US Special Operations Command is looking for American gun manufacturers who can build Russian-designed weapons, such as AK-47 assault rifles, which are widely used in war zones.
The Florida-based command, which oversees some of America’s most elite forces, posted a “sources sought” solicitation for “non-standard weapons” last month.
The term non-standard is used to describe weapons that are not frequently employed by the US military.
“For this solicitation, we are exploring capabilities and capacity within [the United States’] industrial base to build the types of weapons many of our foreign partners use,” Navy Commander Matt Allen, a SOCOM spokesman, said in an email to the Tampa Bay Times.
“A US-based source would be a good use of taxpayer funds, while also delivering the weapons our partners not only need to fight extremists, but also the ones they know how to use, know how to fix and have the supplies in their regions to maintain,” the officer said.
The United States has delivered US-made weapons to the Afghan military and Iraqi security forces. However, some of the weapons have been spotted in the hands of US-backed militants in Syria and Iraq, making them targets for other extremists.
In addition, US weapons can be difficult to maintain, prompting military and CIA officials to procure and supply weapons such as Kalashnikovs.
To do this, the US government often contracts with smaller companies to buy and ship the weapons.
US allies in the Middle East prefer the AK-47 rifle for its durability and accessibility of its 7.62mm ammunition.
American gun makers, however, are skeptical they could manufacture a less-costly version of the rifle than China and Russia.
“The factories around the world set up to do that are doing it with dirt-cheap labor,” Mark Serbu, founder and president of Tampa-based Serbu Arms, told the Times.
“I don’t know how to compete here. I am surprised they are trying to do that. It doesn’t make sense.”