India and Russia recently finalized a deal for immediate “off-the-shelf procurement” of 70,000 new 7.62×39mm AK 203 rifles, according to a report by ThePrint, citing sources from the Indian defense industry.
The new rifles will replace the 5.56×45mm Indian Small Arms System that the army, navy, and air force currently use.
According to sources, the decision to buy the Russian-made AK rifles came due to a rifle production delay in India. The original plan was for India to buy 20,000 of the rifles and jointly manufacture the rest locally.
The weapons are expected to arrive in India beginning in November.
Further Projects Ahead
ThePrint further reported that indigenous production of AK-203 rifles by Indo-Russia Rifles Pvt. Ltd. is also expected to begin soon.
The production deal is said to be a joint venture among the Ordnance Factory Board, the Kalashnikov Concern, and Rosoboronexport, the Russian state agency for military exports.
This deal was initially announced in 2018. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the production facility at the Korwa Ordnance Factory in Uttar Pradesh’s Amethi district in March 2019.
Since then, the project has experienced several production delays. The contract was expected to be finalized in 2020, with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to the country planned that year. However, the visit was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.