Replacing INSAS 5.56 mm with AK 203 7.62mm – What to expect from the new rifles

The plant in India that will make Kalashnikov AK-203 assault rifles is ready to start making them by the end of 2022. The legendary Russian assault rifles will be made 100% in India, said Alexander Mikheev, General Director of "Rosoboronexport".

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Girish Linganna
Girish Linganna
Girish Linganna is a Defence & Aerospace analyst and is the Director of ADD Engineering Components (India) Pvt Ltd, a subsidiary of ADD Engineering GmbH, Germany with manufacturing units in Russia. He is Consulting Editor Industry and Defense at Frontier India.

The plant in India that will make Kalashnikov AK-203 assault rifles is ready to start making them by the end of 2022. The legendary Russian assault rifles will be made 100% in India, said Alexander Mikheev, General Director of “Rosoboronexport,” at the DefExpo 2022 on October 18.

The AK-203, with a calibre of 7.62 by 39 millimetres, keeps the positive qualities of the traditional AK design. It has Picatinny rails built during production, a folding stock, a better firing mode translator, and an updated receiver cover. This lets users get the most out of their shooting skills, no matter what equipment, gear, or uniforms they use.

The AK-203 got an updated receiver cover with a Picatinny rail and a folding telescopic stock. The rifle has a flame arrester with slots, which makes the recoil less.

It is reported that the plant can make more and better models based on the platform of the Kalashnikov assault rifle by increasing production and upgrading.

INSAS 5.56 mm to AK 203 7.62mm 

The current assault rifle, INSAS (Indian Small Arms System), has a calibre of 5.56 mm and was made by the Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO). It was put into service in 1990. It took the place of the 7.62 SLR. The new “Hit to Injure” rather than “Shoot to Kill” warfare doctrine was attributed to the shift from higher to lower calibre. Since it would take at least two or three soldiers to evacuate a wounded person and provide them with further medical attention, planners believed that the new policy would make things more difficult for the enemy and logistics. But in the Kargil war, this strategy didn’t work because Pakistan not only refused to evacuate the wounded but also refused to take their bodies. It only made things harder for India to organise the return of the dead bodies.

An Indian soldier with an INSAS rifle
An Indian soldier with an INSAS rifle

There always needed to be more certainty about how well INSAS-5.56 worked in battle. The INSAS 5.56 could be better because it often stops working, its polymer magazines crack, and it is only sometimes reliable.

On the other hand, an Infantry unit only had a small number of AK-47s from 1974. These were the most wanted weapons because they were the most reliable and effective. The AK series of assault rifles has always been the most popular and obvious choice for fighting troops.

During Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to India for the 19th Indo-Russian Summit with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on October 5, 2018, the S-400 deal was signed, as well as an inter-governmental agreement for licenced production of the AK-203 assault rifle as a joint venture.

A bilateral inter-government agreement was signed in 2019 that said the Indo-Russian Private Limited (IRPL) and the Russian government would work together to make AK-203 assault rifles at Karwa in Uttar Pradesh, Amethi. The project included the Indian companies Advanced Weapons & Equipment India Limited and Munition India Limited, as well as the Russian companies Kalashnikov and Rosoboron. The Russian Kalashnikov would own 42%, Rosoboron export, a Russian defence export agency, would own 7.5%, and the Indian firms would own 50.5% of IRPL. But there were some bumps and delays because of pricing and technology transfer.

India has to make some emergency purchases to meet the immediate needs of its military because of the situation at the LAC and LOC and the threat of a two-front war. 1.5 million American Sig Sauers and 16,000 Neger machine guns have already been bought for frontline troops through emergency purchases. India and Russia have worked out all of their differences about making the AK-203 together. The Ministry of Defense (MoD) has approved a fast-track deal with Russia to buy AK-203 assault rifles. The deal is worth Rs. 5,000 crores.

AK-203 assault rifle
AK-203 assault rifle

During the first-ever 2+2 Dialogue between India and Russia in Moscow, the most important questions about pricing and the transfer of technology were settled. 7.5 million AK-203 assault rifles are part of the deal. Before the technology transfer starts, the first 70,000 rifles will be bought off the shelf from Russia and delivered in 32 months.

Over the next ten years, it is planned that 6,01,427 AK-203 will be made together in India. Both sides agreed that the final deal would be signed on December 6, 2021, when Russian President Vladimir Putin travelled to India.

The AK-203 is the newest and most advanced assault rifle in the AK series. It is also one of the best assault rifles on the market right now. A joint venture with the transfer of technology would go a long way toward the idea of Indian defence production being self-sufficient. It would meet the needs of the Indian military and other security forces, lead to exports, and help India become a major player in the competitive small arms market.


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