An Armenian company has started manufacturing advanced models of Russia’s famous Kalashnikov assault rifles which are due to be supplied to Armenia’s armed forces and sold abroad.
The Neitron company launched the production operations this month in line with an agreement reached by Russia’s Kalashnikov Concern and another Armenian-owned firm, Royalsys Engineering, two years ago.
A follow-up deal signed by the Russian small arms manufacturer and Neitron in May this year granted the latter a 10-year license to produce Kalashnikov’s AK-103 models designed in 1994.
Neitron executives told Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian on Tuesday that their company will assemble 50,000 such guns annually as they showed him around their new production facility located near Abovian, a town 15 kilometers north of Yerevan.
One of those executives, Igor Gordienko, told the Sputnik news agency last month that Neitron will initially use rifle parts supplied by Kalashnikov but plans to manufacture them as well in the future.
An Armenian government statement cited Pashinian as welcoming the development and saying that it was made possible by Armenia’s close military ties with Russia. The Russian ambassador in Yerevan, Sergey Kopyrkin, was among officials who accompanied the prime minister during his visit to the new Neitron plant.
According to the statement, the AK-103 rifles will be delivered not only to the Armenian army but also foreign buyers.
Kalashnikov’s older AK-74 rifles and PK machine guns have long been the army’s principal light weapons. The launch of Neutron’s new production operation suggests that the Armenian Defense Ministry plans to replace all AK-74s in its arsenal with the more modern AK-103 model.
The government statement also revealed that Neitron will pay $24 million to buy new Russian equipment for modernizing and expanding its separate production of Kalashnikov cartridges. In addition, it said, the company will start producing night-vision gun sights and surveillance devices for the Armenian military later this year.
Kalashnikov Concern opened an official representation in Yerevan in 2014 at a ceremony attended by then Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian. The latter stressed the importance of Russian-Armenian agreements allowing Armenian and Russian defense companies to supply each other with equipment, assembly parts and other materials needed for the production, modernization and repair of various weapons.