India buys 70,000 assault rifles from Russia
Off-the-shelf buying movement comes amid delays in joint rifle and helicopter manufacturing in India
With repeated delays in the purchase agreements for AK-203 assault rifles and Kamov-226 utility helicopters from Russia, India has signed an agreement for 70,000 AK-203 assault rifles to be purchased off-the-shelf, while the military is also considering sourcing a limited number of off-the-shelf helicopters to meet the immediate shortage of light utility helicopters. Meanwhile, Russia has made upgrades to the proposed Ka-226T helicopter, officials said.
“The agreement for the 70,000 rifles has been signed but the first payment has not yet been made. Deliveries would begin within three months of the first payment being made and end in six months, ”Indian and Russian officials confirmed. On the Ka-226T “Climber”, as the upgraded version is called, an official from Russian Helicopters said the redesigned helicopter had improved flight characteristics and techniques.
The military plans to procure more than 7.5 lakh of AK-203 rifles and the two countries signed an intergovernmental agreement (IGA) in February 2019, following which a joint venture – Indo-Russian Rifles Private Limited (IRRPL ) – was created in Korwa in Uttar Pradesh for the manufacture of rifles.
The joint venture is between Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) on the Indian side and Rosoboron Exports and Kalashnikov on the Russian side. The military had also appointed a major general as the chief executive officer (CEO) of IRRPL to ensure timely execution and deliveries.
The MoD has already issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) to the JV for the supply of 6.71 lakh rifles, but the final deal was delayed due to the high cost stated.
In the Ka-226T helicopter, there are two major changes that include changing the hull from composites to aluminum and changing the avionics apart from several minor upgrades, said Vasily Grydin, deputy chief. from the Commercial Department, Russian Helicopters Ulan-Ude Aviation Factory at the Army 2021 exhibition which kicked off on Sunday.
“Major improvements have been made to the hull and avionics to lighten the helicopter and improve its capabilities. Some of the changes were made at the request of the customer (India), ”Mr. Grydin said. These changes were made over the past year as talks continue between the two sides for the final deal, he said.
There is an avionics upgrade and there is an option where the helicopter can be operated by a single pilot if needed, Grydin explained.
Regarding the change of the hull, he said that it was made stronger by using aluminum instead of composites, which was done for the exhaust and the helicopter became 15% lighter. . Dust filters were also introduced for high altitude operations while the fuel tank was also redesigned.
Another major change is the improved gearbox design which can run twice as long, he added.
By 2015, India and Russia had reached an Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) for at least 200 Ka-226T twin-engine utility helicopters valued at more than $ 1 billion.
Sixty helicopters were to be imported directly and the remaining 140 manufactured locally by a JV, India Russia Helicopters Limited, set up between Hindustan Aeronautics Limited and Russian Helicopters.
However, the deal was delayed on the percentage of Indigenous content which the RFP says is expected to reach 70% in phases. Because of this, the military, which urgently needs to replace the aging Cheetah and Chetak helicopters, has contacted the Defense Ministry to immediately procure a limited number of helicopters.
According to the Russian proposal, the location plan would be spread over four phases starting with 3.3% indigenization for 35 helicopters, increasing to 15% for the next 25 helicopters, 35% for 30 helicopters in phase 3 and finally to 62, 4% indigenization in phase 4 for the last 50 helicopters.
The first helicopter will be delivered within 36 months of contract signing and the order will be completed within eight years.