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)

Cutaway Tavor

Last week Matt attended SHOT Show 2020 and spotted a pair of Tavor cutaway demonstration guns at the IWI booth. Above is a quick video, put together on the fly, looking at the cutaway guns and showing how they illustrate the Tavor’s working parts and operation.

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Cutaway IWI Tavor (Matthew Moss)

Developed in the mid-1990s to meet IDF requirements for a reliable and compact rifle to replace the M16s & M4s in service. The rifle had to be shorter to deal with the close quarter urban fighting the IDF often found itself in.

The Tavor or TAR-21 uses a long strike gas piston system inspired by the AK and has a rotating bolt. The bullpup configuration gave the desired compact weapon without sacrificing barrel length.

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A closer look at the gas piston system, the barrel, chamber and the bolt face (Matthew Moss)

The cutaway rifles on display at the IWI booth were actually civilian, semi-auto only, Tavor SARs but they give us a good look at the rifle’s internals and how the Tavor functions. We can see the gas piston system, the charging rod and the barrel at the bottom. Moving back we can see the chamber, the bolt carrier group, the sear assembly and the bolt hold open mechanism.

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In this photo we can see the cutaway magazine as well as the mainspring at the top of the photo and below it the bolt carrier group and the bolt release mechanism (Matthew Moss)

They also cutaway the magazine so we can see the spring inside. At the top of the weapon we can see the mainspring that stretches back into the butt. The model was fully functional so on pulling the trigger the connecting rod acted on the sear release to trip the firing pin.

Additionally, the bolt release, just behind the magazine, also functioned and when operated the bolt went forward onto battery. The Tavor entered service in the early 2000s and has been superseded by the X95 and joined by the 7.62 chambered Tavor 7.

We will have a more in-depth video on the Tavor in the future.


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