The INSAS Assault Rifle
|Place of origin||India|
|Used by||See Users|
Nepalese Civil War
|Designer||Armament Research and Development Establishment (ARDE)|
|Manufacturer||Ordnance Factories Board (OFB)|
|Weight||4.15 kg (without magazine)|
|Length||960 mm (37.8 in)|
|Barrel length||464 mm (18.3 in)|
|Action||Gas-operated, Rotating bolt|
|Rate of fire||600-650 rounds/min|
|Muzzle velocity||900 m/s (2,953 ft/s)|
|Effective firing range||400m Insas Rifle
600m Point Target
700m Area Target Insas Lmg
|Feed system||20- or 30-round detachable box magazine|
|Sights||In-built iron sights, mount point for telescopic or night sight|
INSAS (an abbreviation of Indian Small Arms System) is a family of infantry arms consisting of an assault rifle and a light machine gun (LMG). It is manufactured by the Ordnance Factories Board at Ordnance Factory Tiruchirappalli, Small Arms Factory Kanpur and Ichapore Arsenal. The INSAS assault rifle is the standard infantry weapon of the Indian Armed Forces. It has been reportedly plagued by reliability problems. In April 2015, the Indian government replaced some INSAS rifles of the CRPF with AK-47s.
Since the late 1950s, the Indian armed forces had been equipped with L1A1 self-loading rifles. In mid-1980s, the decision was taken to develop a 5.56 mm calibre rifle to replace the obsolete rifles. Trials on various prototypes based on the AKM were carried out by the Armament Research and Development Establishment (ARDE) in Pune. On the completion of the trial, The Indian Small Arms System (INSAS) was adopted in 1990. However, to phase out the still in use bolt-action Lee–Enfield rifles as quickly as possible, India had to acquire 100,000 7.62×39mm AKM-type rifles from Russia, Hungary, Romania and Israel in 1990–92.
Originally, three variants were planned in the INSAS system, a rifle, a carbine and a squad automatic weapon (SAW) or Light machine gun (LMG). In 1997, the rifle and the LMG went into mass production. In 1998, the first INSAS rifles were displayed at the republic day parade. The introduction of the rifle was delayed due to the lack of 5.56×45mm ammunition, large quantities of the same were bought from Israel Military Industries.
The INSAS is primarily based on the AKM but incorporates features from other rifles. It has a chrome-plated bore. The barrel has a six-groove rifling. The basic gas operated long stroke piston and the rotating bolt are similar to the AKM/AK-47.
It has a manual gas regulator, similar to that of FN FAL, and a gas cutoff for launching grenades. The charging handle is on the left instead of on the bolt carrier, similar in operation to the HK33. There is a change lever on the left side of the receiver above the pistol grip. It can fire a three-round burst or in semi-automatic mode. The cyclic rate averages at 650 rpm. The transparent plastic magazine was adapted from the Steyr AUG. The rear sight lies on one end of the breech cover and is calibrated to 400 meters. The furniture is either made for wood or polymer. The polymer butt and forend assemblies differ from the AKM and are more similar to that of IMI Galil. Some variants have a folding butt. A bayonet can also be attached to it. The guns take 20- or 30-round polymer magazines. The 30-round magazine is made for the LMG version, but can be also used in the rifle. The flash suppressor also accepts NATO-specification rifle grenades.
During the 1999 Kargil War, the rifles were used in the high-attitudes of the Himalayas. There were complaints of jamming, the magazine cracking due to the cold and the rifle going into automatic mode when it was set for three-round bursts. There was also a problem of oil being sprayed into the eye of the operator. Some injuries during firing practice were also reported. In 2001, the 1B1 variant was introduced to solve problems regarding the rifle's reliability back in the Kargil War, but it opened up other problems such as broken magazines.
Similar complaints were also received from the Nepalese Army. In August 2005, after 43 soldiers were killed in a clash with Maoists, a Nepalese Army spokesman called the rifle substandard and their counter-insurgency operation would have been more efficient with better weapons. The Indian embassy released a statement that rejected the claim and attributed it to improper use, it also offered training for the rifle's correct use.
On 8 August 2011, Pallam Raju, then Minister of State for Defence, replying to a question in the Lok Sabha said that all the reported problems had been rectified. Soon afterwards in a press release, the Ministry of Defence reported the number and details of the injuries that had happened during firing practice since 2009. The statement also acknowledged the problem of oil-sprays reported in 2003 and said that the problem had been completely fixed. The report attributed the injuries to improper usage and the rifle's material.
In November 2014, the CRPF requested to drop the INSAS as their standard rifle due to problems with reliability. The Director General of CRPF Dilip Trivedi said that the INSAS jams more frequently compared to the AK-47 and the X-95.
In December 2014, a parliamentary committee presented its report, after investigating why a high-quality assault rifle was not being produced. In 2015, a public interest litigation (PIL) was filed in the Delhi High Court by a retired Lieutenant Colonel. He claimed that the lack of a modern rifle was causing soldiers to lose their lives. In April 2015, the Court asked the Ministry of Defence to file its response. The Ministry defended the use of the rifle, saying that casualties cannot be blamed on the weapon as it was inducted after thorough trials and had undergone three major upgrades since. They also pointed out the rifle had been not blamed by the Court of Inquires which had investigated the Naxalite operations. In November 2015, the Court dismissed the petition stating that there was not enough evidence to show any defects in the INSAS. It also noted the government was in the process of acquiring new rifles.
