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I an ex member of both 7 and 8 Squadron's of the Rhodesian war spending most of my operational time on Seven Squadron as a K Car gunner. I was credited for shooting down a fixed wing aircraft from a K Car on the 9 August 1979. This blog is from articles for research on a book which I HAVE HANDED THIS MANUSCRIPT OVER TO MIMI CAWOOD WHO WILL BE HANDLING THE PUBLICATION OF THE BOOK OF WHICH THERE WILL BE VERY LIMITED COPIES AVAILABLE Contact her on yebomimi@gmail.com The latest news is that the Editing is now done and we can expect to start sales and deliveries by the end of April 2011

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Saturday, August 29, 2009


Kalashnikov’s 60 deadly years (Homeless Talk, South Africa)
Harrison Ndlovu
June 2, 2008

The world’s most popular weapon, the AK-47, has reached the 60th anniversary of its deadly career. About 100 million Kalashnikovs are in circulation worldwide, used by state agents, insurgents, gangsters, individuals and private security; and there may not be a country which has not had an incident involving an AK-47.

The gun has featured prominently in nearly all armed conflicts around the world, especially in Asia and Africa. During the 1970s the Vietnamese used it to drive US troops out of their country; though American face savers argue that they were not actually defeated in combat.

It was also the standard weapon in the Korean and Cambodian wars. In the hands of idiots like late Cambodian Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot, the Kalashnikov became an accessory in some of the world’s worst human rights calamities.

Since the 1960s, the unending Middle East wars have relied on the AK-47 for firepower. That included the bloody Lebanese civil war of 1975-90, in which death squads operated with impunity. Today’s nasty fighting is reminiscent of that period, and the AK-47 is still the weapon of choice.

Both the Iraqi and Iranian Arab brothers used Kalashnikovs when they fought during the 1980s Gulf War. Reports said hundreds of Iranian child soldiers were often massacred by Iraqi gunners as they charged at enemy tanks armed only with AK-47s, having been made to believe that the popular weapon made them invincible.

The Kalashnikov gun has also featured in the killing of prominent personalities. On 6 October 1981 AK-47 wielding fundamentalist assassins assassinated ex-Egyptian president Anwar Sadat in a hail of bullets.

In June 1989 the Type 56 version of the AK-47 was involved in massacring hundreds of Chinese pro-democracy protestors in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. Government forces opened fire on the crowds, killing 3 000 people, according to student unions. The New York Times newspaper estimated the toll at 800, while the Chinese government reduced it to 200.

At that time one soldier said students sparked the carnage by seizing an army tank and opening fire on the troops, using the vehicle’s mounted PKT machinegun, an AK-47 derivative. He however would not say why he brought a battle tank for civilian crowd control.

In the 1980s Afghan Islamic Mujahedeen fighters, armed with earlier versions of the AK-47, fought Soviet troops who were armed with the latest AKS-74. The fighters, who included wanted Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden, scored major victories against the superpower Soviet army and ultimately overthrew the Kremlin installed communist regime.

The AK-47 features in the current Iraqi imbroglio, where it is often used to spray crowded marketplaces with automatic fire. The UN says over 30 000 Iraqis died from gunshot wounds last year, most of which were inflicted through the AK-47. Executed ex-Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein so loved the AK-47 that he had his own made of gold and displayed in his Baghdad palace. Upon his defeat the prized weapon was seized by the Americans and its location is not clear.

In Afghanistan, where the ousted Taliban gunmen have vowed to return to power, and in Palestine and Lebanon, brother shoots brother with an AK-47 in convoluted political squabbles. It is also the prime weapon against Israeli occupation in Palestine.

The Kalashnikov also featured prominently in the 1991-95 Balkan war, where some of the world’s most chilling atrocities were committed. Gunmen often rounded up hundreds of people and executed them in a hail of AK-47 fire.

Between the 1960s and 1980s African liberation forces used it to end colonialism, most prominently in Algeria, Angola, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe. Upon independence the Mozambican FRELIMO liberation movement incorporated the image of an AK-47 in their flag to symbolize its importance in their struggle for freedom. In South Africa, in the hands of MK and the APLA, the AK-47 helped to force apartheid rulers to the negotiating table, paving the way for democratic rule.

Ex-Chinese leader Chairman Mao Zedong’s declaration that ‘power grows out of the barrel of a gun’ motivated many of the guerillas, who often reworded it to mean it did not ‘grow out of any kind of gun’ saying it actually ‘grows out of the barrel of the AK-47’. Other motivators were Bolivian legendary guerilla Ernesto Che Guevara and Cuban leader Fidel Castro, who also used AK-47s in their heydays.

