The Indian defense ministry has approved an approximately $671 million deal with Russia to locally manufacture 750,000 AK-203 assault rifles for the Indian Army, Asian News Agency revealed, citing sources.
The Defense Acquisition Council “cleared all deviations in the deal,” bringing its cost down, The Print added.
According to the outlet, formal negotiations began in 2018, leading to an understanding concerning cost and supply two years later. A formal signing of the deal is expected during Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to India next month.
The deal will see the first 70,000 7.62×39 mm Kalashnikov rifles coming directly from Russia, with the remainder being manufactured at a facility in Uttar Pradesh’s Amethi district.
The arms plant was created in 2019 as part of an Indo-Russian joint enterprise known as Indo-Russian Rifles Private Limited. The government-owned Indian Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) has a 50.5 percent stake in the joint venture, while Kalashnikov and Rosoboronexport have 42 percent and 7.5 percent stakes, respectively, according to The Print.
The outlet explained that the lengthy negotiations resulted in Russia giving up royalty rights on each rifle manufactured in India but securing the right to be paid for technology transfer. The outlet attributed the main reason for the project’s delayed start to the OFB’s higher rifle quotation than “what a direct import from Russia would have cost.”
The delayed start of the project forced the army to order a batch of 72,000 SiG716 rifles from the US to attend to a pressing need. The military has ordered the same number of rifles this year.
The AK-203 is slated to replace India’s indigenously developed Insas 5.56×45mm rifles. The AK-203 is the latest iteration of the AK series of assault rifles and is the modernized variant of the AK-103 rifle.
The 3.8-kg (8.3-lb) rifle can fire 700 rounds/min at a range of 500–800 meters (1,640-2,625 feet) and a magazine capacity of 30 rounds.