By Staff Correspondent
Indo-Russian Rifles Private Limited (IRRPL) is a prominent joint venture (JV) that produced its first batch of “Made in India” AK-203 rifles over seven months ago in the Korwa facility in Uttar Pradesh’s Amethi district. The JV has now been offered to produce more than just this one variant. Highly placed sources in Moscow exclusively told Indian Aerospace and Defence that the manufacturing of multiple variants from the Kalashnikov Group’s flagship AK brand from its facility has been offered to IRRPL.
Local Production Of Multiple AK Variants On The Cards?
The JV’s plant in Amethi was reported to have produced its first batch of the AK-203 in January. With the nation moving towards augmenting its small arms manufacturing capability, the aim is to have 100% localisation of the AK-203 production in India.
However, AK-203 may soon find other Kalashnikov rifles in India’s localised defence production kitty. IRRPL now has an offer on the table for manufacturing not just the AK-203, but also to other variants in the broader AK series. Notably the flagship family of Kalashnikov’s assault rifles has as many as 16 variants in its product range.
Evolution & Variants Of The AK Rifle Series
AK-12: With a 5.45 millimeter caliber, this rifle serves as the standard service rifle for the Russian military since 2018. The AK-12 weighs 3.7 kilograms and boasts a 415 mm barrel with a magazine capacity of 30 rounds. Its fire modes include single/automatic, 2-shot bursts, and full auto with a rate of fire of 700 shots/minute.
AK-15: Emerging from the design of the AK-12, the AK-15, chambered in a 7.62 mm caliber, offers enhanced ergonomics and accuracy. Primarily utilised by special operations units in the Russian military and other law enforcement groups, the AK-15 weighs 3.75 kilograms, possesses a 415 mm barrel, and maintains the 30-round magazine standard. Its fire modes are similar to the AK-12, offering single/automatic, 2-shot bursts, and full auto with a rate of fire of 700 shots/minute.
AK-19: Adapting to international standards, the AK-19 is chambered for the NATO-standard 5.56 mm cartridges. Combining evolved ergonomics with daily practicality, this rifle weighs 3.8 kilograms, features a 415 mm barrel, and holds 30 rounds per magazine. The AK-19 offers single and full auto fire modes, with a rate of fire of 700 shots/minute.
It may be pertinent to note that the AK-19 is also making its foray into the Indian small arms market. Highly placed sources from Kalashnikov told IADB that “the AK-19 short-barreled assault rifle is on tender in India now.” These close-quarter battle (CQB) carbines will be produced by IRRPL as well alongside the AK-203s.
AK-308: Designed for regions predominantly using the .308 Winchester cartridge, the AK-308 weighs 4.3 kilograms, features a 415 mm barrel, and comes with a 20-round magazine. Its fire modes include single and full auto with a rate of fire of 700 shots/minute.
AK-74M: A longstanding staple within the Russian military, the AK-74M showcases its evolution with polymer components and a side rail scope mount. It weighs 3.4 kilograms, has a 415 mm barrel, and supports a 30-round magazine. This rifle’s fire modes are single and full auto, and its rate of fire is slightly lower at 650 shots/minute.
Other noteworthy models include rifles from the AK-100 and AK-200 series, both typically featuring a 30-round magazine capacity.
AK-100 Series Overview
AK-101: A global offering, the AK-101 is a 3.6 kg AK-74M adaptation for international markets, chambered in NATO 5.56×45 mm. Its fire modes include single and full auto, with a rate of fire of 600 shots/minute.
AK-102: A compact version of the AK-101, this rifle weighs 3.2 kg and is chambered in 5.56 mm. It’s designed for swift operations with a 314 mm barrel. Like the AK-101, its fire modes are single and full auto, and it also has a rate of fire of 600 shots/minute.
AK-103: A modernised version of the classic 7.62×39 AK, the AK-103 weighs 3.6 kg and boasts enhanced components with a 415 mm barrel. It operates in fire modes of single and full auto, delivering 600 shots/minute.
AK-104: Optimal for close combat, this compact 3.2 kg variant of the AK-103 sports a 314 mm barrel. Its fire modes and rate of fire mirror the rest of the series: single and full auto at 600 shots/minute.
AK-105: Derived from the AK-74M, this compact rifle weighs 3.2 kg and features a 314 mm barrel, emphasising reliability and agility. Its fire modes consist of single and full auto, and it operates at a rate of 600 shots/minute.
