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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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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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
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)