within the magazine housing at the rear of the magazine – the 5.56 version does not appear to have this feature. The 5.56 rifle appears to use an AK pattern magazine rather than a STANAG one. The housing is designed to allow the magazines to drop free under their own weight. The rifle has a push button safety located above the trigger which can be reached by the trigger finger. 

The non-reciprocating charging handle is attached to a collar which sits around the gas piston system and acts on the bolt assembly without being attached to the piston or bolt itself. This allows it to be positioned ahead the trigger and pistol grip. An action bar projects back from the trigger, into the rifle’s receiver, to trip the sear. 

Graphic showing disassembled Vulcan (IPI)

The rifle consists of three major assemblies: the upper which is a polymer assembly which retains the weapon’s mainspring and provides a platform for optics mounting. The barrel and receiver assembly which consists of the barrel, firing mechanism and magazine well. And the lower, which is a polymer pistol grip and forend which slides onto the receiver assembly. The upper and lower are held in place by a locking lever and cross pin.

A field stripped 5.45x39mm Vulcan (IPI)

The Malyuk has a convection system within the stock chassis which IPI says allows air to flow through the hollow pistol grip and out above the barrel. IPI says this allows the enclosed barrel to cool and is claimed to extend barrel life.

IPI state the weapon’s empty weight as 3.8kg (8.38lb), its overall length is 712mm or 28 inches and its barrel length is 415mm (or 16in). The rifle has a rate of fire of 660RPM in fully automatic and feeds from standard AK and AK-74 pattern magazines (or STANAG if a variant chambered in 5.56x45mm). 

Commercial, semi-automatic Malyuk K-01 (IPI)

Along side a pair of semi-automatic variants of the rifle, the Malyuk K-01 in 7.62x39mm and the K-02 in 5.56x45mm in 2019, IPI introduced the ‘Shepit’ or Whisper, designed for operations that require quiet, precision work.  It has a longer 520mm or 20.4 inch barrel, a longer forend for mounting a bipod on and a longer, alternate suppressor design. It also has an adjustable length of pull with a butt piece which is able to extend up to 3 inches. The Whisper is chambered in either 7.62x39mm or 5.56x45mm. IPI’s website does not have a great deal of information on the weapon but lists its weight as 4kg with an overall length of 850mm. 

Perhaps the most interesting member of the Vulcan family is the RIFF-P, an electronic anti-drone system which uses the Vulan’s bullpup chassis. IPI states that the RIFF-P has a range of up to 1.5km and weighs around 5kg.

RIFF-P electronic anti-drone system (IPI)

Combat use of the Malyuk appears to have been widespread with not only members of Special Operations Forces units seen armed with them but also troops from Ukraine’s National Guard and even the Territorial Defence Force battalions. Ukrainian SSO (or Special Operations Forces) units which have been seen using the rifles include elements from the 73rd Maritime Special Operations Center, 3rd and 8th Special Purpose Regiments as well as the National Police’s Rapid Operational Response Unit (KORD). Elements of the Ukrainian National Guard including the 2nd Special Purpose Battalion and the Azov Special Operations Detachment in Mariupol have also been seen equipped with the rifles.

An unsuppressed 5.45x39mm Vulcan in the field (via Social Media)

The Malyuk is often seen with a sizeable IPI-made suppressor. The barrel is threaded and can also accept an AK-74-style muzzle brake. Photos from in theatre show that the top Picatinny top rail is made from metal and is not a polymer moulded part. In terms of accessories along with the top rail there is also a section of rail at 6 o’clock on the polymer forend which allows the mounting of a front grip and smaller rail sections at 3 and 9 o’clock for the mounting of accessories like lights and lasers. The rifles are frequently seen in the field with Aimpoint CompM4s, red dot and magnifier combinations and occasionally variable power optics.


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Bibliography:

Автомат “Малюк”, Krasyliv Aggregate Plant, (source)

Our Goal Is to Have The Malyuk Rifle Replace Soviet-Designed AK Weapons in Ukraine, Ukrainian Defense Review #2 (2015), (source)

Ukraine Adopts “Malyuk” Bullpup Rifle, TFB, (source)

Vulcan (Malyuk), InterProInvest, (source)

Special thanks to DixieMauser for assistance with this article/video

Footage:

Автомат “Вулкан” (“Малюк”) / Assault rifle “Vulcan” (“Malyuk”), InterProInvest, (source)

Ukraine Made Bullpup Machine Gun “Malyuk” [Disassembly], Volodymyr Dzhydzhora, (source)

Ukraine Made Bullpup Machine Gun “Malyuk” [Firing], Volodymyr Dzhydzhora, (source)

5.56x45mm Vulkan (Malyuk), DixieMauser, (source)

Автомат “Малюк”, Ukroboronprom, (source)

Krasyliv Aggregate Plant – Prormo Video, Krasyliv Aggregate Plant, (source)

Silent rifle SHEPOT and assault rifle MALYUK (VULKAN-M), Seva TV, (source)

Bullpup Automatic VULKAN 5.56 MALYUK * Visiting InterProInvest, Andrew Zabel, (source)
BullPup AK VULKAN (Malyuk) Assault Rifle, Andrew Zabel, (source)