Denel PMP’s innovative Inkunzi Strike 20 mm automatic weapon is almost ready for production, with qualification currently underway. The semi-automatic Inkunzi Personal Area Weapon (PAW) is already in series production.
Design work on the Inkunzi Strike has been completed and Denel Pretoria Metal Pressings (PMP) has built three weapons for qualifications. One of these has been integrated onto the Denel Self Defence Remotely Operated Weapon (SDROW) turret. It can also be fitted onto the Meerkat retractable weapon station. This makes the turret a lot more viable, as it can accommodate more effective weapons. It also offers greater firepower in a small package, as the Inkunzi Strike has a little more recoil than a 7.62 mm machinegun but less than a 12.7 mm but with the firepower of a 20 mm weapon.
Carel van der Merwe, Executive Manager, R&D and Innovation at PMP, told defenceWeb that qualification of the Inkunzi Strike should be completed by the end of the financial year, with production to start in 2019. The company is also open to collaboration on production, such as in customer countries.
Van der Merwe said there has been a lot of interest in the Inkunzi Strike, particularly from potential customers looking at integrating the weapon onto helicopters. The weapon’s light weight, compact dimensions and significant firepower make it ideally suitable for such an aerial application.
Van der Merwe said potential customers have been pushing PMP to finish Inkunzi Strike development. In fact, there has been more interest in the automatic version than the original Inkunzi as the Strike has applications on aircraft, vehicles and other platforms and not just as an infantry weapon.
The Inkunzi Strike is a recoil-operated belt-fed weapon able to fire at a rate of 350 rounds per minute. It can either be fed from a cradle-mounted box or a static box with a flexible feed chute from the left side, with links ejecting to the right and spent rounds through the bottom. Lighter than a Browning machinegun at 13 kg and only 85 cm long, it can be vehicle or tripod mounted. It uses standard 50-round length DShK or ten-round length NSV-type links – as a round is pulled into the weapon, it is delinked. A mechanism in the feed system holds the last round securely in place so that when the feed cover is opened, the round does not come loose and fall out.
To ensure that no live round is present in a heated barrel chamber the Inkunzi Strike is designed to operate from an open bolt system, preventing any possibility of a cook-off occurring. Stripping and access to the mechanism is possible without the use of any tools. As the Inkunzi Strike fires from an open bolt, it has a safety lever on the left side of the weapon that prevents any accidental firing while unloading or clearing the weapon.
One of the Inkunzi Strike’s key attributes is that it offers a lot of firepower in a small package – three Inkunzi rounds occupy the same volume as one 40 mm grenade.
The weapon is just 85 cm long (the barrel is 35.5 cm long), with a width of 12 cm and height of 14.5 cm. Official range for the Inkunzi Strike is 600-1000 metres, but in area suppression mode the weapon can hit targets out to 1 500 metres. Muzzle velocity is a relatively brisk 310 m/s. Compared to a 40 mm grenade launcher, the Inkunzi has far greater range and accuracy – typical range for a medium velocity 40 mm grenade is 800 metres, in comparison.
The Inkunzi Strike uses a hammer forged rifled barrel that is chromed for greater durability – as the weapon is recoil operated, fouling occurs in the barrel only, making cleaning and maintenance simple. Firing is by a push trigger at the back of the weapon, in the centre of two vertical grips. One of the innovative features on the Inkunzi Strike is that the barrel can be quickly and easily removed from the rear of the weapon, making it easy to change or service from inside a vehicle or covered position.
The Inkunzi Strike was developed after the Inkunzi PAW by Tony Neophytou, of NTW fame. The first Inkunzi Strike was developed using the 12.7×76 mm round, but the 20×42 mm was settled on in the end so that both the Inkunzi PAW and Strike use the same ammunition. Neophytou estimates one 20×42 mm round is equivalent to 30 5.56 mm rounds in delivered payload. “This is a 20 mm capability for the price of a machinegun,” Neophytou said.
Unlike the Inkunzi Strike, the PAW fires from a closed bolt design. The entire receiver recoils within its housing to decrease recoil, making it easy for an infantryman to use and providing him with an anti-material and area capability that is similar to a larger 20 mm cannon or a 40 mm grenade launcher. It is this flexibility and versatility that makes the Inkunzi so unique. Added to this is a wide range of ammunition designed for the weapon, which includes high-explosive incendiary (HE-I), semi-armour-piercing high-explosive incendiary (SAPHEI), practice and practice tracer rounds.
On the PAW there are two picatinny rails: the main one for the sight, and a secondary rail for accessories such as torches.
The original version held four rounds in a conventional box magazine, but the latest Inkunzi PAW A3 holds six rounds in a rotary magazine (plus one in the chamber) for improved balance and efficiency. The new version also replaces the gas operated recoil system with a new inertia-operating system. Various small improvements have been made to the design, with the latest A3 model having some minor cosmetic changes such as a new dust cover and captive recoil spring.
Production of the Inkunzi PAW is progressing well. In 2015 PMP began production of the Inkunzi PAW for its first international client, with a second in the Middle East ordering the weapon. So far 60 have been built, but two new orders will see another 200 manufactured, with the possibility of over 100 more.
Nothing else like it?
The Inkunzi PAW and Inkunzi Strike are unique weapons and there is little else like them on the market. China has produced the QLB-06/QLZ-87B 35×32 mm semi-automatic grenade launcher, which was first unveiled in 2006 but this is a much heavier weapon (around 12 kg). The weapon has an effective range of 600 to 1 000 metres. Ammunition includes HE, HE-DP, HE-I and practice rounds.
Another similar weapon is the American XM25 Counter-Defilade Target Engagement System (CTDE), a semi-automatic 25×40 mm grenade launcher whose rounds explodes above or near a target. As such it is designed for use almost exclusively against protected or dug in targets. The US Army has evaluated the system and is pushing to adopt it, but the weapon has proven to be expensive and complicated.
Ukraine, meanwhile, has developed the RGSh-30, a 30 mm handheld automatic grenade launcher that was designed by Precision Systems. It fires five 30×29 mm grenades out to an apparent effective range of 1 600 metres.
Nevertheless, the Inkunzi weapons remain in their own class and have generated a lot of attention, with the round also being adopted by other designs. For example, in September 2016 South African sniper rifle specialist Truvelo unveiled its new CMS 20×42 anti-material rifle using the Inkunzi round. Describing it as a game changer, Truvelo said the weapon has better characteristics and a flatter trajectory than low or medium velocity 40 mm grenade launchers. Truvelo’s bolt action weapon is quite compact (98 cm long or 70 cm folded) and weights 11.5 kg including scope and five round magazine. The company claims accuracy of more than 2 minute of angle (MOA) at 500 metres.
The Inkunzi Strike will be on display at the Africa Aerospace and Defence (AAD) exhibition in Pretoria in September.