Home > Firearms > Vektor SS77

Vektor SS77

General purpose machine gun

Vektor SS77

South Africa's SS-77 machine gun is a viable third party alternative to more common Western Bloc and Eastern Bloc equivalents

 
 
Country of origin South Africa
Entered service 1986
Caliber 7.62x51 mm
Weight (unloaded) 9.6 kg
Length (stock extended) 1 155 mm
Length (stock folded) 940 mm
Barrel length (without flash hider) 550 mm
Muzzle velocity 840 m/s
Cyclic rate of fire 600 or 800 rpm
Practical rate of fire ~ 250 rpm
Magazine capacity 100-round belt
Sighting range 800 / 1 800 m
Range of effective fire ~ 1 200 m

 

   The SS77 is an indigenously designed and built South African general purpose machine gun. It was originally a product of Lyttleton Engineering Works (LIW), then later the Vektor company, which is now a member of the Denel Group. While it more closely resembles the Belgian FN MAG machine gun, the SS77 is in fact an offshoot of the R4 assault rifle. It had a relatively rocky genesis, but the SS77 is now regarded by many experts as one of the best machine guns in service.

   A product of the Apartheid Era, this machine gun was created at a time when South Africa was on the brink of war with its neighbors, and the UN enforced a strict arms embargo on that nation. It was designed in 1977 by Colonel Richard Joseph Smith and Lazlo Soregi (hence its designation of "SS77"), in response to a requirement by the South African government for a weapon that could be developed and produced locally, without any foreign assistance.

   While the SS77 is a well-regarded weapon today, it was plagued with mechanical problems in its early years. Not only does this explain why a South African infantry weapon designed in 1977 didn't enter service until 1986, but serious issues remained, and the entire production run had to be systematically rebuilt through 1990. These problems were found to have a common root. The original rate of fire was too high for the weapon to withstand, at 900 rpm, and so the rate of fire was reduced to 800 rpm. The SS77s used by South African National Defense Force (SANDF) were also further upgraded in later years, an effort completed in 2003, and additional modernizations took place later in 2006, under the innocuous title of "Project Pigeon".

   The overall layout of the SS77 is conspicuously similar to the Soviet PK. The skeleton buttstock is similar to that of the PK machine gun, with a large hollow space, and a top strut that's thinner than the bottom strut. The pistol grip is similar to that used in the R4 assault rifle, but the trigger is much broader, and has a more angular guard, in front of which is a right triangle shaped device that underhangs the receiver. A small cylindrical extension protrudes behind the underbody of the receiver, just above the pistol grip.

   The receiver itself is largely rectangular in shape, though with a number of distinguishing features. The front of the receiver curves down, it isn't actually level with the barrel. The gas tube is about two-thirds the length of the barrel, and it mounted on the underside, and terminates in a bracket that connects the two. The bipod mount located on the underside of the gas tube, and sports a spaded bipod that folds backward when not in use. The forward receiver cover is broader than the rest of the assembly, and is boxy and square in shape, and offset to the left; there is a hinged dust cover on each side of it. The foregrip is rectangular, ridged, and held together around the gas tube by a single central screw.

   An L-shaped carrying handle is located on the barrel shroud in front of the receiver, which has a round grip and is tilted to the right side. The barrel shroud is rounded, in a steeply-tapering conical shape, and it sometimes fluted to reduce weight. A cylindrical muzzle brake is fitted to the end of the barrel, with three narrow, slot-like baffles. The sights are similar to those on the R4 assault rifle, with a low rectangular rear sight atop the rear receiver cover, and a tall and tapered front sight bracketed atop the front of the barrel. Eyes for sling swivels are located on the forward upper side of the buttstock, and the front of the foregrip under the gas tube. SS77s are usually colored in a non-lustrous black or dark grey overall, but other finishes are offered.

