Russia's fortress of defense manufacturing

Explore the motherland of the famous Kalashnikov assault rifle - the town of Izhevsk – with RT’s Close-Up team.

­Izhevsk is the capital of the Republic of Udmurtia, located in the Western Urals area of Central Russia.

Formerly an engineering town and a closed city during Soviet times, all kinds of metalwork has been done in Izhevsk, especially the manufacture of machinery and weaponry.

It is also where Mikhail Kalashnikov designed his famed AK. The Kalashnikov assault rifle is sometimes called the ultimate firearm that changed the world.

It was developed soon after the end of World War II by Mikhail Kalashnikov, an engineer at the Izhmash weapons factory.

“It was created with the experience of war in mind, with consideration for all the requirements for a firearm, which were in place during the war,” Izhmash engineer Vladimir reported. “Today, our customers demand new qualities from the assault rifle… they want a combination of a sniper and a stub-barreled weapon – a rifle that will have high accuracy, yet be easy to carry and use.”

The AK-47 has few moving parts – so it does not jam.

Resistant to cold, heat, rain and snow, it can lie buried in sand for years, and still be ready to use – if you just clean it up a bit.

In the central Russian republic of Udmurtia, as in the rest of the country, members of the special operations unit of the Ministry of Internal Affairs rely almost exclusively on Kalashnikovs. Many of them used the AK in anti-terror operations in Chechnya.

Sergey, officer of the special operations unit shared that, “When you're in combat, it's very important that a rifle be easy to use and care for, especially in the Caucasus. I'd say it's the best weapon there is, and deserves very high praise.”

But Izhevsk is not just the city that produces the world's most popular weapon. It is also a stronghold of defense manufacturing and innovative technologies.

Izhevsk-based Zala Aero is the leading producer of unmanned aerial vehicles in Russia.

Because they are hard to spot, easy to use, and can fly over places where a human cannot or should not set foot, Russia's Ministries of Defense and Emergencies, and Antiterrorist Center are some of Zala Aero's most prominent customers.

“I think Izhevsk is unique. I mean when you live next door to Mr. Kalashnikov, like I do, then you have this drive in your life to make it big,” confesses Nikita Zakharov, Managing Director of Zala Aero. “Our company's trying to make it big. We started here, because the main engineers, the main thinking block is here.”