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Defense Industries

Ukraine's Small Arms Production and Export

Valentin BADRAK

Though Ukraine inherited a significant seg­ment of the Soviet military-industrial com­plex, at the time of the disintegration of the USSR it did not have its own design bureaus or industrial facilities specializing in the develop­ment and production of small arms and light weapons (SALW).

However, there were several factors that en­couraged the advancement of the sphere.

Firstly, Ukraine faced the need to supply its own army, security forces and law en­forcement with small arms and ammunition and the alternative was either to organize pro­duction in its own ter­ritory or start import­ing such armaments. Considering the exis­tence of a sufficient number of related de­sign offices and plants producing comparable output, and also the determination to become self-sufficient in small arms and ammunition, the political decision was made in favor of or­ganizing production.

Secondly, big stockpiles of weapons, including small arms, were concentrated in Ukraine that either had to be sold or disposed. Here is just one case to illustrate the size of arms stores in Ukraine. According to a Ukrainian Defense Ministry press report, at the beginning of July 2001 the territory of a single military base in Kotsyubinskoye near Kiev alone contained 124 train cars of cartridges for SALW, among them 23 train cars of hand grenades and 32 train cars of pyrotechnics which amounts to one fifth of all the ammunition kept at the former Central Artillery Ammunition Base. By the same date 35 train cars of air defense ammunition, 279 train cars of tank ammunition, 45 train cars of mor­tars, 84 train cars of grenade rounds, 257 train cars of ammunition for ground artillery and 16 train cars of anti-tank rockets had been removed from the territory of the unit.1

In the second half of the 1990s, Ukraine became a direct and fairly active trader on the world arms market and Kiev started selling SALW in addition to other weapons. Therefore the development and production of small weapons, primarily ammunition, became an important stimulus for the development of the sphere.

Kiev had no intentions of giving up such an im­portant sector of the arms market, especially as about 20 countries had mastered the production of the Kalashnikov assault rifle. The year 1997 can be considered the turning point for Ukraine. When Russian partners refused to supply tank guns for the T-80UD tanks to be delivered to Pakistan, Ukraine concentrated all its efforts on deve­loping and launching the production of artil­lery barrels. The suc­cess of the project gave confidence to many Ukrainian manufactu­rers that it was possi­ble to break through to the arms market even with such special goods as small arms and small caliber light weapons.

Key designers and manufacturers

According to Viktor Nesterenko, section chief at the State Committee for In­dustrial Policy2, some 20 design bureaus and plants in Ukraine currently develop and produce small arms and ammunition for them with almost all of the work being financed from the national budget.3

However, as for new small arms, so far only Fort and Khortytsa pistols and Varyag revolvers have gone into large-scale production. Experts say though that the weapons cannot be de­scribed as purely Ukrainian: Fort and its modi­fications are derivatives of the Soviet Makarov pistol and have inherited most of its technical solutions.

Several designers and manufacturers of small arms can be singled out.

The State Specialized Scientific Asso­ciation "Fort" of the Ministry of Internal Affairs based in Vinnytsia designs and manu­factures pistols and pump guns. It was set up in 1991 to supply Ukrainian security force and law enforcement with small arms. At the end of March, 1998 at the opening of Ukraine's only facility serially manufacturing small arms at "Fort" association officials announced that Ukraine had broken the ring of isolation in the serial production of small arms. They said that the plant in Vinnytsia in which over 5 million hryvnyas (about $1.2 million) had been in­vested in two years was capable of large-scale production of small arms. The plant launched serial production of the Fort-12 short-bar­reled pistol ordered primarily by the Ukrainian Interior Ministry. Pistol samples were also sent to Uzbekistan that placed an advance order and to Russia. At the opening "Fort" Director Vik­tor Pisarenko said that its design bureau had developed and prepared for production 8 models of short-barreled weapons and 4 models of long-barreled weapons. "Weapons from Vinnytsia surpass analogs, for instance the Makarov pis­tol, in many respects," he said.4

Already in May 1998 Ukrainian Interior Minis­try formations started receiving the first Fort-12 and Fort-14 pistols manufactured in Vinnytsia.5  At the moment according to "Fort" Chief Engi­neer Evgeniy Bokovoj, all Ukraine's army and police forces are supplied with the plant's out­put.6  By now the plant has developed over a dozen pistol and gun modifications, some of which - Fort-12-00, Fort-12-02, Fort-14-00, Fort-500 and Fort-500A - were demonstrated at IDEX-1999, IDEX-2001 and IDEF-2001 inter­national arms exhibitions.

As for foreign trade, according to media reports, an agreement was signed in October 2000 on the delivery of a batch of Fort pistols to Uzbeki­stan.7 So far it is the only country to which new Ukrainian small arms have been delivered, according to official press reports.

