Ukraine crisis delays Ak-203 assault rifle deal with Russia

Retrials with ammunition from original equipment manufacturer have been delayed by at least 3-4 months

March 13, 2022 07:52 pm | Updated 09:16 pm IST - NEW DELHI:

A model poses with Russian AK-203 automatic assault rifle at World Defense Show in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, March 6, 2022. File

A model poses with Russian AK-203 automatic assault rifle at World Defense Show in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, March 6, 2022. File | Photo Credit: Reuters

Due to the ongoing crisis in Ukraine, implementation of the deal for 6.1 lakh Ak-203 assault rifles signed with Russia last July has been delayed by at least few months, according to defence sources.

As part of pre-production activities, retrials were scheduled to be done with ammunition from the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) in Russia in the first half of February, two defence sources independently said. But due to the current situation they have been delayed by at least 3-4 months, one of the sources stated.

While the production activities are on, manufacturing of rifles will start after the trials, it has been learnt.

As reported by The Hindu earlier, with repeated delays in the deals for procurement of Ak-203 assault rifles, last August India had signed a deal for 70,000 Ak-103 assault tickets to be procured off the shelf. The delivery of these rifles has been completed, officials said.

In another small arms deal, the repeat order for 72,400 SIG-716 assault rifles from Sig Sauer is delayed and more than two officials, on condition of anonymity, said it is likely to be dropped.

In December, Alexander Mikheev, Director General of Rosoboronexport, said manufacturing of the AK-203 rifles at the plant in Uttar Pradesh was likely to begin within few months and reach full scale production within 2-3 years. Over 6.1 lakh Ak-203 assault rifles costing over ₹5,000 crore will be manufactured by a Joint Venture, Indo-Russian Rifles Private Ltd (IRRPL), at Korwa, Amethi in Uttar Pradesh. IRRPL was set up jointly between with erstwhile OFB [now Advanced Weapons and Equipment India Limited (AWEIL) and Munitions India Limited (MIL)] of India and Rosoboronexport (RoE) and Kalashnikov of Russia.

Increase in localisation

As part of this, the first 70,000 AK-203 rifles will be produced in India with a phased increase in the extent of localisation from 5% to 70%. The rest of the rifles will be produced with 100% localisation.

A modern production line has been established and a small arms range has been set up where both factory and acceptance tests of assault rifles will be carried out.

Under a ₹700-crore deal in February 2019 with Sig Sauer of the U.S., the Defence Ministry procured 72,400 SIG-716 assault rifles through Fast Track Procurement (FTP), most of which were for the Army and have been provided to frontline troops involved in counter-insurgency operations.

The deal is in the Request For Proposal (RFP) stage and went for approval from the Competent Financial Authority (CFA) on February 22, one of the sources cited above said.

However, there is a push for foreclosure of the case given on the emphasis for boosting domestic industry, the source added.

The first lot of 72,400 SIG-716 assault rifles have long been inducted by the Army.

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