The liberation movements also used the Kalashnikov against each other after attaining independence, notably in Angola and Mozambique, which included the death of hundreds of thousands of people and ruining the economies. Another conflict where the gun served diligently was in Liberia, where the fighting started in December 1989, lapsed in 1996, resumed in 1999 and went on up to 2003. By that time it was reported that nearly every 12 year-old boy there had an AK-47, and the country had been destroyed.

The Sierra Leone civil war of 1991-2002 had similar features, with AK-47 toting child soldiers committing indescribable atrocities. The same happened in the Ivory Coast insurrection of 2002-06, where untold savagery was reported.

In that conflict it emerged that warlords like ex-Liberian president Charles Taylor bought the AK-47s with illegal diamonds; then passed them on to rebels in neighbouring countries, who caused untold suffering to civilians. Taylor is currently on trial for alleged crimes against humanity at The Hague, and is expectedly denying the charges. His arms supplier Guus van Kouwenhoven was jailed in the Netherlands. That also led to governments and diamond organizations to tighten laws to prevent the proliferation of what came to be known as ‘blood diamonds’.

On 22 February 2002 Angolan troops killed Angolan UNITA rebel chief Jonas Savimbi in a nasty AK-47 duel at the banks of the Luvuei River in Moxico province, in which his 21 bodyguards ‘fought to the last man’. That killing paved the way for peace, as world opinion had long labelled Savimbi a stumbling block for negotiations.

In 1994 the Kalashnikov also featured in the unprecedented Rwandan massacres, however assisted by machetes and pangas in the beastly butchering of nearly a million people. Soon after the plane that carried Rwandan ex-president Juvenal Habyarimana and Burundian leader Cyprian Ntaryamira was downed on April 6 1994, killing both leaders, some news reports suggested that the aircraft might not have been hit by anti-aircraft fire, as both the Rwandan army and the Rwandan Patriotic Front rebels denied deploying their Zsu air defence guns in the vicinity.

That was quite plausible because the Rwandan air force was not very active against the rebels during much of that conflict. So that left the AK-47 and its variants likely responsible for the downing of the plane, and the subsequent reprisals that led to the bloodshed. This of course does not rule out the possibility of SAM 7 rockets having been used.

In the ongoing conflict in Sudan’s Darfur region, the Janjaweed militia and the local gunmen confront each other using the AK-47, which they often turn onto innocent civilians. The same happens in Somalia and eastern DR Congo, where rebel Colonel Laurent Nkunda is determined to emulate the late Angolan insurgent Jonas Savimbi.

In South Africa robbers often use it together with its sub-clone, the R5, in cash-in-transit heists and other violent crime. In Colombia drug mafias use the AK-47, however often in conjunction with the American M-16 and the Israeli Uzi, to protect their interests. Some of the cartels pose as armed political movements and fight government forces that interfere in their illicit trade.

The AK-47 has an amazing manner of changing hands. In the 1980s Israel captured AK-47s from Palestinian PLO fighters and gave them to apartheid South Africa, who passed them on to Angolan UNITA rebels. South Africa also captured AK-47s from Namibian SWAPO guerillas and gave them to Mozambican RENAMO rebels, in its policy of destabilizing the neighbouring states who opposed apartheid rule.

Earlier, during the Zimbabwean liberation war, the Rhodesian army seized AK-47s from ZIPRA and ZANLA guerillas, and gave them to the fledgling Mozambican RENAMO reactionary group, setting it up as a formidable and highly atrocious armed movement. During the civil wars in Mozambique and Angola, government troops also used AK-47s, which gave the rebels the opportunity to brag to ignorant villagers that they armed themselves with weapons they captured from government forces.

In the late 1980s Zimbabwean Super ZAPU rebels benefited from a similar arrangement with the South African secret service. Nonetheless, a 1988 political settlement between the rival PF-ZAPU and ZANU-PF politicians prevented the development of an imbroglio to the magnitude of what was happening in Mozambique. That also ended a brutal insurgency and state counter-insurgency that left thousands of civilians dead; in which the AK-47 played the main killing role.

At about the same time thousands of Kalashnikovs from the Ugandan military were reportedly transferred to the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army fighters. Conversely, AK-47s formerly in the hands of Sudanese government troops were said to have ended up with the murderous Ugandan rebel Lord’s Resistance Army; and recently with the Janjaweed militia, which the Sudanese government however vehemently denies.

The UN and Amnesty International have indicated that the AK-47s arming Somali gunmen largely originated from overthrown dictator Siad Barre’s armed forces, while more were brought from neighbouring Ethiopia and Eritrea. The International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA) blames Eritrea, Iran and Yemen among other countries for violating the arms embargo on Somalia.

