Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had inaugurated a Kalashnikov plant in the Indian town of Amethi in the northeastern province of Uttar Pradesh. It set to produce at least 750,000 of AK-203s for the army locally, as the Indian forces are planning to steadily phase out their aging INSAS assault rifles which are rife with multitudes of complaints from the soldiers in the field thus address India’s struggle to modernize its Army’s small arms.
Modi thanked Russian President Vladimir Putin whom he credited with setting up the factory in a very short time. The Russian leader, in turn, in a statement stated that producing the rifles on Indian soil will give a boost to the local defense industry, develop know-how and create new jobs.
The compound, under the name Indo-Russian Private Limited (IRPL) will be jointly run by India’s Ordnance Factory Board (OAB) and Russia’s Kalashnikov Concern, will manufacture AK-203 7.62 mm rifles along with the state-owned Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) facility in Korwa, which is located about 680 km southeast of New Delhi. This follows an inter-governmental agreement (IGA) signed between New Delhi and Moscow in late February of this year, in which it was determined that the OFB would own a majority stake of 50.5 % in IRPL. The Kalashnikov Concern would have a 42 % share while Russia's state-owned export agency, Rosoboronexport, would own the remaining 7.5%.
About 40,000 AK-203 rifles will be directly imported for the Indian Army over the next few months in order to address urgent operational requirements, following which the factories are expected to manufacture 70,000 units per year until the entire contract is completed under New Delhi's 'Make in India' initiative. Initially this involves the assembly of each rifle from knocked-down kits and then gradually localize components and sub-assembles to further indigenize production. Regardless of the swiftness in inaugurating the venture, the price of each rifle, which will also include the cost of technology transfer and of setting up the manufacturing unit, has not yet been finalized.
The AK-203 is based on AK-100 series (AK-103, AK-104) assault rifles which, in turn, inherited many properties of the older AK-74 version and also from the testbed AEK-971. While muzzle velocity and reliability largely remained the same, its accuracy and ergonomics improved dramatically. The AK-203 features a folding adjustable buttstock, ergonomic pistol grip, and Picatinny rails allowing for mounting an optical scope, a tactical flashlight or laser sight and other accessories. The rifle is currently in use with Russian Spetsnaz.
This development comes after India’s recent confirmation of a deal with SIG Sauer for over 70,000 7.62x51mm SIG716s and a swift purchase of 6,000 sniper rifles from Barrett and Beretta for deployment in the LOC. They are also reported a deal for procuring 95,000 5.56mm CQB Carbines from the UAE based manufacturer Caracal to address urgent operational requirements. [Gulf News, RT]