January 26, 2011: The Russian Defense Minister caused a firestorm of bad publicity recently when he announced that Russia was shopping for foreign assault rifles and sniper rifles. This offended many Russians, who consider the AK-47, and all of its derivatives, to be perfectly suitable for Russian troops, and national icons as well. But the defense minister has a point. Professional soldiers prefer more accurate assault rifles, and Russia wants to create a more professional army. While the AK-47 was popular with irregulars and bandits, that's mainly because it was a rugged weapon that could survive a lot of abuse and neglect, and still fire. Not very accurately, but as amateurs often fired the AK-47 type weapon on full automatic, accuracy was beside the point. Russians also take pride in the fact that the AK-47 was the first modern assault rifle when it was introduced in 1947. That's not true either. A very similar weapon, the German Sturmgewehr 44 (also known as the MP43, MP43/1, MP44 and StG44) [VIDEO] was introduced, on the Russian front, in July 1943 and remained in production, and use, until 1945. The Russians had four years to examine captured Sturmgewehr 44s. It's resemblance to the AK-47 was no accident.
Meanwhile, Russia has implemented a five year plan to spend $12 billion on Western weapons and weapons manufacturing technology. The most visible deals are those with France to obtain four Mistral class amphibious ships (that look like small aircraft carriers), another one for Israeli UAVs and yet another for Italian wheeled armored vehicles. In particular, Russia wants to obtain the manufacturing technology. Russian companies have shown that they can adapt to Western manufacturing methods, and produce comparable goods in Russia, with Russian staff. But Russia has long resisted doing this, legally, with military equipment. Now Russia wants to obtain Western technology and manufacturing techniques for designing and building better assault and sniper rifles.