On 12 January, a unit of the Ukrainian Army’s 47th Separate Mechanised Brigade (47 OMBr) was seen equipped with US M16A4s for the first time. The rifles were seen equipped with Trijicon ACOG optics and some, a considerable percentage, were seen with M203 40mm under-barrel grenade launchers, and of course rail covers.
Previously, we have seen a considerable number of M4A1 carbines, some equipped with M320 40mm grenade launchers. This, however, is the first time we’ve seen the M16A4. Other elements of the 47 OMBr have been seen equipped with FN FNCs in 5.56x45mm. The 47 OMBr appears to be a unit which has largely been allotted western small arms and equipment. The brigade was formed in November 2022 and, as with a number of other new Ukrainian brigades, has been built up from a battalion (which was raised in August 2022) to a regiment to a brigade level formation.
The M16A4 is a 5.56x45mm, select-fire rifle which uses a direct impingement gas system and a rotating bolt locking mechanism. The M16A4 was developed in the late 1990s and entered service in January 1999. It and has seen service with the US Army, USMC and US Navy. The US Army began to move away from the M16A4 in favour of the M4A1 in 2011 while the USMC favoured the rifle’s 20 inch (50.8cm) barrel length and began replacing its M16A2 with A4s in 2002, only in October 2015 did they begin to transition to the M4A1 Carbine and latterly the M27 for infantry Marines. Despite this the M16A4, however, remains in widespread service use.
The photographs and short video where the rifles were seen for the first time were posted to commemorate a visit from members of Plast, Ukraine’s scouts organisation, who brought a lamp of the Fire of Peace to be lit with members of the brigade.
Another photograph was shared on the brigade’s social media on 22 January, showing a close up of an M203-equipped M16A4, which was also mounted with an ACOG. How many of these rifles have been transferred is unknown, the most recent US Department of Defense fact sheet on aid to Ukraine, published on 25 January, lists 13,000 assorted small arms.
The rifles appear to be straight from US Army or USMC inventory and look to be in good shape. The rifles have been predominantly made by Colt and FN. None of the imagery has been close enough yet to see which manufacturer the now-Ukrainian rifles were made by.
I expect we will be seeing a proliferation of the M16A4 rifles just as we have the M4A1 carbines since the early summer of 2022. The 47 OMBr probably won’t be the only unit to field them and we’ll probably be seeing many more of these in the future as the US military has considerable stocks of the rifles and production lines are still active. If and when we do, I’ll follow up with further videos/articles.
Update 20/03/23: Sergeant with Ukraine’s 47th Brigade seen armed with M16A4 equipped with M203 grenade launcher and an ACOG.
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Marine’s Switch from the M16 to the M4, Marine Corps Times, (source)
Weapon Systems 2011, US Army, (source)
5.56 Chronology, D. Watters/LooseRounds, (source)
FN & Colt Will Compete for M16A4 Foreign Military Sales Contracts Worth $380 Million, TFB, (source)
Aid to Ukraine Factsheet, 25 Jan., US Department of Defense, (source)
47 Brigade, Markus Foundation, (source)