India has selected a new service rifle to replace the domestically produced INSAS and with it the standard service cartridge, making a switch to the AK-203. The announcement comes as tensions between them and Pakistan remain high following last week’s flare ups over Kashmir. In addition to selecting the modified AK-103 as its primary weapon, it was also announced that Kalashnikov Concern will be opening a factory in India capable of turning out over 700,000 carbines for domestic use and export.
The INSAS, itself an AK-derived weapon, has been viewed as less than capable since its adoption in 1998. Troops main concerns were poor reliability and magazine issues, noting problems in their last conflict with Pakistan in the mountains of Kashmir and shortcomings in their fight against the Maoist Naxal insurgency, armed with AK-47s in mostly rural woodland and jungle environments.The Naxals, a group not usually mentioned in the US, have been a consistent challenge to Indian government authority in some of its poorest areas. Noting the shortcomings of the INSAS in this style of combat, a switch was made last year among security forces battling the Naxalites to using only AK weapons:
A senior CRPF officer later told that the government has recently authorised the force to replace all its INSAS weapons with the AK series (47 and 56) of assault rifles in the ten Naxal violence hit states where it is deployed to carry out operations.
“It is a generational shift in terms of weaponry. The INSAS has been the standard weapon of the force but the Naxal theatre is very hot and requires quick and heavy fire power.
“Hence, all CRPF units in Naxal-hit states will now only have AK rifles. A few INSAS rifles would be kept for special purposes,” the officer said.
An AK rifle is considered superior to the indigenously made INSAS (Indian Small Arms System) as its fire is accurate, spews quick bullets and is better to operate in jungle warfare conditions where moisture and heat affect the performance of a rifle.
This opinion likely influenced the decision to switch to the newest 7.62×39 Kalashnikov variant. The AK-203, like the 103 being produced in Venezuela, is chambered in the venerable 7.62×39. While the move might confuse some in the armchair crowd, going for a dated round, the logistics are simple and the results are very real- it works.
One thing is to be sure; the 7.62×39 is going to be around for a very long time.