Sources said an inter-governmental agreement to manufacture the 7.62×39 mm caliber AK-203 guns, which are a derivative of the famous AK-47 rifle, is likely to be inked on February 15. In the run-up to the Lok Sabha polls, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is slated to inaugurate the project at Korwa on February 28.
“It has been decided that a serving Major General from the Army will head the Korwa factory for effective implementation of the AK-203 rifle project, which could eventually be worth over Rs 12,000 crore. The JV will also seek to export the rifles to other countries, mutually approved by India and Russia, much like jointly-developed BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles,” said a source.
This comes after the government told Russia that its firm Kalashnikov Concern would have to tie-up with state-run Ordnance Factory Board (OFB), instead of its earlier proposal for a JV with the Adani Group, as was reported by TOI last year.
The government, of course, is wary about any blowback in the rifle project in the backdrop of the Congress levelling charges of “crony capitalism” in the way Anil Ambani‘s Reliance Defence was chosen as one the main offsets partner of Dassault Aviation in the Rs 59,000 crore contract for 36 French Rafale fighters.
India on Tuesday had also inked a Rs 647 crore contract for a limited number of 72,400 new 7.62x51mm assault rifles from the US firm SiG Sauer under the fast track procurement (FTP) route for its frontline soldiers deployed on the borders with China and Pakistan.
“The delivery of these rifles will be completed within a year ,” said an official.