AK-200 Series Breakdown
AK-200: Setting modern standards, the AK-200 is a 4 kg rifle with Picatinny rails that uses 5.45x39mm rounds. Its fire modes include single and full auto, with a rate of fire of 700 shots/minute.
AK-201: A 4 kg model inspired by the AK-200, the AK-201 is chambered in 5.56 NATO, bridging classic design with modern military standards. Its fire modes are single and full auto, and it has a rate of fire of 700 shots/minute.
AK-202: A compact version of the AK-201, this rifle weighs 3.7 kg and is chambered in 5.56 NATO. Like its predecessors, its fire modes are single and full auto, with a rate of fire of 700 shots/minute.
AK-203: Introducing the 7.62×39 cartridge to the series, the AK-203 is a 4 kg rifle that marries classic cartridges with modern design and features a 415 mm barrel. It operates in fire modes of single and full auto, delivering 700 shots/minute.
AK-204: Optimal for close combat, this compact 3.8 kg variant of the AK-203 is chambered in 7.62×39 and sports a 314 mm barrel. Its fire modes and rate of fire mirror the rest of the series: single and full auto at 700 shots/minute.
AK-205: Another compact evolution, the AK-205 is chambered in 5.45×39, taking design inspiration from the AK-200. Although it has a similar barrel length, it weighs 100 grams less than the AK-200. It operates with fire modes of single and full auto, achieving a rate of fire of 700 shots/minute.
The specific variants that will be produced at the Korwa facility, other than the AK-203, remain undisclosed. Yet, the ambitious plan of producing 16 variants alongside the AK-203 by IRRPL is set to strengthen India’s small-arms industry. With growing defence needs and global ambitions, India aims to leave a significant imprint on the international defence landscape, leveraging its collaboration with Russia.
It may be pertinent to note that some of the assault rifle’s variants are designed exclusively for the foreign market, so it may not be far-fetched to imagine the lucrative export potential it provides should it be manufactured in India.
High Demand For AKs In India & Abroad
The AK series’ has had stellar success in both domestic and global military operations. For New Delhi, their adaptability– from the bone-chilling enviorns of Kashmir to the dense and notoriously humid forests of central India– makes them invaluable in counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency (CI/CT) operations.
Kalashnikov’s as they are often referred to by troops stands as a symbol of India’s pitched counter-terrorism efforts. This significance is underscored by the insignia of the Rashtriya Rifles (RR), the specialised counter-insurgency force operating in the Kashmir valley, which displays a pair of crossed AKs.
India’s internal demand for rifles from the security forces is staggering. The appetite from the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) for the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) and various state police forces is building up, with potential orders reaching an unprecedented 25-30 lakh units.
The demand for this renowned firearm series from Kalashnikov is not limited to domestic needs alone. Major General SK Sengar, the former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Korwa Ordnance Factory had offered a glimpse into the export potential of the series in the near future at a recent defence dialouge. He highlighted the soaring global demand for the AK-203. With projections reaching 70,000 units by December 2024, the rifle’s footprint is set to expand, with African and South East Asian nations expressing interest.
The robust outlook for the export of the AK rifles underscores the trust placed in the series and its relevance in today’s evolving defence landscape. For India, this trust is further bolstered by the strategic partnership the country has with Russia.
On Track To Augment Production
The IRRPL JV harnesses the combined strengths of the Indian Ordnance Factory Board (OFB), Kalashnikov Concern, and Rosoboronexport (a pivotal arm of the Rostec State Corporation). It is noteworthy that OFB holds a majority 50.5% stake, while Kalashnikov and Rosoboronexport hold 42% and 7.5% respectively, ensuring a balanced partnership that melds expertise and strategic interests.
The production plan was methodically structured. Initially, the rifles would source most components internationally, with the first batch of 5,000 rifles incorporating only 5% of indigenous components. However, reflecting India’s ‘Make in India’ ethos, this is set to shift dramatically. The goal is to achieve a robust 70% indigenous content by the time the first 70,000 rifles roll out in about two years’ time. The overarching ambition, envisaged over a decade, is to make the rifle entirely from local components.
(Indian Aerospace & Defence was in Moscow for ARMY 2023: 9th International Military-Technical Forum organised by Russia)