The Fine Mechanics Plant state enterprise in Kamyanets-Podilsky currently manufacturers analogs of Soviet  KT-12.7 and KT-7.62 ma­chine guns that are used primarily in armored vehicles that it now exports. For instance, ma­chine guns from Kamyanets-Podilsky are in­stalled in the combat module of the new combat vehicle developed at the Kiev-based State Scien­tific and Technical Center for Artillery and Small Arms and exported, for instance, to the United Arab Emirates. "For about two years the company survived by selling elements of artil­lery and small arms and only now it has started receiving orders for entire systems," the official mouthpiece of the Defense Ministry, Narodna Armiya, reported.8

The manufacturers of ammunition found them­selves in a more advantageous position. For in­stance, the Luhansk Machine-Tool Plant founded back in 1795 under a decree of Empress Catherine the Great and since 1895 manufac­turing cartridges for small arms is in a much better position to launch the production of am­munition. In addition to the ammunition itself the plant can deliver special technological equipment for organizing ammunition produc­tion. It exports its output to a number of coun­tries and its clients include not only such na­tions as Yemen, the Congo, Poland and Belarus, but also NATO members, for instance, Greece.9

To attract investments in the development and production of light armaments and ammunition the Ukrainian government has taken a step that may be regarded as revolutionary. The thing is that in December 2000 the Ukrainian cabinet passed a special resolution allowing the Kiev-based TASKO Corporation uniting over 20 research centers, design bureaus and industrial facilities developing and manufacturing artillery systems, ammunition and control systems by way of experiment to develop, produce, repair, upgrade and dispose artillery and small arms, ammunition and their elements at their own ex­pense or with borrowed resources until the mat­ter is regulated by law. In other words for the first time in Ukraine a non-government (mixed) corporate entity will be dealing with invest­ments in the arms industry. In the opinion of TASKO President Valeriy Pavljukov, this is almost the only way to attract substantial in­vestments, including foreign, in the production of Ukrainian small arms.10  If the pattern suc­ceeds, it may be spread to other sectors of the defense industry. It is evident, that the decision was not accidental: TASKO is no novice in the arms business: in two years it has recovered about 100,000 pieces of ammunition. The corpo­ration annually exports military-purpose goods worth at least $10 million through its TASKO-Export foreign trade outlet and Ukrspetsexport government mediator. Pavljukov said export de­liveries annually double or triple and expected that the trend would continue this year. It is indicative that ammunition is delivered not only to traditional buyers - countries in Africa and Asia but also to Eastern Europe, namely Slova­kia and Slovenia. The importers also include In­dia, Kuwait and NATO countries: in 2000 TNT was delivered to Turkey.11 Importers also in­clude the Czech Republic and Bulgaria.12

The TASKO management claims that the corpo­ration channels all its export returns to the de­velopment of new models, to the organization of the production of absolutely new weapons for the Ukrainian Defense Ministry and also for ex­port. In 2000 the corporation invested about $200 thousand (over 1 million hryvnas) in these projects. TASKO has developed a new sniping rifle of the 12.7 mm caliber to hit heli­copters, rocket installations and firing positions in light fortifications. The rifle is expected to get its finishing touches in November-December 2001. The rifle has a range of 2 kilometers and is capable of penetrating a 15 mm armor plate from a distance of 600 meters. A new cartridge is also being developed for the rifle (which the corporation claims is much more difficult and expensive than the rifle itself) and a multi-pur­pose sight. The corporation develops not only arms but also the equipment for their pro­duction. Equipment for high precision treatment of barrels for calibers ranging from 12.7 to 40 mm has passed the required tests. This is ex­tremely important considering that even such a giants the tank-making Malyshev Plant in Kharkiv purchased Swiss equipment for treating barrels.13

The Kiev KB-S design bureau made itself known at the end of the 1990s. Under the lead­ership of engineer Igor Alekseenko it has dem­onstrated several interesting experimental mod­els of small arms developed for special units of the Ukrainian Interior Ministry and Security Service. However, due to financial problems, difficulties with investments and the absence of testing facilities, they have not reached serial production. Among such weapons one may name a new 9 mm pistol, 9 mm Goblin and Elf folding sub-machine guns, a 24 mm gre­nade launcher with what designers describe as technically new ammunition. Some of the mod­els are known to have aroused interest among partners in Turkey, but things did not go be­yond talks.14

The potential designers of SALW include the State Scientific and Technical Center of Artillery and Small Arms in Kiev that in 1997 developed a new 82 mm mortar (adopted by the Ukrainian Armed Forces) and a stan­dardized 30 mm automatic gun that may be in­stalled on any military hardware. However, head of the center Leonid Bondarenko says de­signers are not working on small arms but can make small caliber artillery barrels. The com­pany has delivered ammunition and components to Bulgaria, for example, but on the whole its foreign trade efforts cannot be described as suc­cessful.

