The Indian Army could soon be equipped with a truly odd mix of small arms as it seeks to phase out its aging INSAS (Indian Small Arms System) domestically-produced assault rifles and light machine guns, which have been in use since 1998. Over the past two years, New Dehli purchased nearly 150,000 SIG 715 model rifles, chambered in 7.62mm NATO. The New Hampshire based Sig Sauer had announced the latest deal last July, and that followed the original contract from February 2019, which saw about half of the rifles delivered under a fast-track procurement (FTP) program.
In addition to the American-made SIG 715, the Indian Army will also receive the Kalashnikov AK-203, which is being produced as part of a joint venture with Russia’s Kalashnikov Concern and India’s Amethi ordnance factory.
This week Tass reported that Russia’s state arms seller Rosoboronexport, which is part of the state tech corporation Rostec, has prepared a contract for signing with India on the delivery of the latest 7.62x39mm AK-203 assault rifles.
“The contract for the delivery of Kalashnikov AK-203 assault rifles to the Defense Ministry of India by the Russian-Indian joint venture Indo-Russian Private Rifles Limited has been worked out and is ready for signing,” a spokesperson for state arms exporter said during the Aero India 2021 international air and aerospace trade show in Bangalore.
This also marked the first time that Rosoboronexport publicly demonstrated the AK-203 assault rifle designated for the Indian Army. Tass noted that compared to the baseline AK-203 version, the variant being produced for India has a fixed side-folding stock, but is otherwise similar in design to the version being employed by the Russian military.
The assault rifle weighs 3.8 kg empty, and it has a rate of fire of 700 rounds per minute and is accurate to a range of 800 meters. The AK-203 assault rifle designed for the Indian Amy features a 415mm barrel and it is equipped with a Picatinny rail, which can be used with a variety of sights or scopes as well as flashlight and other equipment.
A source in the Indian ground forces reportedly told TASS at the Aero India aerospace show that the AK-203 assault rifle fully meets the requirements of the military. The weapon’s characteristics, in particular, its accuracy, reliability and the weight to fire efficiency ratio is optimal for India’s military.
The new domestically-produced variant will be used to speed up the phasing out of the aging INSAS weapons, but it will mean that India’s military will have two assault rifles that are similar in size yet fire different 7.62mm cartridges.
The AK-203 was among the more than 200 defense products presented by Russia at Aero India 2021, the largest aerospace and military trade show in the Asian nation.
Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military small arms, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.