Post 26/11, India turns to Russia for small weapons

By Sahil Makkar, IANS
Tuesday, February 16, 2010

NEW DELHI - India, which has been procuring fighter aircraft and missiles worth $1.5 billion annually from Russia, is now looking to buy small weapons too - like assault rifles, sniper guns and automatic grenade launchers - for its paramilitary forces, especially after the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack.

So far, India has largely depended on Israel for sophisticated weapons, guns and equipment to meet the challenges of internal security.

According to Leonid Nikolay Skofenko, head of KBP Instrument Design Bureau in India, the firm was approached by officials of India’s elite commando force National Security Guards (NSG).

“Post 26/11, the National Security Guards approached us to buy automatic grenade launchers under direct sale. They had used the same in their Mumbai operations, but at that time they had taken it from the army,” Skofenko told IANS at Defexpo 2010.

“Earlier we had supplied the grenade launchers to the Border Security Force (BSF) and the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) under a contract in August last year. Now under the option clause we would supply the automatic grenade launchers to the NSG and the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP),” he said.

The KBP Instrument Design Bureau is one of the leading design companies in the Russian defence industry.

The 30 mm automatic grenade launcher is handy because of its light weight. One trooper can carry the grenade launcher and mount it. The rate of fire per minute is 400.

Skofenko said they would be bidding for the NSG tender for sniper rifles too. “The NSG has floated a tender for sniper rifles. We are pitching for our anti-material rifle (OSV-96 sniper rifle). It can be used against troopers and is also designed to engage targets like light armoured vehicles at a distance of up to 1,800 metres,” he said.

“We would also be supplying these rifles to Marcos (Indian Navy commandos),” he added.

Besides, his company is also bidding for a NSG tender for magazine grenade launchers - a hand-held launcher that can be used inside buildings during assaults.

“The NSG says they may consider buying our magazine shotgun,” he said.

Andrey Baryshnikov, of another Russian defence company Izhmash, said they have brought a series of AK assault rifles to India - AK-101 to AK 104.

“We intend to sell AK-101 to AK-104 rifles to India. These are technologically advanced rifles as compared to the AK-47 and AK-56 (Chinese). We are making a proposal to the Indian government that we can produce these rifles in India under a licence system.”

“We are also looking for joint ventures with India companies. The Indian Ordnance Factory Board is making Insas (Indian National Small Arms System) rifles. But they are not producing it in enough numbers and the quality of their weapons has to be improved. We are ready to meet all requirements,” he said.

Baryshnikov said around 60 countries, including Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia are using their AK rifles. Russia does not sell weapons to Pakistan.

(Sahil Makkar can be contacted at [email protected])

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