During the Army-2020 exhibition that took place recently near Moscow, Russia's Kalashnikov Concern revealed the prototype of a new belt-fed 5.45x39mm light machine gun (LMG) called the RPL-20.
In mid-August, in an interview given to RIA Novosti news agency, 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.
However, The Firearm Blog website claims that this new LMG is significantly different from the RPK-16 and the ammunition is probably the only thing these two guns share.
The RPL-20 utilizes a non-disintegrating 5.45x39mm belt which is also newly developed by Kalashnikov. Similar to PK/PKM machine guns, 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 seen 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 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 is 5.2kg or 5.5kg (12lb 2oz) depending on the barrel length.
The Firearm Blog said 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.