The latest country to seek an upgrade to their aging fleet of small arms is Pakistan, according to statements made last week by military officials from that country. The current Pakistani rifle suite consists of license-produced Heckler & Koch G3 rifles, and Chinese Type 56 rifles based on the Russian AK and AKM. From DefenseNews.com:
The news came during a Tuesday visit to a POF facility at Wah by head of the Army Gen. Raheel Sharif, who according to a press release by the military’s Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) media branch, was making his second trip “to see the progress of envisaged modernization and capacity enhancement of POF.”
During the visit, Sharif inaugurated a new ammunition production plant, which is part of an expansion plan. POF chief Lt. Gen. Omar Mahmood Hayat briefed Sharif, who thanked the factory’s support in providing arms and ammunition for the ongoing counter terrorist operations.
Sharif also “emphasized the need for further technological upgradation to optimize the output” to ensure self reliance in arms-and-ammunition needs for the civilian and military security services.
He pushed for more efforts to secure new markets for POF products.
However, the presence of a series of foreign rifles at POF seen during the Sharif’s visit drew attention to a little publicized competition to find a new standard rifle for the military.
The rifles in the running to be the next Pakistani individual weapon are the Beretta ARX-200, CZ-806 Bren 2, FN SCAR, Kalashnikov AK-103, and Zastava M21. Interestingly, the caliber of the new weapons seems to be undecided. The AK-103 is chambered for the 7.62x39mm Russian caliber, while the ARX-200 in 7.62x51mm NATO caliber. The FN SCAR may be either the 7.62×51 NATO -H variant, or the 5.56 NATO -L variant. The CZ-806 and M21 are both in 5.56mm, however. Oddly, Pakistan’s close defense partner, China, does not appear to have a rifle in the running, although it could offer either its QBZ-97 or QBZ-03 rifles in 5.56mm if desired.
The primary focus of the new program is to not only upgrade the existing rifle designs, but to upgrade the Pakistani Ordnance Factory to a more modern standard, thereby ensuring Pakistani small arms autonomy for the 21st Century.
Thanks to Daniel for the tip!