As said by officials on Sunday, in order to upgrade a small number of AK-47 assault rifles which are used by the Indian Army, a four-year-old Indian weapons company has emerged as the lowest bidder for a contract for the same, getting a toehold in the Indian small arms market along with beating off competition from an established Israeli rival.
Fab Defense which is an established entity in Israel producing tactical equipment and weapon accessories was edged out by the Bengaluru-based SSS Defence who is the one to upgrade the Kalashnikov rifles for the Indian Army. SSS Defence manufactures weapon accessories, small arms and ammunition.
Upgrades in AK-47
With more orders likely to follow, an initial lot of 24 AK-47 assault rifles shall be upgraded by the Indian firm that will be held by an army unit under the Jaipur-based South Western Command, said by an official.
Flash hider, handguards, dust cover, tactical flashlights and a variety of grips are covered by the retrofit system of SSS Defence’s AK-47 while the above-cited official says that these upgrades shall turn the AK-47 into a more lethal weapon and a little easier to work with.
The AK-47 retrofit systems have the capability of being used across all its platforms in service with the army including those of Polish Romanian, Bulgarian, Russian and Czech origin while these retrofit systems of AK-47 have successfully met the Army’s exacting requirements.
With regards to the domestic defence procurement, an amount of around ₹70,221 crores has been set aside by India this year, accounting for 63% of the military’s capital budget. Over ₹51,000 crore that constitutes 58% of the capital budget, was spent by the ministry in the previous year on domestic purchases.
All about the AK-47
Officially known as the Avtomat Kalashnikova, The AK-47 is a gas-operated assault rifle developed in the Soviet Union by Russian small-arms designer Mikhail Kalashnikov.
While the design work of the AK-47 had begun back in 1945, the number “47” particularly signifies the year in which the rifle was finished. In 1947, the rifle was presented for official military trials and a fixed-stock version was introduced into active service for selected units of the Soviet Army in 1948. The AK was officially accepted by the Soviet Armed Forces in early 1949 and was used by the majority of the member states of the Warsaw Pact.
According to a report, the AK-47 is a standard infantry weapon for over 106 countries and around 100 million of these AKs are estimated of a number of variations around the world. The AK-47 was designed to be fired, maintained and carried by anyone in the area who sought its services.
AK-47 became an attractive weapon for terrorist organizations, illegal paramilitary organizations and militias due to the worldwide availability and durability of the gun. The performance of the AK-47 remains uninterrupted in every environment. Even if the weapon falls into sand, mud, water or some other muck, it would still work the same way.
Early deals in AK-47
Back in 2020, the Hindustan Times released a report saying that a major deal for manufacturing AK-47 203 rifles in India has been finalised by India and Russia during the Defence Minister’s visit to Russia.
The report added that a requirement for around 770,000 AK-47 203 rifles is sought by the Indian Army, of which 100,000 will be imported while the remaining ones shall be manufactured in India itself.
On the other hand, no official confirmation was given by the Indian government on the finalisation of the deal.
As a part of the joint venture Indo-Russia Rifles Private Limited (IRRPL), the rifles were to be produced in India. The IRRPL was established between Kalashnikov Concern, Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) and Rosoboronexport.
Including the cost of setting up the manufacturing unit and technology transfer, the cost per rifle was expected to be approximately $1,100, as per the report.
It was reported by the Sputnik report that issues such as jamming along with magazine cracking at higher altitudes in the Himalayas were faced by the INSAS that have been in use since 1996.
The 2021 deal
Earlier this year in August, PTI reported that a sizable number of AK-103 series of assault rifles for the Indian Army is being procured by India from Russia, as part of the mega infantry modernisation programme. Under the provisions of emergency procurement, the deal was finalised.
That said, a large number of battle carbines, light machine guns, and assault rifles were being purchased by the Indian Army under the modernization plan to replace its ageing and obsolete weapons.
Citing two officials familiar with the matter, the report added that in order to make urgent purchases, under the emergency financial powers which are granted to the three services, these rifles are being procured.
This comes four years after the Army began the process to acquire around 44,600 carbines, 44,000 light machine guns and seven lakh rifles in 2017.