The world’s most famous assault rifle is set to be made in Saudi Arabia under a string of preliminary defense deals signed with Russia.
Russia’s Rosoboronexport said it has struck an initial licensing agreement that could lead to the Kalashnikov being made in the Kingdom.
The agreement covers the “production of Kalashnikov AK-103 assault rifles and cartridges for various purposes,” a statement said.
A memorandum of understanding between the two sides could also see Russia supply Saudi Arabia with Kornet anti-tank guided missile systems, rocket launchers and automatic grenade launchers.
The preliminary deal also involves the transfer of knowledge in the defense field to Saudi Arabia. The Kingdom has set a target for half of its significant defense budget to be spent within the country.
This plan now includes the “localization” of the AK-103 assault rifle and its ammunition, according to the Saudi Press Agency.
The Kalashnikov assault rifle is famed for its reliability in wars from Vietnam to Afghanistan. There are reckoned to be at least 100 million AK-47s assault rifles in circulation.
The deal comes as the Russian rifle maker is seeking to attract private sector investment.
Kalashnikov wants to increase the production of arms by as much as 80 percent this year and create 1,700 jobs in the process.
The AK-47 model was developed by Mikhail Kalashnikov after World War II, and was inspired by complaints he had heard from Russian soldiers about their rifles while he was recovering from a wound in 1942.
It has been the standard military issue rifle in Russia since 1949.
Head of Russia’s Federal Service for Military Technical Cooperation Dmitry Shugayev said on Sunday that Russia was in talks with Saudi Arabia on a licensed production of AK-103 assault rifles. According to him, several Middle Eastern countries have applied for the delivery of advanced AK-12 and AK-15 rifles.
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