Army-2021: Kalashnikov prepares RPL-20 machinegun for trials

The Kalashnikov Group says it is preparing the latest 5.45mm RPL-20 machine gun for preliminary trials: "We are creating light RPL-20 machinegun with belt feed in the framework of Sotnik R&D for the Defense Ministry. There is a prototype and we had the technical project approved. We are preparing it for preliminary trials". Batch production of the machinegun is likely to begin after all trials and test operations are completed.
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Kalashnikov 5.45mm RPL-20 light machine gun (Picture source: Vitaly Kuzmin)

The RPL-20 is a light machine gun developed by Kalashnikov Concern for the Russian Military. Though designed in response to feedback following the purchase and testing of the company's magazine-fed RPK-16 light machine gun, the RPL-20 is an entirely new design, utilizing an open-bolt, belt-fed action in lieu of the closed-bolt, magazine-fed operation typical to Kalashnikov-pattern weapons. It is anticipated to serve as a squad automatic weapon in Russian military use, supplementing the heavier-caliber PK machine guns currently used for suppressive fire while still providing a higher practical rate of fire than is possible with RPK-based weapons. The RPL-20 was unveiled at the Army-2020 event in late August 2020.

Kalashnikov Concern has stated that the RPL-20 is a new design, rather than being a derivative of the ubiquitous Kalashnikov-pattern rifle series. It is a belt-fed, open bolt, fully automatic light machine gun with a rotating bolt and a long-stroke gas piston.