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Russian AK-12 assault rifles in service with Qatar armed forces.

| 2021

Qatar's acquisition of the Russian-made AK-12 assault rifle remains largely unreported, and imagery indicating their presence outside military parades so far appears to be nonexistent, Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans report on Oryx.
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Qatari paratroopers parading with their AK-12 assault rifle (Picture source: screenshot from Al Jazeera TV)

The delivery of the AK-12 to Qatar is just one sign of the increasing flow of Russian-made weaponry reaching countries in the Gulf region, which almost exclusively relied on arms sourced from Western countries in the past. Qatar is the first confirmed export customer of the new assault rifle, which only entered serial production in 2017.

Qatar's interest in Russian-made weaponry first came to light in 2016 and 2017, when it signed a series of agreements with Russia on military-technical cooperation during bilateral visits to Doha and Moscow. The first sighting of Russian weaponry in Qatar already came a year later in December 2018, when hundreds of AK-12 rifles were seen in the hands of Qatari soldiers marching through Doha Corniche during that year's National Day parade.

Traditionally a customer of arms and equipment from France and later the US, the Qatar diplomatic crisis that lasted from 2017 to 2021 saw Qatar diversifying its procurement efforts to now also include Russia as a supplier of weaponry.

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Kalashnikov AK-12 assault rifle (Picture source: Army Recognition)

The AK-12 assault rifle chambered in 5.45×39mm has been designed and is manufactured by the Kalashnikov Concern (formerly Izhmash), making it the fifth generation of Kalashnikov rifles. Kalashnikov Concern also offers a variant of the AK-12 chambered in 7.62×39mm, known as the AK-15 due to the request of the Russian military and a variant chambered in 5.56×45mm NATO, known as the AK-19 upon the request of international clients. Compact variants of the AK-12 and AK-15 are also under development, respectively the AK-12K and AK-15K which features a shorter barrel.

The AK-12 project began in 2011 by the Izhmash factory which became part of the Kalashnikov Concern as a private venture, in an attempt to participate in the Ratnik trials which were held by the Russian Army. It was further developed by Kalashnikov Concern, throughout its development and evaluation stage it has received multiple modifications to meet the Russian military's standard and to address the Russian Army's concerns regarding the cost and issues in fully automatic fire of the earlier prototype models. It went through several revisions in order to improve upon the "range of defects" that were discovered on the earlier prototype models that were derived from the AK-200. These were later abandoned in favor of the proven and improved AK-400, which became the finalized model of the Kalashnikov AK-12.


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