Infantry: Give Ukraine Whatever You’ve Got

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June 6, 2022: Among the many new NATO weapons showing up in Ukraine are a few old ones that just look new. This includes the Belgian F2000 bullpup (magazine behind the trigger) 5.56mm assault rifle. First offered for sale in 2001, it did not sell well and was no longer offered after 2018. The Ukrainians have a lot more infantry than infantry weapons and will accept all the help they can get.

The bullpup design, firing 5.56 ammo, first appeared in 1977. These bullpups were an effort to provide an effective rifle in a small package for use by vehicle crews, special operations troops and support personnel who did not need a full-size combat rifle. The bullpup design allowed the designers to get a 518mm (20.4-inch) barrel on a 780mm (30.7-inch) long rifle. Many bullpups featured even shorter barrels. Contrast this with the M16A2, which has a 508mm (20-inch) barrel, the rifle is 1008mm (39.6)-inches long. Both rifles fire the 5.56mm NATO round, and use 30-round clips. Nine inches might not sound like much, but for a soldier in a vehicle, nine inches can be as important as nine miles. A smaller rifle is lighter. Bullpups are also more compact. In vehicles like tanks or IFV (Infantry Fighting Vehicles like the British Warrior or American M2 Bradley, space is at a premium.

For a while Bullpups were very popular. Early models like the Austria Steyr and France's FAMAS saw considerable service as well, with the former being adopted by a number of countries; including Austria, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Oman, Ireland, New Zealand, and Australia as well as the US Coast Guard. The FAMAS served with the French, UAE, and Senegalese forces.

There were problems with the Bullpup design including accuracy and awkwardness for troops initially trained on full-size assault rifles. Spent shells left the rifle close to the soldier’s face if aimed fire was used. This included ejected ammo and combustion gas which can momentarily disrupt eyesight. Left-handed users often had ejected cartridges ejecting into the face. As a result, when used in combat the troops preferred to use automatic fire, which quickly emptied the 30-round magazine. Efforts to remedy these problems were never completely successful and the bullpup fell out of favor in many armies. China used a bullpup design as an infantry for over twenty years before reverting to a full-length rifle for infantry units. Several other countries did this, but usually kept the bullpups for support troops and vehicle crews.

Most of the Ukrainian F2000s apparently came from Belgium, which sent 10,000 assault rifles of various types. Some also came from Poland which, like most F2000 customers, used them for army and police special operations troops rather than the infantry. The F2000 is one of the bullpups that redesigned the cartridge ejection system so they were ejected forward and made it easier for left-handed shooters to use. The F2000 was one of the better bullpup designs, a category that includes the Israeli Tavor; a small number also showed up in Ukraine because Ukraine builds them under license. Ukraine also designed and built its own Malyuk bullpup for special operations troops. Production began in 2015 and this weapon was initially designed to use AK-47 ammo. Later versions could handle 5.56 and 7.62mm NATO standard ammo.

 


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