Earlier this year the Indian Army signed a deal with the U.S.-based Sig Sauer to receive 72,400 Sig 716 G2 Patrol assault/battlefield rifles, which are intended to equip its 400+ infantry battalions. The deal, which was signed in March, was modified from an original plan to arm only the frontline troops with the latest weapon. In 2019, the Indian Army had procured the rifles under a “fast-tracked process” (FTP) for use with troops posted at the borders as well as those involved in counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency operations.
Last December, the Indian Defence Acquisition Council had accorded approval for the procurement of additional 72,400 Sig 716 rifles for approximately Rs 780 crore. The contract with Sig Sauer was expanded after a much-awaited deal with Russia since the AK-203 assault rifle was delayed.
At least two companies, about one hundred soldiers each, in all of the Indian infantry battalions would be armed with the Sig 716, which is chambered for the widely-used high-powered 7.62x51-millimeter NATO cartridge. The select-fire military assault rifle features a short-stroke pushrod gas system and an advanced operating system that was developed to reduce carbon fouling, excessive heat and unburned powder in the action.
The Indian-made AK-203
Now, it seems that India is finally moving forward with those Russian weapons as well. TASS reported this week that Russia and India have signed a contract for the delivery of more than 600,000 7.62x39 millimeter AK-203 assault rifles, which will be produced in India. The new model will replace the Indian military’s INSAS rifles, the domestically-produced assault rifles that were introduced in the late 1990s.
“On December 6, a contract was signed as part of a meeting of the defense ministers of Russia and India on the delivery of over 600,000 AK-203 assault rifles produced in India to the Defense Ministry of India,” the Kalashnikov press office said in a statement.
In addition, the Indo-Russian Rifles Private Limited (IRRPL) further highlights the new Russian-Indian military-technical cooperation. India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi first announced the plans in early March 2019 to set up a joint Indo-Russian venture for the production of Kalashnikov assault rifles in the country.
The joint venture IRRPL for the manufacture of AK-203 assault rifles has already been established at a production facility in the town of Korwa of the Amethi district in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. Under this agreement, India will become the first foreign country to produce the two hundredth series Kalashnikov assault rifles.
“Russian and Indian specialists have carried out large-scale preparatory work over three years to optimize the project’s price and technological parameters,” said Kalashnikov CEO Vladimir Lepin. “Now that the contract has been signed, we are ready to start the production of advanced AK-203s in the town of Korwa in the coming months.”
India has been aggressively emphasizing its “Made in India” program. Under this deal, it will receive what is considered one of the best modern assault rifles in production and build it domestically.
Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military small arms, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.