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These Battle Rifles Are Perfect For The Indian Army

July 23, 2017

It’s common knowledge the Indian Army spent years seeking a replacement for their INSAS rifle, a Galil clone that entered service in the 1990s. Almost a quarter century since jawans first took it to battle the army desperately wants a new model chambered for the 7.62x51mm round, the same cartridge as their original FAL’s from the days of Indira Gandhi.

But even the Ordnance Factory Board’s heroic efforts at producing a local alternative were shot down. Disappointing tests conducted on a 7.62mm OFB rifle in June 2017, involving a small arm that still looked like an INSAS, forced the army to dig its heels and open an invitation for prospective alternatives.

Of course, there are no shortage of options and the battle rifle concept is regaining popularity among the world’s militaries, anyway. In early 2017 even the US Army advertised its requirement for a squad level marksman rifle that surpasses their browbeaten M4 carbines. Small arms manufacturers everywhere have anticipated this trend away from NATO’s favorite light cartridge and readied shiny new battle rifles for those who can afford them.

But the Indian Army needs 185,000 battle rifles in the coming years, with a million to go until the 2030s. That’s more than anyone else. The prospective candidates aren’t too many but what they have to offer–weapons suited for the 7.62x51mm round–should meet India’s standards. If not, what will?

 

Beretta ARX-200

Country : Italy
Action : Gas Operated
Weight : 4.5 kilograms
Practical Rate of Fire : 100 rounds-per-minute
Maximum Rate of Fire : 600 rpm
Range : 200 – 600 meters

The ARX-200 is a further improvement on the ARX platform that’s proven itself among customers worldwide. The advantage of choosing Beretta are its ergonomics–the rifle is ambidextrous and the space between the magazine well and the housing for the vented barrel assembly features a subtle foregrip for the shooter’s hand. These features, along with many other details, makes it an appealing choice for long-term standardization.

The rifle’s stock in particular is remarkable. It’s easy on the shoulder and both retractable and collapsible. The armies of Italy and Argentina have embraced the ARX as their standard rifle. The ARX has found a niche in many countries where the armed forces prefer Soviet-era weapons, i.e. Albania, Egypt, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, which is a plus for the Indian market. The ARX’s popularity extends to various law enforcement agencies.

Beretta Defense Technologies insist they build rifles according to the customer’s specifications. This is true since the ARX can be chambered for the 7.62x39mm M43 round from a steel AK-type magazine. India’s sprawling military and paramilitary branches are no strangers to Beretta firearms and the ARX-200 is the ultimate modular rifle.

FN SCAR-H

Country : Belgium
Action : Gas Operated
Weight, Loaded : 4.5 kg
Practical Rate of Fire : 40-120 rpm
Maximum Rate of Fire : N/A
Range : N/A

The FN SCAR family has the distinct advantage of being the most recognizable among today’s assault rifles. Always copied yet never eclipsed by its peers, it enjoys the patronage of American and European special forces and is coveted by gun collectors all over the world.

The FN SCAR-H in particular has more than a decade of asymmetrical wars behind it and is available either as a rifle, a carbine, or a markman’s weapon.

Already used in at least 24 different countries, the FN SCAR-H hasn’t been standardized by a whole army yet but various elite units have found the rifle to their liking. The OFB’s past experience with the original FAL or Self Loading Rifle should make the FN SCAR-H a convenient choice for their production line. Need it be mentioned a prototype OFB rifle, the MCIWS, imitated the FN SCAR?

As for the Indian army, they’ve never repudiated their FAL’s anyway, so its successor might be right by them.
Galil ACE

Country : Israel
Action : Gas Operated
Weight, Loaded : 4.4 kg
Practical Rate of Fire : 40-120 rpm
Maximum Rate of Fire : N/A
Range : 500 m

The latest variant of the Galil, which formed the basis for the original INSAS that made its public debut in 1993, is an obvious choice for the Indian Army’s next battle rifle. It bears repeating even the OFB made a 7.62x51mm INSAS carbine (a copy of a copy of a copy!) in 2017 but was rejected.

When it comes to the Galil ACE a heavy barrel makes it ideal for whatever climate the Indian Army needs to fight in. So many parts of the rifle, from its foregrip to its lower receiver, will be familiar among Indian warfighters–to borrow the arms industry’s parlance.

A length of Picatinny rails between its back and front sights allows for whatever optics are provided jawans. The rifle’s stock is a marvel. It’s retractable like the AR-15’s but folds sideways too.

Small arms made by Israel Weapons Industries are sold throughout the world and it has shared its manufacturing know-how with Colombia, Myanmar, South Africa, and Vietnam. IWI is obviously a generous partner to its clientele. Indian special forces are familiar with the excellent Tavor bullpup and Negev light machine gun. It doesn’t hurt how Delhi and Tel Aviv have transacted billions in arms deals for the past 20 years. The Galil ACE is almost a sure winner!

