India and Russia today concluded a Rs 5,100-crore deal for the joint production of more than 6 lakh AK-203 assault rifles at a facility in the Amethi district of Uttar Pradesh.
After the Cabinet Committee on Security gave the final approval for a deal with Russia to manufacture over 6 lakh AK-203 assault rifles in India on 4 December, the deal was finalised at a bilateral meeting between Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and his Russian counterpart Sergey Shoigu.
The AK-203 rifle manufacturing unit to come up in BJP MP Smriti Irani’s constituency will make 7.62×39 mm calibre guns to replace the INSAS rifles that have been in service for over 30 years.
The modern version of the Russian-origin rifle has an effective range of 300 m, which is the length of more than three football fields one after another.
The AK-203 is lightweight and robust.
This assault rifle fires the much larger 7.62 mm rounds that have better penetrating power, while similar rifles with less stopping power fire the smaller 5.56 mm rounds.
These AK-203 rifles fire 600 rounds a minute.
The modern technology used in the new rifles will enable them to use hi-tech add-ons like special sights and grips, useful for special forces missions.
The union government approved a plan to produce these AK-203 assault rifles at Korwa and the production will start soon, the Uttar Pradesh government in a statement last Saturday.
The AK-203 rifles will be manufactured under a joint venture called Indo-Russian Rifles Private Limited. It was formed by Advanced Weapons and Equipment India Limited and Munitions India Limited and Russia’s Rosoboronexport and Kalashnikov.
The project is a joint venture with the Russian government under the ‘Make in India’ initiative of the Narendra Modi government.
Need for AK-203, Amethi project
The factory is a joint venture between three companies. The Ordnance Factory Board owns the controlling stakes of 50.5% while Kalashnikov owns a 42% stake followed by a 7.5% stake owned by Rosoboronexport. An Indian CEO from the Indian Army leads the company. The Army has appointed Major General Sanjeev Sengar as the Chief Executive Officer.
The INSAS was initially built with features borrowed from several different rifles and was not made to meet the specific requirements of the Indian security forces. This amalgamated design while serving the Army for over 30 years, has started to fall behind the needs of modern warfare. In recent years the rifle has come under increasing scrutiny, with several issues, surfacing from frontline forces that have inhibited operational capabilities. For example, the plastic magazine of the rifle has repeatedly cracked under cold weather conditions and has reportedly even overheated during long battles leading to malfunctions, making it an unreliable choice for a standard-issue rifle.
Due to the repeated setbacks as stated above, in April 2015, the Indian government even had to replace some INSAS rifles of the CRPF with AKM variants to ensure greater success in the CRPF’s fight against Maoists. Therefore, owing to these failures and the changing needs of the armed forces, it was announced in early 2017 that the INSAS rifles would be retired and replaced by a weapon capable of firing the larger 7.62×51mm NATO cartridges.
As part of the replacement process, the new Kalashnikov rifle was to be made in a joint venture production facility located in Amethi, Uttar Pradesh. The factory manufactures the AK-203 variant of the Kalashnikov family of rifles, which along with the SIG716, manufactured by United States-based SIG Sauer will replace the INSAS rifles as well as the AK-47s. The first batch of 10,000 SIG Sauer rifles were delivered in December 2019.
The IRRPL has been licensed to produce 7,50,000 AK-203 assault rifles chambered for 7.62x39mm. The AK-203 is a modernised 200 series AK-103 variant and one of the modern derivatives of the Russian AK-Pattern series of assault rifles.
The 200 series are technically based on the AK-100 family and the more expensive AK-12 rifle family. The AK-203 is reported as the latest and most advanced version of the most abundant firearm in the world, the AK-47 assault rifle.
During the Defence Expo 2020 in Lucknow, Major General Sengar announced that the IRRPL facility in Amethi would produce 75,000 AK-203 annually for 10 years.
It was announced that 6,70,000 AK-203 rifles will be produced for the Indian military.