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A New AK-47 Clone Has Come Out Of India

January 31, 2019

Still another derivative of the ubiquitous Kalashnikov assault rifle is being manufactured in an Asian country. India, whose state-owned military-industrial sector ranks among the largest in the world, joins its neighbors China and Iran as a source for copycat military small arms. This week, representatives of the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) showed a new small arm to the Border Security Force (BSF) called the “TAR” or Trichy Assault Rifle. (Pictured above.) The name is derived from its manufacturer, the OFB plant in Tiruchirappalli in Tamil Nadu.

Of course, it’s hard not to notice the so-called TAR is just another Kalashnikov-pattern rifle. But examining its finer details reveals a few insights on India’s national security.

While India’s OFB sites are responsible for mass-producing an enormous variety of weapons the need for a Kalashnikov-pattern assault rifle is surprising. For the past 30 years, India’s government has mandated its defense ministry and military industries to indigenize–either build licensed foreign products or produce these with local talent and resources. An early result of this effort was the INSAS rifle, whose appearance copied the Israeli Galil albeit with a few alterations, that grew to a “family” with a marksman rifle and a light machine gun.

But the INSAS rifle is loathed by India’s jawans or soldiers, including those serving in the BSF, and its faults are endless. The prevalence of local insurgencies proved a battle rifle, such as the retired 7.62x51mm SLR (a copy of the FN FAL) that used to be standard issue, was favored over the INSAS with its 5.56x45mm NATO standard ammunition. In lieu of the SLR, India’s police and the military’s special forces adopted Eastern European AK-47’s and AKM’s. Even regular army units in restive Kashmir switched to AK’s en masse for battling separatist guerillas.

The so-called TAR isn’t the first Kalashnikov-patter rifle to be rolled out by the OFB. Samples of AK-47’s with underfolding metal stocks have been put on display in its factories before and the OFB’s Rifle Factory Ishapore did make an AKM copy it called “Ghatak” for India’s police. The Ghatak unveiled in 2015 boasted an all black finish and new handguards that had rails for mounting optics. Besides these, little else has changed. The so-called TAR was developed by another plant of the OFB soon after the Ghatak was launched. The OFB’s Kalashnikov-pattern rifles are understood to be unlicensed models based on Bulgarian Kalashnikovs–their ribbed plastic magazines are their primary markers.

The AR-M1F41 7.62x39mm assault rifle. Via Arsenal JSCo.

The so-called TAR is no exception. In fact, its Bulgarian “origins” are glaring. The state-owned Arsenal JSCo manufactures a rifle exactly like it sold as the “AR-M1F41” that’s available in traditional 7.62x39mm or NATO standard 5.56x45mm. The Indian derivative–there’s little public evidence the OFB bothered to license the design from Arsenal JSCo–is a faithful imitation, complete with the slanting muzzle brake of the AKM, a ribbed magazine, and a side folding metal stock. Just like the Bulgarian AR-M1F41 a milled lower receiver, the portion of the rifle housing the trigger assembly and the magazine well, is used on the so-called TAR rather than a stamped sheet with rivets. The cleaning rod tucked under the barrel is absent too.

India’s BSF is a large paramilitary organization tasked with protecting the country’s frontiers from criminals and terrorists. Its numbers alone dwarf most regular armies, with total personnel reaching 250,000 men and women, and the adoption of a new Kalashnikov-pattern rifle is a boon for the OFB, whose efforts to develop a battle rifle for the army are being shunned. India’s rise as an unapologetic manufacturer of AK-type assault rifles proves the design’s global appeal.

Illicit and unlicensed copies of Kalashnikov rifles are now manufactured across Asia’s length and breadth. With the exception of Russia, AK-47/AKM production is ongoing from the Korean Peninsula until the Mediterranean.

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