'Kalashnikov didn't care about making money out of AK-47'
"Father" of the world’s most popular weapon, the AK-47, Mikhail Kalashnikov died in Russia on Monday (December 23) aged 94.
RT:You met Mikhail Kalashnikov. What was your impression of him?
Igor Khokhlov: I met him at an exhibition a few years ago and the first impression I got from him was that he is a very young man. There was no feeling that that you are talking to a man so much older and more experienced than you. His mind was very agile, eager to accept any kind of new information and his manner of speaking and his manner of dealing with his colleagues was most impressive.
RT:Did he talk much about what he invented the positive and negative aspects of what he invented?
IK: The first thing that has to be mentioned in this respect is that the AK-47 was a revolution in the way infantry fights. He was the first person; he was a visionary who was able to understand that the combination of intermediate cartridge and assault rifle that’s giving awesome power fire to a person who is an infantry man, that was really the revolution. You see those experiments in Germany in the war, but the Americans, for example, they examined German experiments and they decided this is not a future of warfare. And Mikhail Kalashnikov was able to understand, given his experience in World War II, the future of this weapon.
RT:Without being too technical, what's so special about it? What did he create that it lasted so long?
IK: The basic idea during World War II was heavy machine guns that were actually used for stopping large masses of infantry and put in a small and compact submachine gun. So the idea of Mikhail Kalashnikov was to use intermediate cartridge almost as powerful as a machine gun cartridge, but giving this kind of fighting device to an infantryman and that’s actually revolutionizes warfare.
RT:But that’s still a rifle that could shoot multiple rounds, so it still had the same sort of effects as a machine gun?
IK: Actually yes. The idea of an assault rifle is having a machine gun but just lighter, more compact and that every infantryman can use. That gave attacking infantry awesome fire power, that’s why his assault rifle became so popular all over the world. It’s easy, it’s highly reliable and it has quite a lot of technical innovations. For example by shooting this assault rifle the hot gases that escape the machine, they remove all the dust, so it can shoot almost in any condition – under water, in dust, anywhere. That was one of the most important features of this assault rifle.
RT:It sound as if one couldn’t develop anything better these days. But we are in a high-tech era right now, so will Kalashnikov’s assault rifle continue to dominate?
IK: Kalashnikov is going to continue to dominate for decades. Now Russia is developing a new generation of personal infantry arms but based on Kalashnikov’s design. They have improved accuracy, they use more plastic, they use better metal technology but still the basic design is not changing.
RT:He invented this to defend the Soviet Union but it was used in other ways as well: child soldiers, terrorists and ironically by the mujahedeen against the Soviet soldiers in Afghanistan. Do you think it was a burden for him to bear with how it was used?
IK: I know that he was asked this question many times. His idea was that the inventor is not responsible for the way his invention is used. He created this device to protect his own country and the device has been so successful that no other design has been able to match it.
RT:Do you think he regretted not making much money out of this?
IK: I don’t think so. He was a very modest person. That’s a Soviet kind of engineer. My grandfather also was an engineer, also working in the arms industry all his life. Such people didn’t care about money themselves; they were protecting their nation, saving the lives of their compatriots, that was their basic occupation. You can see from documentaries about Mikhail Kalashnikov, he lived a very, very modest life.
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