India has reportedly finalised a deal to purchase around 70,000 AK-203 assault rifles from Russia.
The assault rifles will be procured off-the-shelf in a bid to meet the immediate requirements of the armed forces.
Indian and Russian officials have confirmed the signing of the deal to local publication The Hindu. The deliveries are expected to begin within three months from the first payment and will be completed in six months.
Notably, the deal comes as a larger rifle procurement programme is facing repeated delays.
The Indian Army has a requirement of around 770,000 AK-203 rifles. These rifles are expected to replace the existing Indian Small Arms System (INSAS) 5.56mm × 45mm assault rifle.
In 2019, India and Russia signed an Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) to manufacture the rifles. Subsequently, a joint venture called Indo-Russia Rifles (IRPL) was formed with India’s Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) holding a 50.5% stake in the company.
Kalashnikov Concern and Russian state agency for military exports Rosoboronexport own the remaining stake.
The Indian Ministry of Defence has already issued a request for proposal (RFP) for around 671,000 rifles. However, according to the publication, the final deal is being held due to the high costs quoted.
Separately, the Indian Army is also planning to procure a limited number of light utility helicopters off the shelf to meet its requirements.
Recently, Russian and Indian army personnel carried out a joint anti-terrorist operation at the Prudboy training ground in the Volgograd Region in Russia. The exercise involved destroying mock targets.