ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — Firearms manufacturer Kalashnikov is exhibiting its new AK-19 rifle for the first time outside of Russia during an arms trade show in the United Arab Emirates.

The assault rifle meets NATO’s caliber standards: It is chambered for 5.56 x 45mm rounds, and it has a Picatinny rail, a new collapsible folding stock to adjust length, improved aperture sight and a quick-detachable suppressor.

The gun is based on the AK-12, which was accepted into service by the Russian military in 2018. The AK-19 is compact and suitable for concealed carry.

Defense News asked the Russian company’s CEO, Dmitry Tarasov, why it would design a NATO-friendly rifle when there are measures in place that prevent NATO members from buying it.

“The 5.56 × 45mm round has been traditionally used by many countries of the [Middle East], Southeast Asia and Latin America. It is a huge market, and many countries in those regions view the weapons originating from Russia with much respect. AK-19 is aimed to woo these markets,” Tarasov replied. “The [Middle East] region is, indeed, in our focus as a fast-growing market for defense products. Our legendary brand is well-established in the region, and we are planning to build upon that.”

At IDEX, Kalashnikov is also showcasing a number of military and commercial firearms, speedboats, and fire-and-forget missiles, commercial UAVs, and bulletproof gear and equipment for special forces. “We have brought such a variety of products because we feel the ME is the right market for them and we are seeing a lot of interest from delegations at IDEX,” Tarasov told Defense News.

So which of Kalashnikov’s products are getting the most attention from potential Mideast customers?

“I would prioritize assault rifles, along with the 100s and 200s series [of] AKs. We have unveiled our new AK-19 chambered for NATO rounds. Our new PLK compact pistol that has just completed trials in Russia is a great product. We promote it as a compact pistol that has excellent ergonomics and will cater for the needs of police, paramilitary and security forces,” Tarasov said.

When asked what the next Kalashnikov will look like, Tarasov said: “I will not disclose that, but I’ll give you a hint: We like modern and even futuristic design, we opt for ergonomic solutions.”

Agnes Helou was a Middle East correspondent for Defense News. Her interests include missile defense, cybersecurity, the interoperability of weapons systems and strategic issues in the Middle East and Gulf region.

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