The Indian Army has started receiving the Russian AK-203 assault rifles after the deal with Russia saw back-to-back delays, partly due to the war in Ukraine and payment delays. As many as 27,000 rifles have been handed over to the Army so far by the Indo-Russian joint venture established at Korwa in Uttar Pradesh, according to official sources.

“Everything is on track after initial delays, and 27,000 rifles have been given to the Army. Another 8,000 will be handed over in the next two weeks. Indigenisation level achieved is around 25%,” an official in the know said.

A source said that more than 10,000 rifles have been handed over to Units and additional ones are being inspected.

Under an over ₹5,000-crore contract signed in July 2021, over 6.1 lakh AK-203 assault rifles are to be manufactured in India with technology transfer from Russia, by a joint venture Indo-Russian Rifles Private Limited (IRRPL). The IRRPL was set up in 2019 between the erstwhile Ordnance Factory Board [now Advanced Weapons and Equipment India Limited (AWEIL) and Munitions India Limited (MIL)] from India and Rosoboronexport (RoE) and Kalashnikov concern of Russia.

As reported by The Hindu earlier, as per contractual terms, the first 70,000 rifles will be produced in India with a phased increase in the extent of localisation from 5% to 70%. The remaining rifles will be produced with 100% localisation. The full-scale production of the Ak-203 rifles is expected to be reached within 2-3 years.

‘Systematic Manner’

On the ongoing process of indigenisation, the source stated that it was being done in an “extremely systematic manner”. “So, the process will be slow. Even our initial timelines catered for two years for this process of 70% indigenous content,” the source said, adding, “We are aiming to achieve it before that.”

As reported earlier, in the backdrop of repeated delays in concluding the deal, India had procured and inducted 70,000 AK-103 assault rifles off the shelf under a deal signed in August 2021.

For a while, the Army has been looking to replace the indigenous INSAS (Indian National Small Arms System) rifles in use with a modern rifle. The Army has inducted 66,400 of the 72,400 SIG-716 assault rifles procured under a ₹700-crore deal in February 2019 with Sig Sauer of the U.S. which have been provided to frontline troops involved in counter-insurgency operations. The Ak-203 rifles were to meet the larger demand for assault rifles. However, as the deal conclusion got stuck over the issue of pricing, the Army decided to go for a repeat order of another 72,400 SIG-716 rifles.