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 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 plagued by reliability problems; in April 2015, the Indian government replaced many INSAS rifles with older 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.
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. These issues have occurred many times in later dates in a report by the Indian Ministry of Defence's Press Information Bureau.
On 8 August 2011, Pallam Raju, then Minister of State for Defence, replying to a question in the Lok Sabha said that all these problems had been rectified. 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.
New Delhi has defended the use of the rifle, saying that casualties should not be blamed on the weapon itself. A parliamentary committee in 2015 has investigated on why production of a high-quality assault rifle was not being produced.
INSAS Standard Rifle
It is a gas operated assault rifle. It can be fired in single round or three-round burst mode. A new model with black furniture incorporating full-auto mode is also being introduced. 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.
Kalantak and Excalibur
Both are newer and lighter versions of the INSAS, Excalibur is an assault rifle designed for close quarter combat and light intensity engagements. The Kalantak was designed for close quarter combat and personnel defence roles. They both have foldable butts and picatinny rails to mount standard sights or opto-electronic instruments.
The LMG differs from the AR in possessing 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. Current generation LMGs being made are outfitted with black plastic furniture with some improvements in its construction. It also has a foldable-butt version.
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 (₹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 (₹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.
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.
Following the cancellation of the tender, the Indian Army decided to pursue a modified version of the INSAS. Called the Excalibur, it will incorporate design changes to turn it into the Modified INSAS Rifle (MIR). These changes include firing 5.56 mm ammunition (a second version will fire 7.62 mm rounds), having a full-automatic capability, a 4 mm shorter barrel, a side folding butt stock, a Picatinny rail, a universal mount that allows for a range of weapon sights and sensors, a smaller handguard, and improved polycarbonate magazine. Trials conducted resulted in the weapon having only two stoppages after firing 24,000 rounds. If the MIR clears trials, it could be ready for service within two years.
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.
The performance of the 'Excalibur' assault rifle in trials last month at the Armament Research and Development Establishment (ARDE) in Pune has further enthused the Army. The Excalibur had only two stoppages (where the bullet gets stuck in the breech) after 24,000 rounds were fired, close to the Army's specifications of only one stoppage.
DRDO officials mentioned that the Excalibur can get to frontline service if it passes trials. Another version of the Excalibur, known as AR-2, is chambered to fire 7.62×39mm rounds and it's offered as an alternative to Russian-made AKs.
In 2015, under the leadership of General Dalbir Singh the Army changed its weapon procurement more in line with that of the Indian Navy's indigenous procurement model by overseeing the project and also committing sharp shooters at Ishapore factory to carry out extensive trials of the indigenous Excalibur rifle. The Excalibur rifle passed the mud and water test which could not be cleared by four foreign rifles. During this test the gun is immersed in mud and water before firing. Excalibur is provided with direct gas-tapping angle which reduces the recoil on firing the weapon. The rifle is capable of firing either single shot or in automatic mode and can be fitted with holographic sights or laser sights and night vision devices. 200 Excalibur rifles are getting built for the army trials which will begin in the end of 2015. Once trials are cleared the rifle can be mass-produced at half the cost of imported rifles. 
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). MCIWS is capable of being fitted with barrel which can fire 5.56×45mm, 6.8×43mm and 7.62×39mm ammunition. A single gun can be modified to accommodate the required caliber. The gun is made up of high grade aluminum alloy and is of superior finish. The modular design of MCIWS helps the soldier to strip and assemble the gun much more easily by removing a pin, also the rivet-less design helps it to work better in combat environment. The indigenous 40mm under barrel grenade launcher will give it more legality to destroy the targets up to 500 meters. Some of the modern ambidextrous features make it comparable to the features provided by other modern assault rifles. The Army can choose to go for multi caliber, dual caliber or even single caliber barrel. MCIWS has found interest with the Indian paramilitary forces including the BSF, CRPF, ITBP and SSB. The trials for the Indian Army is going to begin by December 2015 – January 2016.
- 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.
- 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.
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- Army prepares for crucial trials as chief insists on indigenous Excalibur
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