Besides its prominence in the 17 year Somali bloodshed, the AK-47 also features in the hands of pirates along the Somalian coastline. The gunmen hijack ships in the Indian Ocean and demand ransom of up to US$7 million. In May last year they seized a Taiwanese vessel and murdered a crew member to force the ship’s owners to pay up.

That has solicited global alarm since 2005, when the World Food Programme (WFP) suspended food deliveries by sea for several weeks. WFP spokesperson Josette Sheeran said the buccaneers in speedboats mounted with Kalashnikov machineguns hijacked one of their chartered ships and murdered a guard.

“This increases commodity prices for the poor Somalis, as insurance and protection expenses rise. That may also lead to cut-offs in food supplies to them,” Sheeran warned.
Uganda and Rwanda provided the AK-47s used by Congolese rebels to overthrow ex-Zairean (DR Congo) dictator Mobutu Sese Seko; and also to turn against their former friend, Laurent Kabila, who succeeded him. The ensuing fighting sucked in Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe, whose troops, also armed with Kalashnikovs, helped Kabila remain in power, albeit for a while. One of his men later shot him dead, with an AK-47.

The gun’s designer, Mikhail Kalashnikov, born in 1919 in the Russian village of Kurya, a self taught engineer, learned mechanics when he worked at a train depot. As a Russian Red Army tank unit commander during the Second World War in 1941, he was wounded in battle, and while in hospital conceived the idea of designing his own gun.

The Russian army’s urgent need for a simple weapon with a high volume of fire motivated Kalashnikov; since the 1939-40 war with Finland, in which the Finns devastated the Russians with submachineguns in close combat; and in 1941 when German troops invaded Russia.

Kalashnikov was however not the first to respond to that need. It was Georgii Shpagin who designed the light PPSh-41, which was cheaper and quicker to make. Its magazine was a 71 round Suomi drum; providing only high rate automatic fire, without a fire selector.

Six years later Kalashnikov unveiled the ‘Automat Kalashnikova, model 1947’, the AK-47.

Up to the late 1950s the PPSh-41 was phased out of Soviet military service, in favour of the AK-47. Shpagin’s gun is nonetheless still active in some hotspots today.

The AK-47 was initially developed for motorized infantry and adopted in 1949. It was a gas-operated selective-fire weapon which fired 7.62mm bullets, housed in a 30 round curved box magazine.

Of the two early versions one had a fixed wooden stock, and the other, the AKS, a folding metal one, for use by paratroopers and armoured regiments. In 1951 it became the standard Soviet army weapon.

In 1959 the Soviets developed the AKM, weighing a kilogram less; made from stamped sheet metal, replacing the forged steel. The hand guard, pistol grip and butt were laminated wood, replacing the solid wood. It provided a fire control lever near the trigger, and a rear sight graduated to 1 000 metres, approved for Soviet army use in 1961.

Later Kalashnikov developed a machinegun variant of his AK-47, the Ruchnoi Pulemyot Kalashnikova, the RPK; and another belt-fed one called the Pulemyot Kalashnikova, the PK. Between 1950 and 1970, Kalashnikov’s guns were produced in a series, which included the AKM, AKMS, AK-74, AKS-74, AK-74U, RPK, RPRS, RPK-74, RPKS-74, PK, PKS, PKM, PKSM, PKT, PKTM, PKB and the PKMB. Up to 1990 over 70 million different designs had been produced.

More versions were manufactured in Eastern Europe and Asia: the Hungarian AMD; Czech V258P; former East German MpiK; Polish PMK; Bulgarian PMKm and the Yugoslavian M70. The short barreled Chinese Type 56 and North Korean Type 68 have been popular with gangsters and terrorists, as they can be easily concealed in clothing.

Variants of Kalashnikov machineguns were produced in 1961: the PKB for use on armoured carriers, the PKT for tank use and the PKS heavy machine gun. The long barreled Yugoslavian PKM, commonly known as the Yugo, has been a favourite for African and Asian gunmen. Its concentration of fire has not been matched by any other light machinegun, including the RPD, the Goryunov, the DshK or NATO models.
In 1990 the AK-74M was produced, and in the next year the RPK-74M light machinegun also emerged. Up to this moment there is the 100 series AK-47s in production. Those include the AK101, AK102, AK103, AK104 and AK105.

All AK-47s function normally after being handled roughly, like being immersed in mud or water. The initial test included dragging it behind a truck for over a kilometre, and it still worked properly. The fully chromed barrel provides for effective operation at extremely low temperatures, and can be cleaned by merely dragging a banana frond through it. In African conflicts rebels are often seen toting some of the earliest versions of the AK-47, which were produced before their fathers were born, the butt completely worn out, or the pistol grip having long broken off; but the weapon functions perfectly.