Export prospects

The large-scale manufacture of weapons and the manufacture of internationally competitive arms two different things. Most experts in arms trade believe Ukraine has extremely limited possibili­ties of getting a foothold on the market as a SALW supplier. As for small arms, General Di­rector of Ukrspetsexport Valerii Maliev, the sphere is not and cannot be a priority for Ukraine as an arms exporter.15  As for the vol­ume of small arm deliveries, according to Dep­uty General Director of Ukrspetsexport Viktor Korenkov, they constitute merely 1-2% of all Ukrainian arms exports, and the results of dem­onstrating new models on the world market are not even worth mentioning.16  In the opinion of Deputy Defense Minister for Armaments Col. Gen. Oleksandr Stetsenko, the number of new models exceeds army needs five-fold.17  This, however, does not apply to ammunition. On the contrary, Ukraine attaches great hopes in ex­ports to ammunition, including ammunition for light weapons. Hence Industrial Policy Minister Vasyl Hureyev has said that ammunition pro­duction along with tank and aircraft-making will become a sphere of developing complete production cycles for Ukraine.18

Experts describe as a significant problem the lack of coordination between design bureaus, re­search centers and other developers. But on the other hand, many of them are not offering new inventions but derivatives of internationally known arms. Thus the designers in Nizhyn-based "Progress" Plant have suggested a fairly inter­esting way of upgrading Kalashnikov assault ri­fles and machine guns and also Degtyarov sniping rifles applying the bullup principle.19

Despite the existing difficulties with the devel­opment and production of SALW, Ukraine nev­ertheless delivers them to the world market. The following fact proves that Ukraine does in fact deliver such weapons to the world market and that this bothers its competitors. In December 1999 representatives of the U.S. Department of Commerce after an annual meeting of the Was­senaar arrangement blamed Ukraine (and Rus­sia) for undermining reforms aimed at tighten­ing requirements to reporting of small arms de­liveries by signatory coun­tries.20 After that Ukrspetsexport noted that the changes might have a negative effect on future Ukrainian de­liveries because they would open SALW markets.

At the same time First Deputy Secretary of the National Defense and Security Council, Chair­man of the Committee for the Military-Techni­cal Cooperation and Export Control Policy un­der the Ukrainian president Leonid Rozhen has stated that Ukraine has created conditions under which "illegal dealing is quite complicated and in some cases impossible".21 Moreover, Ukraine signed the OSCE document and thus assumed the obligation to mark exported small weapons, he said. According to military expert estimates, the fulfillment of this obligation will cost Ukraine $35 million in 10-15 years.


Ukraine remains a supplier of SALW on the world arms market but the volume of its deliv­eries is small. The SALW it exports are almost solely Soviet armaments from Defense Ministry arsenals.

Ukraine has limited possibilities of developing and producing SALW and given this does not claim the place of a major supplier of light weapons in the future.

However, it has a significant potential for de­veloping and delivering Soviet-made as well as new ammunition. The development of a closed production cycle of ammunition of different types, including ammunition for SALW should also guarantee possibilities for exports.

1 UNIAN, 09.07.2001.

2 Since July 3, 2001, the Ministry of Industrial Policy of Ukraine.

3 Report at the conference "Small arms' design and development problems and prospects in Ukraine," Kiev Politechncial Insitute, April 2001.

4 UNIAN, 24.03.1998.

5 UNIAN-VPK,#20, 1998.

6 Interview to Defense Express agency, 03.10.2001.

7 This was mentioned, for instance, in the re­port of the expert of Small Arms Survey Maria Haug at the international conference "The strengthening role of NGOs in the non-prolifera­tion of small arms in Central and East European countries", Bratislava, 28-29.10.2000.

8 Narodna Armiya, 17.05.2001.

9 Database of the Center for Army, Conversion and Disarmament Studies.

10 Interview to newspaper "2000", 02.02.2001.

11 Ibid.

12 Database of the Center for Army, Conversion and Disarmament Studies.

13 Expert-tsentr, 10.02.2001.

14 Database of the Center for Army, Conversion and Disarmament Studies.

15 Press conference of the head of Ukrspetsex­port, 20.08.2001.

16 Dmytro Timchuk, "Kulemyotu potribne imya", Narodna Armiya, 17.05.2001.

17 Report at the conference "Small arms' design and development problems and prospects in Ukraine", Kiev Polytechnic Institute, April 2001.

18 News conference of Ukrainian indus.trial policy minister, 03.07.2001.

19 Dmytro Timchuk, "Kulemyotu potribne imya", Narodna Armiya, 17.05.2001.

20 Bruce Odessey, "U.S. Objectives in Was­senaar Regime not Fulfilled, Officials Say", Washington File, 06.12.1999.

21 Interview with the newspaper "Zerkalo Nedeli", 22.09.2001.

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