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Submarines, AK 203 rifles - two Make in India projects govt set to push on priority


The Narendra Modi government is pushing for two major Make in India projects - six conventional submarines for Navy, and AK 203 rifles factory - to get them off the ground over the next few months, ThePrint has learnt.

The awaited tender for 114 fighter jets could, however, take time, said sources in the defence establishment.

Tenders for the Naval Utility Helicopters and the Kamov deal are among the other projects on the anvil, said the sources.

Last week, the government had released a new negative import list for defence systems.

Sources said the tender for the six conventional submarines with Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) system will be issued “soon”. The state-run MDL and the private player L&T are the frontrunners for this mega project, P75I.

The procurement of these six diesel-electric submarines also features in the negative import list.

The India-Russia joint project for the manufacture of the AK 203 rifles is the other project that is likely to get a push. This could be firmed up before the expected summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin in October, said the sources.

Also Read: Indian Navy to equip its submarines with lethal  ‘AIP technology’

The deal was first announced in 2018 amid tremendous excitement but hit a roadblock over price negotiations. The Indo-Russia Rifles Pvt. Ltd, a joint venture between the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB), the Kalashnikov Concern and Rosoboronexport (the Russian state agency for military exports), has failed to arrive at an offer price for the AK 203 rifle.

It was expected that the price of each rifle would be around $1,100 per piece, but it has risen due to a number of issues. The defence ministry has now constituted a committee to break this logjam.

The delay has forced the Army to order SiG 716 rifles from the US under a fast-tracked process to arm its frontline troops. With 72,000 SiG rifles already delivered, the Army is now pursuing emergency procurement of another 72,000.

Earlier this week, ThePrint had identified seven mega Make in India projects that are yet to begin despite Modi government’s public announcements. The two projects that are now set to get a push featured in the list.

Sources indicated that a third project involving new fighters for the Indian Air Force could take time.

India is currently in the process of inducting the 36 Rafale fighters ordered from France in 2016. There is speculation that India could decide to buy additional 36 Rafale jets and fall back on greater numbers of Tejas Mk 1A and Tejas Mark II aircraft. However, there is no clarity on this yet.

Meanwhile, the sources added that work is on to issue formal tenders for the Naval Utility Helicopters and Kamov choppers too.