SOURCE: ABHIMANYU SINGH / FOR MY TAKE / IDRW.ORG
Today Indian indigenous defense industry is expanding in almost all fields, this is the product of increasing cooperation between the RnD organisations and industry giants both private and public .Almost all fields except the one which although has a big impact on our preparedness is often ignored. The small arms industry.
It is often said that the chain is as weak as it’s weakest link, in case of military one of the weakest link would be the infantryman . Although our infantry gets the best training from the shooting range to the actual anti insurgency ops, reportedly their rifle is often the one to betray them.
Their rifle collectively known as the INSAS which fires a 5.56×45 mm calibre round is a long stroke assault rifle, It was the right choice at it’s time of the induction but as it is faced with drugged insurgents and an enemy to which heavy body Armour is becoming increasingly available the 5.56 round is steadily losing it’s viability thus the use of INSAS is becoming increasingly low. One can argue that the tavor rifles are still being used but tavor is optimised for a more CQC as well as mid range engagement hence it’s still used.
Hence, the Army has started searching in the 7.62mm domain, 7.62x51mm particularly as it has both good penetration and high stopping power although it too suffers from high Recoil and low ammo cap per unit . For this task IZHMASH is asked to provide a modified 7.62x51mm firing assault rifle based on the pre-existing AK 103 platform (a base 7.62x39mm might also be in talks) .
Tavor 7 is also taken into consideration but because the high cost of these systems might burn a hole in army’s already fund deficient pockets. This was observed in previous big tavor order where one rifle cost roughly 6000 dollars per rifle. Although IWI didn’t ever actually release the actual price of the military tavor they sell to the Israeli army but it can be computed, the civilian semi auto version of tavor sells at aboit 1800 dollars some might think it’s normal to see cheaper civilian semi auto rifles than the military full auto version but because of the US arm laws and the market the civilian versions are often 2 to 3 times more than the original military versions this is observed in their M4(600 dollars army same version cost upto 1500 dollar in the civilian market ) similar fashions is observed in HK 416 rifles, the scar platform etc . Therefore one can assume that one tavor would cost about 1000 dollars but India got one for 6000 dollars even if we cut equipment transfer(IWI has production facilities in USA too) and limited ToT to punj lloyd in it ,still buying it at roughly at least 3 times more is not a wise choice .
Also, Punj loyd didn’t gain much from it either, they currently don’t seem to have any major rifles in designing and also they are currently in heavy debt . Speaking of other arms manufacturers OFB although did made a different 7.62x51mm rifle which was just a watered down version of PARA .308 and hence it was just their old FN FAL rifle with picatany rails thrown on it . It did fail on army trials and frankly was not much of a surprise as they failed to even make a rightly tapered magazine for it but a full assessment of their mistakes could take an article for itself .
But for the future of our small arms industry might not so bad, MKU for instance is joining hands with their Austrian and french counterparts to make specialised AUG rifles in India and the optronics.
Seeing their past record MKU might be able to absorb some tech unlike their other competitors here and maybe able to make a good rifle on their own . But that could take upto a decade from now, some other private companies as well as qualified startups should also look into this industry .