Kalashnikovs fire in semi-automatic and automatic mode, with a range of about 300 metres. They can fire about 600 bullets per minute, practically 100 rounds in automatic, or 40 in semi-automatic.

During the Cold War the Kalashnikov faced rivals in weapons that were associated with the ‘free world’, as opposed to the ‘communist world’. Many NATO aligned forces in Africa used the Belgian FN-FAL, or the ‘Fabrique Nationale-Fusil Automatique Léger’.
The colonial troops of Angola, Mozambique and Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) however loathed the FN-FAL for its inclination to jam in wet conditions. It was the same with the West German G3, but their commanders would not directly change to the AK-47, ostensibly owing to Western policies that shunned association with the ‘communist weapon’, the AK-47. They rather used the Armalite AR-10, the M-16 and the Uzi, or even the old Lee Enfield .303, which was almost useless in that kind of combat.

In 1969 the Israeli military adopted the Galil rifle; a design based on the Finnish Valmet RK-62, itself an AK-47 copy. Sub-clones of the AK-47 are the South African modifications of the Galil; the Galil AR, or R4; the Galil SAR, or R5 and the Galil MAR, or R6; made by DENEL’s Vektor Arms. The Croatian APS-95 is another variant of the Galil.

In 1980 the South African army replaced the R1, a clone of the FN-FAL, with the R4, an AK-47 derivative. To this Mikhail Kalashnikov lamented that the manufacturers did not even thank him after ‘stealing his design’.

For his contribution to the arms industry the Soviet government conferred to him the Stalin Prize in 1949; the Soviet Russian Hero of Socialist Labour Award in 1958; promoted him to the rank of colonel in 1969; and granted him a Technical Sciences doctorate in 1971.

He again won the Hero of Socialist Labour Award in 1976. He was also awarded three Orders of Lenin, Order of the Patriotic War First Class, Order of the Red Star, Order of the Red Banner of Labour, and more medals. His bronze statue was erected at his native village in 1980, and in 1998 he was awarded the Order of Saint Andrew the Protoclete.

In his 75th birthday late Russian ex-president Boris Yeltsin awarded him the Order for Distinguished Service for the Motherland-Second Class, and promoted him to major-general.

In 2004 Kalashnikov toured Western Europe promoting his Kalashnikov Vodka, in a bottle shaped like his AK-47. When London reporters suggested he must feel bad that his invention kills so many people, Kalashnikov argued that people killed each other even before the gun was invented. “Human nature, being so evil, would still come up with something else with which to kill each other, maybe something even worse. I however regret that terrorists also use my gun,” he said.

He also denied making any money from the weapons, saying he survives from a miserly pension.

Quite unexpectedly, Russian special forces have ditched his AK-47 in favour of the AN-94, the ‘Automat Nikonova’ designed by Gennady Nikonov in 1994. It however costs six times more to produce. Its mechanism is complex, with an uncomfortable pistol grip and folding stock that covers the trigger, making it unusable when folded.

In October 2006 the UN passed a resolution towards a treaty to regulate arms trading to prevent guns from falling into the hands of gunmen. Members would start work on an arms treaty to regulate the flow of weapons that fuel conflicts, like the AK-47, which would provide legally binding safeguards for the import and export of the weapons.

Nonetheless, while countries that included the UK and the EU voted for the motion, Russia and China, the chief producers of the AK-47, abstained, which could reduce the effectiveness of the resolution. The US, another major weapons provider, voted against the idea, saying it already has its own high standards of controlling the weapons trade.

International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA) director Rebecca Peters said up to April last year member states submitted their views on the feasibility, scope and parameters of the proposed treaty to the UN secretary-general. Under the Control Arms umbrella, IANSA, Amnesty International and Oxfam, launched a worldwide campaign.

The matter is to be presented to the UN Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) as the next phase of the process. “The emphasis is on regional and national initiatives. West Africa’s new convention is the third sub-regional small arms agreement in the continent, after those in Eastern and Southern Africa. Sub-Saharan Africa must now amend its national policies to meet the new regional standards,” she added.

By Harrison Ndlovu

Reprinted from Homeless Talk

1 comment:

  1. Round Robin. I am an American, and I own an AK-47, thank God (plenty ammo and mags as well) Evil finds a way. Sometimes good uses evils own tools against it. I hope I never have to use it, but the truth of the matter is, it's nice to know I have it, and it's backed up by history that it's one hell of a tool. Perspective decides usage; Usage influences perspective, and history does not repeat itself, but it rhymes; Rhyme on. (I own an FN-FAl as well, just to be fair. ;)


I welcome comments from everyone on my book Choppertech.
I am interested especially on hearing from former ZANLA and ZIPRA combatants who also have thier story to tell.