INSAS Standard Rifle
It is a gas operated assault rifle. It can be fired in single round or three-round burst mode. A telescopic sight or a passive night sight can be mounted on it. It can take NATO-standard 5.56×45mm SS109 and M193 ammunition. It comes with a bayonet. It has a mount point for the ARDE 40 mm under barrel grenade launcher, along with a gas-block for launching grenades and grenade iron-sights. The flash suppressor has a blank-firing adaptor. It also has a foldable butt version.
An INSAS assault rifle with black furniture, incorporating full-auto mode was introduced later. The automatic assault rifle has the same range of 400 m as the semi-automatic standard INSAS rifle.
The LMG (Light Machine Gun) differs from the standard rifle in possessing a longer range of 700 m, as compared to 400 m range of INSAS standard and assault rifles. It has a longer and heavier barrel with revised rifling, and a bipod. The LMG version uses 30-round magazines and can also accept the 20-round INSAS AR magazine. This model fires in semi and full-auto. It also has a foldable-butt version.
Excalibur, Kalantak and Amogh
The Kalantak micro assault rifle, with a range of 300m, is for close combat and personnel defence weapon roles.
The Amogh carbine, with a range of 200m, is specially designed for close quarter battle roles.
In November 2011, the Indian Army sent a request for proposal (RFP) to 34 vendors for 65,678 multi-calibre rifles for about ₹2,500 crore (US$400 million). The tender also included a license to manufacture about 100,000 more rifles in India, with a total expenditure of the phasing out estimated at ₹5,500 crore (US$900 million). Similar tenders for a carbine and a LMG were also issued.
The specification of the weapon was of a modular rifle, with ability to fire both 5.56×45mm and 7.62×39mm by changing the magazines and the barrels. The 5.56×45mm was to be used in conventional warfare and 7.62×39mm in close quarters combat and in counter terrorism operations. The rifle was to have mount points for under-barrel grenade launchers and reflex sights. The rifle's weight with an empty magazine would be less than 3.6 kg. The barrels for both calibres would be less than 16 inches.
Trials and cancellation
In the winter of 2013 in Leh, the Army was expected to begin the winter trials of the short-listed rifles: Beretta ARX 160 from Italy, CZ-805 BREN from Czech Republic, ACE 1 of Israel Weapon Industries, SIG Sauer SG 551 from Switzerland and the Colt Combat Rifle from the USA, a variant of the M16A1 made for the Indian Army's requirements. By February 2014, the four rifles remaining in the competition were the CZ-805, ARX-160, Galil ACE, and Colt Combat Rifle. The Indian Army began the final round of trials for its requirement for 5.56 mm carbines in June 2014. The remaining rifles were the Beretta ARX-160, Colt M4, and IWI Galil ACE. By October 2014, only the Galil ACE and ARX-160 were left in the competition. However, the Army sent a letter to the manufacturers on 15 June 2015, to notify them that the tender has been retracted.
After the cancellation of the tender, in July 2015, it was reported that the INSAS may be replaced by the Modified INSAS rifle (MIR), which is based on the Excalibur variant. The decision was taken by General Dalbir Singh, who wanted an indigenous rifle. The prototype had two stoppages after firing 24,000 rounds, which was very close the army's specification of one stoppage. It was also reported that another prototype of Excalibur, AR-2, was being prepared which would fire 7.62x39 mm rounds of the AK-47.
The prototype incorporates a direct gas-tapping angle to reduce the recoil. The rifle would have automatic and single shot modes. The three-round burst mode of the INSAS has been dropped. The rifle was have a folding butt and a standard Picatinny rail. By September 2015, it had passed the water and mud tests, which four of the foreign rifles in the tender competition had failed. It was also reported 200 rifles were being manufactured and that prototype would undergo formal trials in late 2015.
Trichy assault rifle
Meanwhile, an AK-47 based rifle, called the Trichy Assault Rifle, is being tested by the Ordnance Factory Trichy. It was first unveiled in May 2011. In January 2012, it was reported to be having stoppages during tests due to its high 800 rpm firing rate. It was to be downgraded to 650 rpm to ensure smoother operation, but it also delayed its introduction.
In December 2012, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) announced that it was testing a multi-calibre rifle. The prototype rifle named Multi Caliber Individual Weapon System (MCIWS) was unveiled in 2014 by Armament Research and Development Establishment (ARDE).
The MCIWS is capable of being fitted with a barrel which can fire 5.56×45mm, 6.8×43mm or 7.62×39mm ammunition. The gun is made up of high grade aluminum alloy. The modular design of MCIWS helps the soldier to strip and assemble the gun much more easily by removing a pin. The rivet-less design helps it to withstand stress in combat environment. The ARDE 40 mm under barrel grenade launcher can be attached to it. It has some ambidextrous features make which makes it comparable to other modern assault rifles.
- India: The assault rifle and LMG variants have been adopted by the Indian Armed Forces, Central Armed Police Forces, Indian Paramilitary Forces and police forces.
- Nepal: The Nepalese Army had about 25,000 rifles in 2006, supplied at a 70% subsidy by India.
- Oman: In 2010, the Royal Army of Oman started using the INSAS rifles sent to them as per a defence agreement signed in 2003 between India and Oman.
- Bhutan: Used in small numbers by the Royal Bhutan Army.
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- "Kalantak Micro Assault Rifle". Ordnance Factories Board. Retrieved 29 May 2014.
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