India-Russia to ink assault rifle deal
March 2, 2021 - A contract between the Indian government, Russia’s Kalashnikov Concern and Rosoboronexport could see a $766.5 million order for 750,000 AK-203 assault rifles -- with most to be produced in India.
The AK-203 will replace the Indian Small Arms System (INSAS) assault rifle, the standard infantry weapon of the Indian Armed Forces. The 5.56 calibre INSAS has been in use since 1996 but is dogged by reliability issues such as jamming and overheating. Plastic magazines are known to crack in the cold of the Himalayas.
India’s Ordnance Factory Board will hold a majority stake of 50.5 per cent of the joint venture Indo-Russia Rifles Private Limited. The Kalashnikov Group will have a 42 per cent share, and state-owned Rosoboronexport will own the remaining 7.5 per cent.
The Korwa Ordnance Factory in Uttar Pradesh, which was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi last year, will build the 7.62×39mm AK-203.
The rifle will cost around US$1,022 (Rs 75,000), including technology transfer and licensing. Last year, the army purchased 72,000 rifles from U.S. gun-maker SIG Sauer under a fast-track process. According to The Economic Times of India, the unit cost of the American-made assault rifle was around $1,218 (Rs 89,000).
The indigenously produced AK-203 features an ergonomic pistol grip that perfectly imitates the user’s hand. Universal Picatinny rails enable mounting infrared and night vision devices, laser sights, etc. An Indian-made 40mm grenade launcher can fit under the barrel.
Army chief General Manoj Mukund Naravane recently said that the final contract with Russia is to be signed soon.