Ukraine’s Plastic Machine Gun Belts
A Ukrainian company, the Kharkiv Plant of Individual Means of Protection (HZISZ), which operates under a number of trade names including RAROG, have developed disintegrating plastic machine gun links for various Soviet/Russian-pattern 7.62x54mmR chambered belt-fed machine guns. The ‘KS-122 Machine Gun Tape’ can be used in PK, PKM, and PKT pattern guns as well as the older Goryunov-pattern machine guns, the SG-43 and SGM.
Development of the links reportedly began back in 2015. According to Maksym Plekhov, the company’s deputy director, the links were originally developed following feedback received during RAROG’s development of their ‘Predator’ PK Machine gun ammunition backpack system.
Between 2015 and 2017 the company refined the design but did not go into large-scale production of the links. In a 2017 promotional video for the links RAROG state that they tested over 200 types of plastic and made 26 design changes during development. The links are made by injection moulding with a material based on polycarbonate. The initial videos and photographs of the links being tested and demonstrated show them as translucent but RAROG have confirmed that the final colour of the production links will be black.
In February 2021, the company shared a new video showing a demonstration of the links at a wintery outdoor range to showcase their cold-weather performance. Over the last couple of weeks RAROGhave begun posting about the links on their social media again, sharing new videos of them being tested at the range and announcing that sample bags of the links have been sent to Ukrainian troops.
RAROG confirmed that the links had been placed on the back burner for a time while the company focused on other projects, noting that the company has supplied their other products to “the armed forces and the National Guard of Ukraine, as well as NATO special forces, for example, the special operations forces of Bulgaria.”
A month ago the company announced that they had shipped pre-production sample batches with some of their PK belt box pouches to allow troops in the field to provide feedback, noting that “serial production without performance statistics cannot be started.”
Unlike the classic metal 7.62×54mmR belts, the new polymer belts are disintegrating – meaning once the round held in the belt link is fired and the next round is loaded it falls out of the gun just as with NATO standard disintegrating belts. While this means the links are difficult to collect and reuse when in the field, it has the benefit of not having the empty portion of the belt dangling from the gun.
While the links are marketed as disposable, the company claims that in trials they have been reused as many as 10 times without issues. The links are shipped in packs of 1000. RAROG list the links at 4,900 Ukrainian Hryvnia or $165.
RAROG’s website states that the “Plastic machine gun tape is already on sale” and has been “tested in battle” with the product listing stating that: “Since 2017, a large batch of tape has undergone battle tests to identify possible problems during its use in difficult exploitation conditions. Recently, the Kharkiv plant of personal protective equipment has resumed the issue of the improved tape.”
RAROG state the plastic link belts to be three times lighter than metal link belts, with a 250-round belt with polymer links weighing 0.5kg (1.1lbs) instead of 1.5kg (3.3lbs). They also emphasise that the polymer links are also not susceptible to corrosion. RAROG’s product listing for links also notes that they are ‘significantly cheaper in production’. As demonstrated in the videos featuring dry ice, the links are said to be resistant in temperatures ranging from -70°C up to +120°C [-94F to 248F] – details on the exact polymer used to make the links hasn’t been shared.
RAROG confirmed that a large batch is currently in production. While we haven’t seen the links in photos and videos from the field yet with them going into larger production they might appear in the future.
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