   The buttstock of the SS77 is similar to that used on the R4 assault rifle or PK machine gun, may be folded over the side of the weapon. The stock can also be removed from the weapon, and can be replaced with a spade grip for firing from a vehicle or tripod, or a solenoid for remote firing. The entire weapon can also be field-stripped quickly, without using any tools.

   The folding stock, pistol grip, and foregrip of the SS77 are all made of polymer, but the rest of the weapon is made of steel.

   The SS77 is gas operated and piston actuated with a rotating bolt, much like the R4 assault rifle (and by extension, the Galil, AKM, and AK-47), and fires from an open bolt with positive side-locking. A transverse tilting block is used as the locking system. Following the aforementioned late 1980s rebuild, the SS77's action includes a gas regulator. It allows the cyclical rate of fire to be selected, from 600 rpm to 800 rpm.

   A quick change barrel allows the SS77 to be re-barreled quickly during a firefight, following protracted cyclical automatic fire. It weighs 2.5 kg, is chromium-plated along its entire bore, and can reputedly endure a startling 600 rounds of cyclical fully automatic fire before a barrel change is required. Most machine guns in this class have barrels that can only endure a sixth as much punishment. The barrel is also has longitudinal external fluting, in order to reduce its overall weight and improve cooling. The SS77 uses conventional groove-and-land rifling, using a 1 in 305 mm right-hand twist with 4 grooves.

   Ammunition is fed into the weapon by a 100-round belt. The belt is fed into the left side of the receiver, and ejected along with spent casings through the right side. Both disintegrating and non-disintegrating belts may be used with the SS77, but it cannot cycle a cloth belt. South African Defense Force (later South African National Defense Force) SS77s typically feed ammunition using an R1M1 disintegrating link belt, though DM1 and M13 belts are also compatible. The belt may also be further contained in a dust-proof nylon pouch with a 100-round capacity, or a waterproof and rigid box with a 200-round capacity. Dust covers over the feed cover and ejection slot provide further protection against moisture and foreign matter. The SS-77's receiver will not accept a rifle magazine (as with the M249 SAW and STANAG magazines).

   The front sight is a U-shaped fixture, while the rear sight is an open leaf-type, both of which are illuminated with tritium lights for use in low light levels. The basic sighting arrangement has ranges graduated from 20 m to 800 m in the horizontal position, and 800 m to 1 800 m in the vertical position.

   The rifle-style skeleton buttstock is made of solid nylon, and may be folded over the weapon's side when not in use. The SS77 is fitted with an adjustable bipod, though this can be removed. It may also be fired from a pintle, skate, or tripod.

   The SS77 may be operated by a single user if necessary, but in practice it is operated by a specially trained 2-man weapon team, consisting of a gunner and a loader. The gunner actually operates the weapon itself once emplaced, while the loader feeds ammunition, helps replace expended barrels and correct malfunctions, and spots targets or relays orders to the gunner. While the weapon is being transported, it is carried by the gunner, while ammunition, replacement barrels, and other equipment are carried by the loader.

   Little has been published concerning the SS77's use in combat, save that it was used in the last few years of the South African Border War. Several of the nations using the SS77 have been involved in armed conflicts during the weapon's tenure with their armed forces, but little else has been reported.

   The SS77 has been something of a dark horse on the international arms market. It was operated exclusively by South Africa for many years in spite of aggressive marketing (probably due to the aforementioned mechanical problems), but it has gradually caught-on abroad, despite the market being crowded by the likes of the FN MAG and the PKM. By 2017, the SS77 has been procured by Colombia, Kenya, Kuwait, Malaysia, the Philippines, Romania, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, and South Africa, and remains in service with all of these nations.

   Denel continues to actively market the SS77, and its assembly line remains open, awaiting any additional orders in the foreseeable future. The unit cost for a new SS77 is approximately $2 000.

 

Variants

 

   SS77: Basic production model, as described above.

