Weapons: Turkey Goes Long

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January 20, 2016: At the end of 2015 Turkey has ordered another 15,000 of their new MPT-76 assault rifle. This the new army service rifle costs about $1,270 each. The new order will give the Turks 35 thousand MPT-76s and future orders will eventually put half a million of these rifles into service. These are being used by the Turkish army, navy and gendarmerie (paramilitary police). Deliveries should be complete by the end of the decade,

The rifle has been produced locally since 2014 and is replacing the German made G3 assault rifle. The G3 is a 1950’s era 7.62x51 NATO weapon weighing 4.5 kg (9.9 pound). The most common model, G3A3, is 1023mm (40.27 inch) long and has a 20 round magazine. It is capable of single shots and fully automatic fire. While quite popular and well regarded for being one of most reliable, accurate and compact of western assault rifles, which is why it has remained in use for over half a century. But the G3 was starting to show its age and the resulting limitations. Compared to current designs the G3 was too heavy, more difficult to handle and lacked the Picatinny rails common in modern rifles that provide easy mounting to many new accessories. Finally most of the Turkish G3s were literally wearing out.

The new MPT-76 is also a 7.62x51mm weapon firing NATO standard ammo, exactly the same as its predecessor. Most other nations use the smaller 5.56mm round but the Turks prefer the long range accuracy and hitting power of the 7.62mm bullet. The 4.1kg (9.03 pound) MPT-76 is 920 mm (36.2 inch) long, including a 410 mm (16.1 inch) barrel, and has an adjustable stock. There are also a 310 mm (12.1 inch) carbine barrel and 510mm (20 inch) DMR (designated marksman rifle) barrel. It is a gas-operated rifle and is fed from 20 round magazines.

The MPT-76 has a Picatinny rail on the top of receiver with more rails running on the top and bottom of the forward stock. Thanks to this the MPT-76 will accept a wide variety of additional sighting equipment, like red-dot or telescope day sights, night sights, laser sights, under-barrel shotguns and grenade launchers, in addition to folding iron sights which are meant for use when proper sights are unavailable. A knife-bayonet attached at the end of the barrel too. The rifle has an ambidextrous safety/fire selector switch that can be set to single shots and fully automatic fire. So far the only the 7.62x51 NATO variants of the weapon is being manufactured. There is a lighter 5.56mm variant planned, mainly for export sales. More compact, ergonomic and customizable than the G3 it is replacing, the MPT-76 is a long due technological step forward for the Turkish Armed Forces.

However the MPT-76 will have to meet some unusual expectations due to specific conditions of Turkish Army practices. This is why the Turks are one of the few militaries still using a high powered (7.62mm) battle rifle, rather than lighter, easier to handle 5.56mm rifles as their standard infantry weapons.

A lot of the combat Turkish infantry engages in happens in desert, mountain and hill areas, where the range and accuracy provided by a battle rifle’s full powered rifle rounds are a meaningful advantage, even though for most armies the expected engagement ranges are no more than 200, at most 400 meters, where the advantages of battle rifles are less meaningful, encouraging use of assault rifles.

Due to the varied and unusual challenges related to use in such areas, the MPT-76’s reliability will also have to be better than required of most rifles, as it will be used to fight in a wide range of conditions, including heat and sand of deserts, cold and low atmospheric pressure of mountains, in addition to more usual and temperate climates as well.

As for foreign sales, so far only Azerbaijan has expressed some interest in the MPT-76, and no sales have been made. --Adam Szczepanik

 


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