The RPK is a light machine gun that was first brought in to service by the Soviet Army in 1959. RPK stands for the “Ruchnoi Pulemet Kalashnikova” or literally “hand machine gun Kalashnikov.” The RPK is based on the AK assault rifle model. It is the Russian equivalent of a squad automatic weapon(SAW) used in the United States military. A counterpart used by the U.S. marines is the M-249 machine gun.

The gun itself looks much like an oversized AK-47. The RPK is usually feed with a banana clip that is substantially longer than that of the AK series due to the massive number of bullets that the RPK ejects. Even so, AK and RPK clips are interchangeable, making Russian squads incredibly versatile. Some parts were strengthened to ensure a longer operational life. The RPK also differs from the AK series in that is has a sheet metal receiver, a longer heavier barrel with a permanently attached bipod, and a windage adjustable sight that can target objects 900 meters away.

Originally produced by the U.S.S.R., there have been variations of the RPK’s produced first by North Vietnam and then by Bulgaria. The Chinese also built a similar SAW on their AKM receiver. In most cases, the RPK’s maximum range is 2,500 meters and its effective range is 800 meters.

Since its introduction, the RPK has become a very popular weapon in virtually all of the world’s conflicts. It often serves alongside its well-known cousin, the AK-47, when more firepower is needed. The weapon has also found a home with terrorists and was used prominently by both the Taleban as well as the Northern Alliance.
Abbreviation for "revenue passenger kilometer," it is one of the benchmarks for measuring the size of airlines. If an airline flies a plane carrying 100 paying passengers 1,000 kilometers, that flight would count for 100,000 RPK's toward the airline's total. Deadheading crewmembers, standby passengers, and the like do not count toward the total. Empty seats also do not count toward the total.

The RPK is the preferred way of measuring an airline's size over simple passenger carriage or fleet size figures, because:

  1. It distinguishes between airlines with large and small route networks. British Airways, for instance, doesn't carry as many passengers as US Airways or All Nippon Airways, but is clearly a larger airline in scope and would turn over more RPK's in a year.
  2. As a corollary to the above, it better approximates how much money an airline makes and spends in its operations, because larger aircraft on longer routes make, and cost, more money.
In terms of RPK's, the top 10 airlines in the world are:

  1. United Airlines
  2. American Airlines
  3. Delta Airlines
  4. Northwest Airlines
  5. British Airways
  6. Continental Airlines
  7. Air France
  8. Lufthansa
  9. Japan Airlines
  10. US Airways
The ASK is sometimes used for the same purpose, but is considered a less reliable statistic. The FTK is used to rank cargo carriers.

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