Why can’t the Indian Government Provide its Soldiers with the AK-47 Rifle?

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Most of the times I find it funny when people think that AK-47 is a better substitute for Indian Army Soldiers than INSAS or any other rifle. In simple words, it is NOT.

Both the rifles: INSAS (the current standard service rifle in Indian Army) and AK-47/AKM are built keeping in mind different combat philosophies and warfare spectrum. They cannot complement each other in their roles and are used depending upon the area of operation.

Back in the 1980s, India wanted to go over its SLR rifle which has been in service since 2 decades by replacing it with an ultra-modern 5.56x45mm Assault Rifle, since many nations were replacing their bulky battle rifles with rifles which can fire intermediate rounds. INSAS was the first Indian attempt in designing an indigenous assault rifle taking in mind the limitations they faced with SLRs in Operation Pawan. At that time it was a revolutionary concept and quite a futuristic one too since INSAS would possess many features which most assault rifles don’t possess.

In 1990s, the INSAS project was delayed as initial prototypes failed to satisfy Army and development process was started all over again. At that time, Indian Army was engaging the terrorists which had begun a fresh infiltration in Kashmir. To combat them, Army did not want to rely on their older SLR Battle Rifles which had its own limitations in CI/CT Ops nor did it wanted to place its bets upon INSAS whose future was bleak.

Hence, Indian ordered the first major consignment of Md.63 and Md.90 (Romanian clones of AK-47/AKM) to equip its CI/CT Forces in Kashmir. Soon more orders were placed to equip the forces involved in such ops.

AK-47/AKM has its own distinct disadvantages. It has poor accuracy in single shots, is pretty short-ranged ( effective up to 300 meters), possesses a heavy recoil, produces a lot of fumes, and has a pretty short service life. This is why AK-47/AKM was deemed unfit for Infantry troopers involved in Conventional Warfare. The heavy 7.62x39mm round also limited the round carrying capability of normal soldiers. Meanwhile in Russia, to combat such deficiencies in AK-47/AKM Platform, AK-74 assault rifle was developed which used a small sized 5.45x39mm round. During tests, it found similar performance to AK-47 7.62x39mm round thus making AK-74 much more viable and reliable platform than AK-47/AKM.

INSAS also uses OFB 64 Grain Bullets which are heavier and lethal than western rounds. 5.56x45mm is good for incapacitating enemy which was advantageous which takes three enemy combatants out of combat: one wounded, two stretcher bearers (depends on operative), Many people consider AKM as a substitute for INSAS on a battlefield. However, it is not.

One rifle cannot do different jobs in all conditions. That is why Kalashnikov is not a substitute for INSAS.

Both rifles have served best in their roles: one as a battlefield weapon and the other as a close-encounter weapon during CI/CT Operations. In their roles, both weapons work just fine and average and newer rifles whose procurement is under process will replace both these rifles in service.

The combat infantry deployed on International Borders will get a 7.62x51mm Assault Rifle while troopers involved in CI/CT Ops like Rashtriya Rifles will get AK-103 (which is just an AK-74M chambered for a 7.62x39mm round). The non-combat infantry will either get INSAS 1C (the latest iteration of INSAS) or Ghatak (Indian clone of Mpi KM-72).

AK-47 at its core is just a 1940s rifle and it has been proliferated too much that it is still used due to ease of use, cheap manufacturing, and lower maintenance. There are other better rifles in the same caliber, but the AKs beat all of them in those three aspects I mentioned above. Except that AK-47/AKM is no GOD as it is portrayed so and is used as per requirements and needs primarily in CI/CT ops in India.

Harsh B Mishra is a writer on DefenceLover, he also loves to write on Quora. You can follow him on Quora for more interesting knowledge on special forces.