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Croatia continues testing of rifle system

27th September 2011 - 17:01 GMT | by The Shephard News Team


Evaluation of Croatia's under-slung 40x46mm grenade launcher for its VHS rifle is planned for November as the country furthers its efforts to develop NATO-supported weaponry.

Following the arms embargo during the conflict in former Yugoslavia, the country is continuing to develop the new rifle, which is expected to be fully operational by 2015, Brig Gen Milan Knezevic, Head of Material Resources Directorate for the Croatian MoD Corps told the Future Mortar Systems conference in London on 27 September.

The 5.56x46 Assault Rifle VHS bullpup system, manufactured by HS Produkt, was chosen as the replacement for the AK-47 assault rifle in 2007, which was mainly used during the conflict.

During the war, which occurred between 1991 and 1995, 'an inventory of weapons of different calibres' remained, but the AK-47  remained in some 30 variants.

The VHS was picked because it is compact and keeps within the weight and size restrictions of a dismounted soldier, yet has a long barrel for 'high muzzle velocity and projectile energy'.

In 2009, the system was tested in a variety of environments, including extreme temperatures, salt water, sandy and dusty environments as well as artificial rain and fall tests, with the testing finishing around the same time the country joined NATO.

The testing showed the rifle to be 'safe, functioning, reliable, durable, accurate and precise', Knezevic explained. 'That may sound like an advert from me', he continued, going on to describe that testing 'was very hard' and that it is imperative that the rifle is safe and reliable.

The rifle is gas-operated and comes in a 3.5kg long-barrel version called the VHS-D, as well as a 3.4kg short-barrel variant, the VHS-K.

Some 1,000 systems were fielded with the Croatian Army during 2010, he continued. However, although the system met all the tactical and technical requirements set out by the MoD, feedback from the users showed the gun to be unsuitable for left-hand users.

This is a problem that the MoD is looking to fix, and a redesign has been initiated so that it will be 'very easy' to change a rifle over from one orientation to the other, Knezevic described. He said this could be done in the field in less than 15 minutes. Having this option is considered to make it more appealing to foreign militaries which may wish to purchase the rifle, Knezevic pointed out while describing how the Croatian Army comprised only 20,000 soldiers.

Others areas being worked on include the integration of the optical sighting system, which is currently in the final phase of development and is scheduled for testing next month.

The Shephard News Team


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