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This South Korean Machine Gun Could Be Going Places

May 21, 2020

Via S&T Motiv.

In October 2019 the South Korean manufacturer S&T Motiv teased its latest military product on its Youtube channel. To stay ahead of trends in small arms design the company updated its well-known lightweight machine gun and rebranded it the K-15. S&T Motiv is the main supplier of small arms to the South Korean military and has seen its fortunes rise as other countries snapped up its assault rifles and machine guns. Its well-known K3 machine gun is a variant of the popular FN Herstal Minimi and is the primary squad automatic weapon for both the ROK Army and the Philippine Army.

The original K3 that entered production in 1989 replaced the ROK Army’s locally made M60 machine guns. A shortened variant with a collapsible stock is called the K3 Para. The K-15 is a comprehensive upgrade of the K3 and is still chambered for 5.56x45mm ammunition. The differences between the K-15 and the K3 are external, for the most part. The K-15 has a new barrel assembly and a redesigned muzzle brake; the frontal sight is now a flip sight; the bulky handguard that used to house the bipod was also replaced with a milled handguard featuring a detachable grip.

Further improvements are the ergonomics of the carrying handle, whose position can be folded downwards left or right, the pistol grip and the adjustable stock. A small button underneath the stock lets the operator choose a preferred length before firing. A strip of Picatinny rail found on the upper receiver for mounting optics or thermal sights. S&T Motiv’s rigorous testing of the K-15 gives it a maximum rate of fire as high as 1,000 rounds per minute although this could melt the barrel.

S&T Motiv’s catalog includes two other machine guns. These are the K-12, a heavier variant of the K3 but chambered for 7.62x51mm ammunition, and the South Korean copy of the M2 Browning known as the K6 that’s commonly used on tanks and APCs. The K-12 and K-15 light machine guns of S&T Motiv do resemble the Heckler & Koch MG4 (5.56x45mm) and MG5 (7.62x52mm) with the MG4’s appearance being almost identical to the K-15. The few differences are the shape of the stock and dissimilar carrying handles and handguards.

Aside from the K-15 a new generation of infantry small arms are being tailored by S&T Motiv. This includes the STC-16, an AR-pattern 5.56x45mm carbine with a 12-inch barrel and the same short-stroke gas piston used on the ROK Army’s K2/K2C1 rifles, and the STC-16’s would-be users are probably special operations and tactical units equipped for close quarters battle. The STC-16 handles like any AR-pattern rifle and is fed  with a 30-round magazine. For S&T Motive to devote resources for a modular carbine means it’s keeping up with a regional trend where military rifles are being shortened and designed for accessories.

S&T Motiv’s recent efforts are a departure from its firearms development in the previous decade. South Korea was one of the first countries to attempt a hybrid rifle design bringing together a carbine with a lightweight grenade launcher–a spin on the failed US Army OICW from the 1990s. The resulting K11 that had a bolt action 20mm grenade launcher positioned above a K2 carbine is still in the company’s portfolio but never enjoyed widespread adoption or strong exports. North Korea did attempt to copy the K11 albeit with limited success. Another unpopular small arm was a short-lived bullpup rifle that appears to have been shelved for good.

Exactly when the K-15 light machine gun is adopted by the ROK Army is unclear but S&T Motiv’s in-house advertising for it suggests its availability for export.

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