U.S. seeks Russian weapons for new Iraqi military

Friday, August 8, 2003

The United States has invited bids for 34,000 AK-47 assault rifles to equip the new Iraqi army.

The Coalition Provisional Authority has issued a tender for Soviet-origin light weapons for the new Iraqi military.

The order for AK-47s surprised some U.S. military commanders. They said the Soviet-origin rifle has been the staple of Sunni insurgents and the focus of military raids on weapons arsenals of the Saddam regime.

Officials said hundreds of thousands of AK-47 rifles have been captured in Iraq, Middle East Newsline reported. They said the best of the weapons have been transferred for training by Iraqi military and security forces.

Industry sources said major U.S. defense contractors had been pressing the Defense Department to equip the Iraqi army with U.S.-origin weapons and systems. But the sources said the urgency for an Iraqi military requires that soldiers use weapons deployed during the regime of deposed President Saddam Hussein.

The CPA said the bidding deadline was set for Aug. 8. Officials did not say how many companies offered bids.

The tender called for "brand new, never fired, fixed-stock AK-47 assault rifles with certified manufacture dates not earlier than 1987. Each rifle must include 4 magazines, bayonet, sling, magazine pouches and a cleaning kit."

The AK-47 fires 7.62 mm rounds. The CPA requires that the weapons be delivered to the Taji military base north of Baghdad by Sept. 3.

The training on the AK-47 will be conducted by the Vinnell Group, a subsidiary of Northrop Grumman. The CPA is expected to purchase all 34,000 Kalashnikovs from a single source.

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