   SS77 Compact: A lighter and shorter version of the SS77, developed with an eye toward greater portability. It is 80 mm shorter, its weight has been reduced to 9.3 kg, and the bipod has been replaced with a grip-pod. Sight rails have been fitted as well, allowing the SS77 Compact to mount telescopic sights.

   Mini SS: 5.56 mm version of the SS77, typically used as a squad automatic weapon. Interestingly, it is a direct conversion of the SS77, rather than a scaled-down version, so it shares many common components.

   DMG-5: The DMG-5 is a second-generation SS77, with a more efficient layout, improved ergonomics, and compatibility with a wider range of accessories. It was first unveiled by Denel at the 2016 Africa Aerospace and Defence (AAD) exhibition, and is now actively marketed. As with the SS77, both 7.62x51 mm and 5.56x45 mm versions are offered.

   DMG-5 CX: This is a heavy barrel version of the DMG-5, for mounted use on vehicles and helicopters. It can be manually or remotely operated.

 

Similar Weapons

 

   FN MAG: This Belgian machine gun is one of the most famous and successful weapons of its type ever produced, and the SS77 was meant to replace it in SADF service. Although the SS77 is effectively no longer needed for this purpose, there would be little sense in going back at this point.

   PK and PKM: The PK is the Soviet counterpart of the SS77, and has a strikingly similar layout. However, the operating methods of the two weapons are similar only in being gas-operated and piston-actuated. The PK/PKM is also notable for being the primary battlefield rival of the SS77 during the last days of the South African Border War.

   MG3: Essentially a modernized MG42 re-chambered for 7.62x51 mm NATO, the Rheinmetall MG3 was the primary general-purpose machine gun of the Bundeswehr during the Cold War, and was adopted by numerous other nations. Like the early SS77s, the MG3 boasts a blistering rate of fire, although it also had a construction that allowed for this feat without reliability problems. While most modern general-purpose machine guns are gas-operated, the MG3 is recoil-operated.

   M60: The US counterpart to the SS77, it has a layout that owes a lot to the MG42, though it is gas-operated. While the M60 was a significant commercial success, it could never match the reliability or durability of its competitors, and most of its users have retired it. Interestingly, this includes the US military, who have adopted a variant of the FN MAG (the M240) as its replacement - the FN MAG having originally been rejected in favor of what became the M60.

   MG 710: This Swiss-made general-purpose machine gun was built for export, and was a modest commercial success. The MG 710 is very unusual among modern machine guns, as it is blowback-operated instead of being gas-operated.

   Type 62: The Sumitomo Type 62 was the first indigenous Japanese machine gun produced since the end of World War 2, and has many common design traits with the FN MAG and PK. It has only been operated by the Japan's Self-Defense Force, as it was never sold abroad due to Japan's political contentions over arms exports.

   AA-52: One of the oldest general-purpose machine guns still in use, the French AA-52 still has numerous operators. It has a more minimalist design than the SS77, and was produced in both 7.5x54 mm and 7.62x51 mm chamberings. Like the MG 710, the AA-52 is blowback-operated.

 

Blacktail

   Article by BLACKTAIL

   Want to publish your own articles? Visit our guidelines for more information.

 
Vektor SS77

Expand image

Vektor SS77

Expand image

Vektor SS77

Expand image

Vektor SS77

Expand image

Vektor SS77

Expand image
 
Vektor SS77

Expand image

Vektor SS77

Expand image

Vektor SS77

Expand image

Vektor SS77

Expand image

Vektor SS77

Expand image
 
Vektor SS77

Expand image

Vektor SS77 Compact

Expand image

Vektor SS77 Compact

Expand image

Vektor SS77 Compact

Expand image

Denel DMG-5

Expand image

Twin Vektor SS77 machine guns

Expand image

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Home  Home     Aircraft     Helicopters     Tanks     Armored Vehicles     Artillery     Trucks     Engineering Vehicles     Missiles     Naval Forces     Firearms     |     Contact Us
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

ARG 2006 - 2017
www.Military-Today.com Vektor SS77