The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) has accorded its approval to manufacture the Russian AK-203 assault rifles in India. The production of AK-203 rifles is to begin in early 2022. Indo-Russian Rifles Private Limited, a JV, was created in March 2019, and a plant was established in Korwa, Amethi.
Kalashnikov Group of Companies stated in August “As the negotiating party responsible for the technical component of the project, we will be ready to start its implementation both in the delivery part and in the establishment of the technological process for the production of rifles in India.” The company said it will take a few months before the production begins.
The Russian concern Kalashnikov owns 42% of the shares of Indo-Russian Rifles Private Limited, another 7.5% belongs to Rosoboronexport, the controlling stake (50.5%) remains with India.
As per the open sources, the production of the rifles at the enterprise will be gradually localized up to 100% with subsequent export to other countries. One AK-203, produced in India, will cost about 70 thousand rupees, while assault rifles purchased in the United States will cost almost 90 thousand apiece.
The AK-203 assault rifle is meant to replace the Indian INSAS assault rifle.
Russia has agreed on the production of 750,000 automatic machines, mainly from Indian components.
The AK-203 rifles
Kalashnikov assault rifles of the 200 series are considered a simplified version of the AK-12 and AK-15 assault rifles used by the Russian army. AK-203 is designed for 7.62 × 39 mm calibre. It is possible to install the GP-34 under-barrel grenade launcher, a standard bayonet knife. The AK-203 assault rifle chambered for 7.62 x 39 mm in the version for India.
The 7.62-mm Kalashnikov AK-203 assault rifle has a foldable adjustable buttstock, an ergonomic pistol grip and an interpreter with a finger rest. The flame arrester also functions as a compensator. The receiver cover is hinged on the aiming bar block and is fixed with a special lock at the rear of the weapon. Picatinny rails are installed on the barrel pad and forend of the machine.
The total length of the AK-203 is from 890 to 950 mm, the barrel length is 415 mm. The magazine capacity is 30 rounds, the sighting range is 800 meters, the rate of fire is 700 rounds/min and the weight – about four kilograms. Currently, the machine is supplied to Russian special units.
On August 19, 2021, India signed a contract with the Russian side for the “immediate purchase” of 70 thousand ready-made Kalashnikov AK-203 assault rifles. This purchase is a modification of the 2018 India-Russia agreement providing for the establishment of a Russian-Indian joint venture Indo-Russia Rifles Ltd. for the production of Russian AK-203 assault rifles in India.
The project to organize the production of AK-203 assault rifles in India is the main part of an extensive long-term program of the Indian army to acquire 768 thousand automatic rifles of 7.62 mm calibre for the complete re-equipment of linear units – due to the termination of production of 5.56-mm automatic rifle INSAS of Indian design.
As an emergency measure under this program, the Indian army carried out in early 2019, an urgent purchase, of 72400 SIG Sauer SIG716 chambered for 7.62 x 51 mm rifles from the US. However, for the purchase of the remaining 695,600 weapons, the Indian Ministry of Defense considered the Russian AK-103 assault rifle (later AK-203) chambered for 7.62 x 39 mm as the preferred type.
In accordance with the Russian-Indian agreements, it was envisaged for India to directly purchase from Russia 20 thousand, later changed to 50 thousand, AK-203 assault rifles with the organization of production of another 645-650 thousand rifles at the joint Russian-Indian venture Indo-Russia Rifles Ltd., formed by the Indian state defense industrial association Ordnance Factory Board (OFB, share in the joint venture 50.5%) and Russian JSC Rosoboronexport and JSC Concern Kalashnikov (49.5%). The total deal was of the estimated value of up to 2.5 billion dollars.
The opening ceremony of the plant of the joint Russian-Indian venture Indo-Russia Rifles Ltd. for the production of AK-203 assault rifles took place on March 3, 2019, at the site of the OFB ammunition production facility under construction for a long time, but not fully commissioned.
However, despite the opening of a plant, the final contract for organizing the production of AK-203 assault rifles was not signed with the Russian side, due to disagreements on price issues and volumes of localization, as the Indian side insisted on achieving 100% localization within a year and a half from the beginning of the contract. Russia was unclear whether OFB itself would be able to provide such localization. At the same time, the price of the Indian-assembled AK-203 declared by the OFB to the Indian Ministry of Defense was significantly higher than the price of the finished AK-203 with direct import from Russia.
The contract is not yet signed and is expected to be signed in December during the visit of President Putin in India.