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Indian assault rifle giving stiff competition to latest Russian AK

Even as the AK-203, the latest version of the dreaded Kalashnikov rifle, will be made in India in collaboration with the Russians, a comparable fully indigenous rifle has also been developed, and is already in use. The Indian weapon will be on display at the Defence Expo in Lucknow starting February 5. Known as the Trichy Assault Rifle (TAR), after Ordnance Factory Tiruchirapally (OFT), where it is made, the Indian rifle claims to be at par in terms of functionality with the Kalashnikov.

Information gathered by TOI says the AK-203 has an added feature of Picatiny rails, which can be used to fix reflexer or laser designator. Sources say the rails can be put in TAR too, and are basically add-ons. The TAR, which is made of solid metal, is also fundamentally said to be sturdier than the AK-203, which is made of sheet metal. Lately, there has been a shift to solid body in rifles in other countries too, said sources.

The AK-203 will be made at Ordnance Factory Korwa in Uttar Pradesh’s Amethi district by Indo Russian Rifle Private Limited (IRRPL), for the Indian army. The IRRPL, which is a joint venture between Russia’s Kalashnikov Concern and the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB), has a mandate to make over 7 lakh rifles. The agreement is an outcome of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Russia last year.


Now as an inter-government deal has been struck between Russia and India, the Army would be going ahead with the Kalashnikovs. TAR, on the other hand, is being pushed for the paramilitary forces, which are already buying it. The deal gives a major boost Russia’s Kalashnikov Concern for entering the Indian market. OFB sees the TAR as the means to regain its trust, which it lost over the Insas rifle. OFB, which had drawn flak over its plan to corporatize the set up as a revamp move, is hoping to continue with orders from the paramilitary, with even the AK-203 being manufactured parallelly.

The production is to start in a year, as OFT has already begun making the TAR. This year, the factory has an order for nearly 40,000 pieces from the central paramilitary forces coming under the ministry of home affairs (MHA). CRPF is the major buyer.

A comparative analysis using data accessed by TOI shows that TAR, AK-47, and AK-203 have the same rate of fire at 600 rounds a minute, and muzzle velocity of 700 to 715m/s. All the three rifles can hit up to an effective range of over 350 meters.

The range depends on the length of the barrel and calibre of ammunition. The three guns have a barrel length of 415mm and use ammunition of 7.62x39 mm calibre. The ammunition will be made at the Ordnance Factory Warangaon, near Bhusawal, and will also be used for the AK-203 after it is inducted in the Army.

The range also meets the Army’s specifications for the assault rifle it needs, said sources. Even the picatiny rails that are in the AK-203, are being put in TAR on the basis of orders, a source said.

TAR was also offered to the Army initially, which had reverted with demand for a few corrections, said sources requesting anonymity. In the meantime, the gun was accepted by the paramilitary forces. TAR is now set to replace the Bulgarian AK-47 made by Arsenal Joint Stock Company, from where the paramilitary has been mainly sourcing its rifles.

Over 15,000 rounds were fired to test the TAR’s life cycle and over 2,400 for reliability, said sources. The trials were carried out at the CRPF Academy in Gurgaon after which a final approval was given. With more orders in sight, the ordnance factory is planning to increase production capacity at Tiruchirapally.

After the Army rejected the 5.56 Insas rifle, which was also used during the Kargil war, OFB preferred to eye paramilitary forces instead, said sources. Apart from operational issues reported in the Insas, the Army did not prefer it because Insas having a smaller ammunition of 5.56mm did not have the lethality, It would rather injure the enemy than kill.

Earlier, the Army had preferred the 5.56mm ammunition going by the theory that an injured enemy is of more use than a dead one. Later, considering the requirement in counter-insurgency areas, it was decided to have the 7.26mm round for which TAR was made.


IN A NUTSHELL ::

- AK 203 is latest version of Kalashnikov rifles to be made in India
- Indo Russian Rifles Private Limited (IRRPF), a joint venture between OFB and Kalashnikov Concern, formed as part of inter-governmental deal
- This is part of deals signed after Prime Minister Modi’s Russia visit
- Parallelly, Tiruchirapally Ordnance Factory has also developed its own assault rifle —TAR
- TAR being suppled to paramilitary forces, and is set to replace imports from Bulgaria
- TAR dubbed to be at par with Kalashnikov in terms of functionality

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