About a year ago we reported about several new firearms that were designed or were in development by the Russian TsKIB SOO. Among these guns, there was a semi-auto marksman rifle called OTs-129. Apparently, that was one of the guns of a project called “Alatau” (Алатау). A couple of days ago, Kalashnikov Gun Magazine has published images of the OTs-128 machine gun that was also a part of the Alatau project.
The guns developed in Alatau project were originally supposed to be chambered in a cartridge called 6.7x51mm. Reportedly, it is the 7.62x51mm necked down to 6.5mm (.264) caliber. If this information is true, then the 6.7x51mm cartridge should be something dimensionally similar or maybe even identical to .260 Remington. At any rate, looks like either the Alatau project has been canceled or they decided to drop the new cartridge because the machine gun (OTs-128) that we are talking about is chambered in 7.62x51mm NATO. According to Kalashnikov Gun Magazine, the Tula Ammunition Plant is developing special 7.62x51mm cartridges for this weapon.
Although 7.62x51mm is a common cartridge, its choice, in this case, raises a lot of questions. Why would a Russian company develop a machine gun (which is a military product) in a NATO caliber? Is it targeted for the export market only? Is there any secret plan to retire the good old 7.62x54mmR? We have no answers yet and will let you know as soon as any information concerning the reasons of such caliber choice appears.
Anyway, let’s leave the cartridge choice mystery and see what features the OTs-128 machine gun has. OTs-128 is a belt-fed machine gun. It utilizes proprietary belt links. The lockup of the action is accomplished by a rotating bolt. The gun is striker fired and has a full-auto only firing mode. One of the most unique features setting it apart from the majority of other belt-fed machine guns is the bottom feeding of the belt and the absence of a feed tray and hinge opening top cover. This feature is said to add rigidity to the construction of the weapon and make it more accurate. This design solution also makes changing the belt or loading a new one an extremely fast operation. The belt is probably just inserted into the bottom opening and there should be some sort of retention mechanism to capture and align the ammunition. Whether it is disintegrating or non-disintegrating, the belt should come straight out the right side of the gun through the same opening. It looks like on the right side of the receiver there is an ejection port.
As seen in the images, the charging handle is located on the left side of the receiver. It should be a non-reciprocating one with a clearly visible latch mechanism built into the handle. The charging handle track is riveted onto the left side of the receiver. The receiver itself looks to be an aluminum extrusion. There is a continuous Picatinny rail on top of the receiver and shorter rail sections on 3, 6 and 9 o’clock positions of the handguard portion.
The shape of the receiver and what looks to be a gas block slightly protruding over the receiver makes me think that this is a gas operated firearm with the piston located on top of the barrel. Unfortunately, there is no information about and no visible hints on the gun concerning the barrel changing mechanism. The gun should either have some sort of action actuated cooling mechanism like the forced air cooling system on Pecheneg MG or there must be a quick barrel change feature.
Another interesting feature is the construction of the stock and its folding mechanism. When the stock is folded it is also rotated upside down. This trick converts the folded stock into a carry handle and allows to leave the ammunition box attached to the gun when the stock is folded.
OTs-128 machine gun looks to be in the final stages of development. It has a really complete look and reminds a pre-production prototype. This particular sample has also passed extensive test firing and at the moment has about 20,000 rounds fired through it.
There are several other mystery Russian firearm images that appeared recently like one shown in the image below. I bet this is the rifle that was earlier shown with the Ratnik-3 equipment mockup.
We will be following the news in Russian media concerning these guns and will keep our readers informed as soon as any information appears in reliable sources.