On 10 Aug 2020, India’s Ministry of Defense (MoD) announced that MoD has cleared hurdles for “Made in India” AK-203 assault rifles which is one of the deadliest rifles on the planet. These new AK-203 rifles are much awaited as they will be replacing unreliable INSAS rifles that have been in service with Indian armed forces since 1998. Thus, Team Guarding India brings you the story of the upcoming AK-203 Rifles of the Indian Army.
The acquisition of AK-203 assault rifles is part of the Indian Army’s infantry modernization program that has resulted in the acquisition of new generation weapons like 1,44,000 SIG-716 assault Rifles from the US, 2,00,000 CAR 816 Carbines from UAE and unspecified numbers of Sako TRG M-10 Sniper Rifles from Finland. Simultaneously, India had also decided to manufacture 7,50,000 deadly AK-203 assault rifles under the “Make in India” project which is yet to fructify.
AK-203 is the latest and most advanced variant of legendary AK-47 that are famous for their lethality and indestructible built and reliability. In fact, the AK-203 rifle is an export-oriented variant of new generation AK-12 assault rifles which was developed in around 2016. AK-203 rifle has vastly improved performance when compared with Indian INSAS rifles that are currently in service with Indian armed forces.
The AK-203 rifles have several key advantages over DRDO developed INSAS rifles. AK -203 rifle weighs only 3.8 Kgs which is lighter than INSAS rifles weighing 4.5 kgs. INSAS had been so notoriously unreliable in counter-terrorism operations that the Indian Army had to order more than 1,00,000 AK-47 rifles from eastern bloc nations. However, very soon new AK-203 rifles will replace both INSAS rifles and legacy AK-47 of the Indian Army.
The inner design and layout of the AK 203 rifle is the same as the legacy AK-47 along with similar reliability and durability. However, the outer surface of AK-203 is brand new as it replaces wooden parts of AK-47 with a polymer that provides improved ergonomics. The Indian AK-203 will fire 7.62 x 39 mm ammunition which is different from 7.62×51 mm ammunition used by present-day AK-47 rifles of the Indian Army. The 7.62 x 39 mm round allows for greater volume of fire besides being lighter which further allows soldiers to carry more rounds in the same weight. The effective firing range of Indian AK-203 rifles will be 800 meters against 400 meters of present-day INSAS rifles.
AK-203 rifle has a polymer pistol grip and modern forehand guard that allow for better holding and firing accuracy. AK- 203 rifles come fitted with integrated Picatinny rails for the fitting of modern accessories like sights and torches. In addition, the Ak-203 rifle has an inbuilt iron sight till 800 meters that comes with radium dots for night firing. The polymer parts of AK-203 rifle have been made for use in hand-to-hand combat and its butt (stock) has been designed to withstand regular use of 40 mm under-barrel grenade launcher (UBGL) without any stress or cracks.
Another noticeable change in design is the barrel of AK-203 which has elongated birdcage type flash suppressor that considerably reduces the flash produced by AK-203 when compared with legacy AK-47s which helps soldiers to conceal his firing position. Finally, AK-203 can also be fitted with quick-detachable silencers which are optimized to reduce the sound of AK-203 to negligible limits. This feature will be very useful for special forces and infantry Ghatak Commandos during raids on enemy locations.
As per the original Indo-Russian agreement, a total of 7,50,000 AK-203 assault rifles that will be produced by a joint venture between Russian Rosoboronexport and Kalashnikov Concern with India’s state-owned Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) which will be called Indo-Russia Rifles Private Limited (IRRPL). This joint venture having OFB as a majority stakeholder will establish a new rifle-manufacturing unit in Korwa, Amethi district of the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. The first 40,000 AK-203 rifles will be produced in Russia and subsequent batches will graduate from being produced in India using kits supplied from Russia to later batches produced using Indian raw materials. This approach led to a considerable increase in the price of “Made in India” AK-203 rifles in comparison with those manufactured in Russia as Indian AK-203 rifles also included the cost of setting up the production line.
The increased price of “Made in India” AK-203 rifles led to a rethinking within Indian Defence Ministry. Subsequently, OFB explained that prices of “Made in India” AK-203 rifles will reduce considerably as more rifles are produced. It is expected that additional batches of AK-203 rifles will be ordered even beyond initial order of 7,50,000 rifles for Indian Army. It is expected that in long run, Indian Air Force, Indian Navy, Indian Paramilitary Forces, and State Police Forces which are currently using INSAS rifles that will need a replacement in future. Therefore, Rosoboronexport expects that AK-203 rifles produced by this joint venture will ensure Kalashnikov has a prolonged foothold in the Indian small arms industry for decades to come. Furthermore, the new factory can not only produce enough AK-203 rifles to equip all security agencies in India but also can be suitably modified to produce even more advanced variants of AK family.
The recent intervention of the Indian Ministry of Defence has removed roadblocks for the production of AK-203 rifles and an Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) is expected to be signed within August 2020. This will ensure at least 40,000 of these AK-203 rifles that are to be manufactured in Russia will be reaching the Indian Army by 2021.
Team Guarding India hopes that the Indian Army gets these AK-203 rifles by 2021 which will not only enhance the lethality of Indian soldiers but also ensure the Indian Army reaches global parity in terms of small arms which are the most effective weapons of a solider.