In a big boost for Army's infantry troops, India on Sunday signed a deal with Russia for manufacture of as many as 750,000 units of AK–203, the latest and updated derivative of the legendary AK-47 rifle. These assault rifles, which will be replacing the existing India-made INSAS guns in the Army, Air Force and Navy, is expected to be manufactured at the state-run Ordnance factory Project Korwa in Uttar Pradesh's Amethi district.
Once the rifles are supplied to the defence forces, the government, will also distribute the guns among paramilitary and the state police forces. Hence, this updated version of AK-47 is expected to be used as a standard weapon by all the armed forces in the next 15 to 20 years down the line. Previously, India and Russia were in talks for the manufacture of the AK-103 and later chose the AK-203 - a 7.62x39mm calibre rifle, as part of the Make In India initiative.
Apart from AK-203, the Defence Ministry has also signed a contract with American Sig Sauer for the making of 7.69mmx59mm calibre advanced assault rifles. These would be used by soldiers directly engaged in counter-insurgency and other cross border operations.
The idea behind having two different assault rifles is that the troops who are engaged regularly in combat with terrorist or Pakistan Army on the Line of Control (LoC) should have very advanced weapons while other armed forces can also have an advanced rifle which is lighter and can meet all the requirements.
After a string of complaints on INSAS rifles from ground troops across the country, India about 10 years ago started looking for its replacement. However, the efforts could not materialise due to retraction of tenders issued for the purpose over different issues.
Launched in 1949, the AK-47, has been used by military and terrorist groups across the world. The gun is licence-produced in several countries, including Germany, Poland, Israel, North Korea and the US. Being touted as one of the soldier-friendly rifles and operational in all conditions, the guns enjoy a high global demand because of their reliability and operational ease with militaries of over 100 countries that have been provided with the rifle.
(With inputs from agencies)