For Russia's special forces, a new amphibious assault rifle

Russian gun-maker KPB says its made a breakthrough with the ADS amphibious assault rifle, which fires as well underwater as it does in the open air.

Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP
An ADS assault rifle capable of shooting both on land and underwater is displayed inside a water tank at a security systems exhibition in Moscow on Thursday. The weapon uses special underwater cartridges for underwater use.

A famous Russian gun-maker says that, after decades of research, it has produced the first-ever amphibious assault rifle, able to fire high-velocity bullets underwater and then switch into a conventional weapon on the surface.

Even James Bond needed a special harpoon gun for fighting underwater, and Q would have probably placed an immediate order upon learning of the new ADS underwater assault rifle – a weapon whose development has been something of an open secret in recent years, but was only officially rolled out by the venerable Tula-based Russian arms designer KPB this week.

"It's a real breakthrough, nobody in the world has succeeded in building such a weapon before," says Maxim Velmezev, an expert with the company. Mr. Velmezev says the Russian Army decided in August to buy the gun and a short while ago Russian authorities decided to publicly acknowledge its existence.

"We're really happy about that," he says. "In the past combat swimmers had to have two guns, one for fighting in water and another in the open air. That was inconvenient. This is the first universal assault weapon, and we anticipate there will be strong demand for it around the world."

Experts say the gun is ideal for the Spetznaz, or special forces, who work in all environments, as well as reconnaissance units and troops that guard underwater facilities. Though the ADS was created by a competitor of the famous Kalashnikov works, makers of the iconic AK rifles, experts say the revolutionary firing system can be adapted for use in other guns as well.

"The Russian military is re-equipping at all levels with modern weapons. We can incorporate this system into existing Kalashnikovs, so that our soldiers can go on using the guns they are accustomed to," says Igor Anisimov, a spokesperson for the Kalashnikov concern in Izhevsk.

A Russian TV news report on the new ADS rifle:

The USSR produced the first automatic weapons that could fire underwater more than half a century ago, but the APS rifle that came to be used by the Soviet Navy's reconnaissance forces fired long, arrow-shaped rounds that were not accurate over 150 feet.

Velmezev says that KBP was handed the task of designing a gun that could fire normal rounds underwater more than a decade ago, but they were stymied until they decided to give up the old idea of long arrow-shaped bullets.

"Our designers worked out a whole new way of stabilizing a bullet that's traveling through water. When it's fired, an air bubble surrounds the bullet," so it avoids the friction and distortions that usually affect underwater projectiles, and enables it to achieve high velocity and significant range, he says.

That sounds similar to the revolutionary Soviet-designed Shkval torpedo, which operates on a still-secret system of supercavitation, meaning it generates a gas pocket from its specially-shaped nose cone, through which the torpedo is able to hurtle at speeds of up to 230 mph.

When a Spetznaz trooper comes ashore with his new ADS, he need only switch magazines from the special underwater bullets to regular ones and it becomes a conventional assault rifle, with an attached grenade launcher for good measure.

"We expect that a lot of people are going to want this weapon, because it has no analogues in the world. And we can develop it, customize it to the client's requirements," says Velmezev.

Q, are you listening?

Video of the older APS underwater rifle being fired:

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