A prototype of the new AK-12 assault rifle was first revealed in 2012. Though since its introduction the prototype was heavily modified. The AK-12 was developed by IZHMASH factory as a private venture both for domestic use and possible export customers. It is intended to replace the AK-74, which is a standard-issue infantry rifle in service with the Russian military, and AK-100 series, offered for export customers. Some sources report that it might enter service with the Russian Army in the near future.
The main goal developing AK-12 was to improve tactical flexibility and ergonomics of the previous weapons. It is worth mentioning, that poor balance and ergonomics were the main drawbacks of the AK-74.
The AK-12 is a gas operated, selective fire weapon. It is based around the traditional Kalashnikov design. It is expected to be simple, rugged and reliable weapon as its predecessors. This new assault rifle is planned to be available in two versions. The light version is chambered for 5.45×39 Soviet mm or 5.56×45 mm NATO ammunition, while the AK-15 is heavy version, chambered for more powerful 7.62×39 mm Soviet and 7.62×51 mm NATO rounds.
Barrel of the AK-12 has revised rifling for improved accuracy. Worth noting that the old AK-74 has inferior accuracy to most Western assault rifles of the period. The AK-12 also has redesigned muzzle brake, which now has a NATO-standard diameter. This improvement allows launching rifle grenades. The new muzzle brake also reduces recoil.
An early prototype had a new ambidextrous safety / fire mode selector lever. It was located above the pistol grip, on both sides of the weapon. It had four positions for “safe”, “semi-auto”, “3-round burst” and “full-auto”. It could be operated by a thumb, without releasing the pistol grip. A revised charging handle could be installed on either side of the weapon. It was a huge improvement over the traditional AK-style fire mode selector, which is awkward to use. However for some reason on later prototypes this arrangement was dropped in favor to traditional fire mode selector.
This new assault rifle is compatible with the standard 30-round AK-74 magazines, as well as 45-round magazine of the RPK-74 light machine gun. This weapon will also be available with new 60-round box magazine.
Originally the AK-12 had a side-folding, adjustable telescopic stock, which folded to the right side. However improved models of this assault rifle have a telescopic stock, which resembles that of the US M4 carbine.
The new assault rifle has iron sights as standard. There is also an integral Picatinny-type rail at the top of the cover. It is used to mount various scopes and night vision sights. There are also accessory rails at the forend. Bottom section of the forend is also available without rail. The plain version accepts standard GP-25 or GP-30 40-mm underbarrel grenade launchers.
However the new AK-12 is strongly criticized by the media as being not as cutting-edge weapon, as some latest designs proposed by other manufacturers.
AK-15 is a version of the AK-12, chambered for a heavier 7.62×39 mm round. It is compatible with 30-round magazines of the AKM assault rifle, and 40-round box magazines and 75-round drum magazines of the RPK light machine gun.