HK417 A2

Country : Germany
Action : Gas Operated
Weight, Loaded : 4.3 kg
Practical Rate of Fire : 90 rpm
Maximum Rate of Fire : N/A
Range : 400 m

The Heckler & Koch 417 A2 is a strong contender for the Indian Army’s next battle rifle. It’s another small arm favored by elite units and commandos across 20 countries. Its track record in active war zones and emergency situations is solid enough for it to make the grade as a standardized weapon.

Even without considering the HK417 A2 and its variants, which includes different barrel lengths and a sniper rifle, imitators have borrowed the concept to produce their own firearm. A good example is the Turkish Army’s adoption of the MPT-76 to replace their old but very effective G3 rifles. The MPT-76 only differs from the original with its sturdy polymer stock and a detachable carrying handle.

If the Indian Army is willing to explore choices in its near abroad the Caracal 817AR from the United Arab Emirates is another interesting pick for a rifle that draws from the AR-15’s lineage. Small arms patterned after this American design offer superb handling and this applies to different models utilizing similar parts like the Sig 716. Since relations with the Washington, DC are so warm these days, even Colt’s CM901 looks very attractive.

 

Pindad SSX

Country : Indonesia
Action : Gas Operated
Weight, Loaded : N/A
Practical Rate of Fire : N/A
Maximum Rate of Fire : N/A
Range : N/A

It’s doubtful PT Pindad will try winning any customers with a prototype rifle. But Indonesia has been exporting weaponry for decades and it wouldn’t hurt to further publicize their wares in the high profile stakes of a massive main battle rifle competition. Doing is proof that cutting edge small arms R&D is slowly shifting to the Asia-Pacific.

The SSX rifle that was first unveiled at a Jakarta arms show in 2014 is a battle rifle made to conform with the current fetish for Picatinny rails and ergonomic handling. In fairness, the model itself is based on a proven design PT Pindad has manufactured for many, many years. If it helps, PT Pindad and the OFB have similar portfolios (small arms, light weapons, and ammunition) so any technology transfer should be convenient.

If the Indian Army were ever presented with the SSX or its immediate descendant it should drive home the value of homegrown innovation. It’s a course many local arms industries have taken, from Mexico to Iran. India’s state-owned industrial sector is much larger than Indonesia’s. A better domestic military small arm is well within its capabilities, right?

SG 751

Country : Switzerland
Action : Gas Operated
Weight, Loaded :  4.3 kg
Practical Rate of Fire : 100 rpm
Maximum Rate of Fire : 700 rpm
Range :  N/A

Switzerland has an excellent tradition of building its own weapons. No wonder the Sig Sauer 716 comes highly recommended. If this doesn’t tickle the Indian Army’s sensibilities then perhaps a model reminiscent of the classic Sig Sauer SG-series military rifles are worth examining.

The best argument for choosing the SG 751 are emphasizing its convenient dimensions and basic handling. Being a European small arm its design is convertible to different variants for commandos, snipers, the rear echelon, and special police units. The SG 751 comes with a side folding polymer skeleton stock, a modest length of Picatinny rail, and a magazine the OFB once copied for the INSAS.

Sig Sauer rifles have been sold to almost 20 countries and the Swiss even transferred its production abroad. Copies of the SIG 540 are still manufactured by Chile’s state-owned FAMAE, who offer a tacticooled 7.62mm SG 542 in their catalogue. Since the Indian Army fights in crowded cities, jungles, deserts, and high altitudes at freezing temperatures the SG 751 won’t be out of place in these environments. Rolling out the stamped steel-and-plastic SG 751 in the hundreds of thousands is well within the OFB’s capacity.

Besides, its superficial resemblance to the INSAS is fairly obvious.

 

AK-103

Country : Russia
Action : Gas Operated
Weight, Loaded : 4.5 kg
Practical Rate of Fire : 100 rpm
Maximum Rate of Fire : N/A
Range : 400 m

There’s a good chance the Indian Army’s current requirements for a lethal 7.62x51mm rifle gets bogged down in so much red tape that it dies a bureaucratic death. In this scenario it’s worth speculating if the army comes to terms with a longstanding truth. Thousands of its troops have learned to fight and operate the AK-47. Why not ditch due process and standardize what the jawans prefer?

The shortest way is having the OFB apply polymer furniture to the AKM it already builds without a license. A muzzle brake along with superficial changes on the lower receiver aren’t too difficult to add. These features are present in the 5.56x30mm Amogh carbine used by India’s coast guard.

Of course, there’s the risk of legal action by Russia’s state-owned gunmaker. Maybe this can be avoided by sourcing the first orders to Bulgaria, who wouldn’t mind the extra business from an old client. As ludicrous as it seems, honesty does matter in the conduct of official business and an AK-47 derivative is honestly a good choice.

Besides, the official business of India’s vast military is preparing for a yet undefined but inevitable next great war. It does so by training with Russian tanks, helicopters, fighter jets, ships, submarines, and aircraft. The OFB builds different kinds of crew-served Russian weapons like 30mm grenade launchers and 12.7mm machine guns. The INSAS handles like an AKM anyway, so what’s the big deal?

Done by the book or not, the production of the AK-103–a 7.62x39mm assault rifle in menacing black finish–is the easiest route to a new and better rifle for India’s proud legions.

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