It may come as something of a shock, but US Special Forces are now investigating how to manufacture their own copies of Russian weapons.
Of course, the American troops fighting overseas use American made weaponry. This is not only because it is of higher quality than the Russian equivalent, but because US law actually limits the ability of the military to buy weapons from non-US manufacturers.
Yet, watch any fottage of the fighting currently taking place in Syria and Afghanistan and you will see why there is a need for Russian weaponry, ammunition, and other equipment – all the local combatants, whether supported by the US or not, are using Russian equipment.
The reasons for this are clear enough – the area has long been an area of concern for Russia, who have equipped several groups over the past few decades. In addition, Russia is simply closer than the US, and therefore when buying weapons on the black market it is much more likely that you will end up with Russian equipment.
This creates a problem for US troops in the region. When they want to re-supply those they are fighting alongside, they have to scrabble around on the black market for Russian-made guns, ammunition, and equipment. It is no good giving a local trainee American rounds if he is holding a Kalashnikov.
It is in this context that US Special Forces command is asking US companies for plans to produce copies of Russian weapons.
The task is not easy. The rifles and machine guns used and produced by Russia have never been made in the US before, and so no-one on this side has access to their blueprints. Instead, Russian weaponry will have to be reverse-engineered.
The initial plan is to produce two types of heavy machine gun that are capable of using the same ammunition as their Russian counterparts. The offer requires companies to produce five fully functional, firing prototypes, for assessment before a potential military contract.
The contract also stipulates that the companies must use exclusively US labor and expertise.
Though, for now, the focus is on producing Russian weapons, it is expected that the programme will eventually expand to the production of all types of foreign weaponry. Although US combat troops are now mainly stationed in the middle east, in years to come there might be a call for all types of foreign weapons to be produced.
On my part, I can’t help the feeling that we are settling for second best. I understand, of course, that it is not ideal for our troops to have to deal with shady black markets in order to procure the correct weaponry. However, surely this situation could also be remedied by stepping up the military aid in these countries?
The only reason Russian weaponry is being used, and now being copied, is because Russia itself flooded the middle east with its domestically produced weapons. Surely the US can do the same, and let the Russians try and copy our weaponry instead?