During the ARMY 2020 exhibition, Kalashnikov Concern has revealed the prototype of a new belt-fed 5.45x39mm light machine gun called RPL-20. RPL-20 Belt-fed based on the field testing of RPK-16, the Russian military formed new requirements for an light machine gun (LMG) which were the base of starting the development of RPL-20. This new LMG is however significantly different from the RPK-16 and the ammunition is probably the only thing these two guns share. RPL-20 LMG utilizes a non-disintegrating 5.45x39mm belt which is also newly developed by the Kalashnikov Concern. The belt is fed from the right side of the gun and the spent cases are ejected to the left. The gun is shown with a 100-round cloth pouch for storing the belt.
The RPL-20 has a quick-change barrel and was shown with two different length barrels. The folding and collapsible stock has an adjustable cheekpiece and is apparently based on the new stock design that we saw in the AK-19 and updated AK-12 rifles. The pistol grip with an integrated trigger guard also looks identical to the one seen on the updated AK-12.The RPL-20 LMG also features an ambidextrous safety selector, non-reciprocating charging handle, ejection port dust cover, folding front iron sight, top and bottom Picatinny rails, M-LOK slots on the handguard, and Picatinny rail mounted carry handle. The overall weight of the RPL-20 LMG is 5.2kg (11lb 7oz) or 5.5kg (12lb 2oz) depending on the barrel length.
The RPL-20 is 2.3 kg lighter than its direct competitor, the Belgian FN Minimi — the world’s best-known and lightest belt-fed machine gun. That’s a third of the weight of the machine gun with ammunition. This is an important feature, since it effectively removes the limit on the amount of ammunition available before reloading. There is nothing to prevent the shooter from attaching a belt for 300, 500, or even 700 rounds, fed by a helper. The RPL-20 has a double-sided fire control mechanism for right- and left-handers, new bipods, new sights, and a buttstock with an adjustable stand. All the R&D risks and costs were shouldered entirely by Kalashnikov Concern; the weapon was not ordered by the Russian military.
The Firearm Blog reported that it is interesting to see the Russian military considering the adoption of a dedicated belt-fed LMG because ever since the adoption of the RPK for replacing the RPD, they have traditionally been proponents of a magazine-fed light machine gun with a high level of parts commonality with the assault rifle. Dmitry Tarasov, CEO of Kalashnikov Concern, said that based on field testing of the RPK-16 LMG that has been adopted by Russia’s National Guard, the Rosgvardia, the Russian military formed new requirements for an LMG which were the basis for starting development of the RPL-20.