Source : The Print
|Russian Ak-203 assault rifle, to be jointly manufactured in Uttar Pradesh for the Indian Army|
New Delhi: The Indian military’s much-awaited quest for modern assault rifles is finally coming to an end. India and Russia have begun the joint production of AK 203 rifles at a factory in Amethi, Uttar Pradesh.
“With the launch of series production of Kalashnikov AK-203 assault rifles, high-quality, convenient and modern small arms will begin to enter service in India’s defence and law enforcement agencies,” Sergey Chemezov, general director of Russia’s state-owned defence conglomerate Rostec said in a statement.
More than six lakh rifles are to be manufactured in India as part of a joint venture — Indo-Russia Rifles Private Limited — established between the Indian Ordnance Factory Board (OFB), Kalashnikov Concern, and Rosoboronexport, (both subsidiaries of the Rostec State Corporation).
While OFB has a 50.5 per cent stake in the joint venture, Kalashnikov has 42 per cent and Rosoboronexport 7.5 per cent.
According to the roadmap, an initial lot of 70,000 rifles are to be Made in India with lesser indigenous content. The first batch will consist of 5,000 rifles that are supposed to have only 5 per cent indigenous components. It will increase to 70 per cent when the initial lot of 70,000 is completed in 32 months, sources explained.
The idea is to have rifles made of 100 per cent indigenous components over a period of 128 months.
India and Russia had inked an agreement in December 2021 for procurement of 6,01,427 7.63x39mm AK 203 assault rifles through Korwa Ordnance Factory in Uttar Pradesh’s Amethi district, inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2019.
Alexander Mikheev, director general of Rosoboronexport, said the beginning of deliveries to the Indian Army is expected soon.
“In addition, the joint venture will be able to export its products to third countries,” he said.
Rostec’s statement also said that Russia and India will continue to implement military-technical cooperation projects.
“Their current and future programmes are maximally focused on technological cooperation, including on the basis of joint ventures, in the format of licensed production and joint R&D projects,” it added.
AK 203 deal was first announced in 2018
The AK 203 deal was first announced in 2018, but hit a roadblock over price negotiations, with OFB quoting a higher price than what a direct import from Russia would have cost.
The defence ministry had even constituted a committee to break this logjam.
The delay had forced the Army to order SiG 716 rifles from the US under a fast-tracked process to arm its frontline troops.
AK 203 will replace INSAS
The new rifles will replace the 5.56×45 mm INSAS (Indian Small Arms System), which has been in use for over two decades.
Compared to the AK-103, which was originally meant for joint production, the AK-203 comes with collapsible stock that can be adjusted according to a shooter’s height.
The AK 203 also has a different safety mechanism that enables a soldier not to lose contact with the grip when changing firing modes during an operation. It also has a new flash hider that comes handy when the assault rifle is used with night vision, since muzzle flash from a bullet can hamper visibility.
The rifle comes with a new barrel and also an interchangeable magazine with the standard 30 and 50 rounds.
The AK 47 magazine can be used with the AK 203. The Indo-Russia Rifles Private Limited is headed by Major General Sanjeev Sengar, who is the firm’s CEO. The decision to appoint a serving Major General as the Amethi factory’s CEO is a first in decades for the Army.