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AMERICAS > Caracas assembling drones, Kalashnikovs, says Chavez

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Mikhail T Kalashnikov holds his world-famous AK-47 assault rifle in this 1997 photo. AP photo

Mikhail T Kalashnikov holds his world-famous AK-47 assault rifle in this 1997 photo. AP photo

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said June 13 that Venezuela has begun to assemble Kalashnikov assault rifles with assistance from Russia and started producing surveillance drones.

Venezuela has spent billions of dollars for Russian arms and military aircraft since 2005, including 24 Sukhoi fighter jets, dozens of attack helicopters and 100,000 Kalashnikov assault rifles. “We are a free and independent country,” Chavez said.

Army Gen. Julio Cesar Morales Prieto, president of Venezuela’s state-run arms producer, said 3,000 AK-103 assault rifles have been assembled since Venezuela and Russia signed the 2005 agreement for the construction of a Kalashnikov assembly factory. The factory has begun production, but construction of the facility has not yet been completed, Morales Prieto said. The factory eventually will have the capacity to produce 25,000 rifles annually.

Chavez, a former paratroop commander, said that Venezuela has also developed its own unarmed aerial drone with help from Iran, China and Russia. Three drones has been built so far, he said. “Russia, China, Iran and other allied countries” had contributed to the project, he added.

“We do not have any intentions of attacking anybody,” he said. “These projects are for defense, for peace.” The drone has a range of 100 kilometers, can reach an altitude of 3,000 meters according to Prieto. They can stay aloft for up to 90 minutes and can transmit real-time video and images, and is currently being upgraded in order to carry out night flights, he added.


Compiled from AFP and AP stories by the Daily News staff.

June/15/2012

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