By Alexei Anishchuk
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Moscow announced plans on Tuesday to modernize the Kalashnikov, giving a new lease of life to the Soviet-era assault rifle that is the mainstay of the Russian army and weapon of choice for paramilitaries and gangsters around the world.
Part of a 20 trillion-rouble ($690 billion) modernization of Russia's armed forces that includes the addition of new armaments, submarines and aircraft by 2020, the new-look Kalashnikov will get a detachable sight and light, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin told parliament.
"We are planning deep modernization of the Kalashnikov assault rifle," said Rogozin, who oversees the defense industry. "This will be a weapon with detachable equipment, such as an optical sight and a lamp."
The Russian army said last September it had abandoned new purchases of the AK-74 assault rifle, the updated version of the AK-47 designed in the 1940s by Mikhail Kalashnikov. Rogozin said negotiations with the Defense Ministry on future acquisitions of the modernized weapon were ongoing.
The easy-to-use and much copied rifle has been described as the world's most dangerous weapon based on the number of deaths it has caused in wars and insurgencies, but industry critics say it no longer fully meets the requirements of modern warfare.
"With demands for precision and engagement range on the rise, a new weapon must replace the Kalashnikov in the very near future," Ruslan Pukhov, director of CAST, a Moscow-based defense think tank, told Reuters.
Rogozin said the army would also receive a new pistol by the end of the year to replace the semi-automatic Makarov, another weapon from the 1940s and now a Cold War relic.
Izhmash, Russia's top firearms producer, last week presented the prototype of an updated Kalashnikov, the AK-12, which some industry analysts lampooned, saying it offered only a cosmetic update. ($1 = 29.0450 Russian roubles)
(Reporting By Alexei Anishchuk; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)