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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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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)