By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans
The PKP 'Pecheneg' machine gun is undoubtedly one of the most elusive types of firearms currently in use in the Syrian Civil War. With only one-hundred Pechenegs believed to have been ordered and delivered to Syria back in 2013, it has not yet been sighted in use with regime forces on the Syrian battlefields in any image or video available to the public. Although the low numbers of PKPs delivered is at least partially responsible for its elusiveness, the Pecheneg has only been adopted by Syria's secretive special forces, whose operations have so far mainly been limited to the shadows.
The list of weapons, ammunition and equipment requested by the Army Supply Bureau of the High Command of the Syrian Arab Republic to Russia's Rosoboronexport in early 2013 included one-hundred ''PK'' machine guns with a bipod, almost certainly referring to the PKP instead of the older PKM. The Pechenegs were believed to have been delivered a some time later along with five million 7.62x54mmR rounds destined to be used by the PKP and PKM.
Along with the AK-104 carbine, the ВПО-205-03 (Vepr-12) fully automatic shotgun and a host of other weapons, the PKP Pecheneg was also believed to have been inspected by the Syrian military delegation visiting the 2012 Russian weapons expo, which in turn led to the acquisition of a wide range of small arms optimized for the highly versatile combat environment seen in Syria in the past four years.
The PK series of machine guns remains incredibly popular throughout the world, with the many factions involved in the Syrian Civil War being no exception. Apart from serving in its traditional role as a general-purpose machine gun, other variants currently also see use as coaxial machine guns in tanks, IFVs and APCs and even as door-mounted machine guns in helicopters.
Bearing close resemblance to the design of its older brother on which it is based; the PKM. The Pecheneg was designed with the experiences from Afghanistan and Chechnya in mind. Chambered in 7.62x54Rmm, the PKP is claimed to be capable of a sustained rate of fire of up to 600 rounds without overheating and potentially damaging the barrel. The PKPs delivered to Syria are of the 6P41N 'Pecheneg-N' variant, meaning they come with a special mounting rail for night-vision sights.
The continuous flow of both offensive and defensive Russian-made weaponry that reaches Syria on a regular basis will assuredly lead to new sightings of even more advanced weapons and equipment never thought to have reached Syria in the past.
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