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Oct 20, 2015
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AK-203 is to replace INSAS rifles that have been in service for over 2 decades

Close of the heels of the Army acquiring the AK-203 assault rifle, the Indo-Tibetan Border Police Force (ITBP), too, is moving to replace its existing weapons with the new Russian designed gun.

The AK-203, which will be licensed-manufactured in India, is meant to replace the INSAS rifles developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation that have been in service with the armed forces as well as the central armed police forces (CAPFs) for over two decades.

“The acquisition of the AK-203 rifles was discussed at a procurement meeting held at the ITBP headquarters a few days ago,” a senior officer said.

“Being a border guarding force that is co-deployed with the Army in strategic areas, both services need to possess same type of weapons and tactical equipment for logistic reasons and interoperability,” he added.

According to officers, supply of ammunition is a major factor. Border guarding forces are authorised to procure and hold a certain quantity of ammunition. Beyond that, ammunition is to be supplied to them by the Army during operations or actual hostilities. There are also technical factors such as maintenance, repair and spares.

The INSAS is a 5.56 mm weapon where as the AK-203 is a 7.62 mm. After using the 5.56 mm calibre for years, many armed forces across the world are switching back to the heavier 7.62 mm calibre as it has a higher-kill probability and longer range.

The AK-203, which can fire single shots as well in full automatic mode, is the latest variant of the Soviet/Russian AK series of assault rifles that began with the ubiquitous AK-47 and saw scores of variants and models.

India signed a deal with Russia for procuring 6.7 lakh AK-203 assault rifles. The first batch of 70,000 guns were procured directly from Russia and delivered in January this year. The remaining number will be licensed-produced in Amethi by a joint venture firm, Indo-Russia Rifles Private Limited, under a transfer of technology pact. Further production is expected to meet the requirements of the armed forces and CAPFs.

ITBP sources said that the vintage British origin 9 mm carbine in service, that dates back to the 1950s was to be totally replaced with the Italian Beretta X-4 9 mm carbine, some numbers of which are already in service with the CAPFs.

A carbine is a short-range fully automatic weapon meant for personal protection, close combat and operations in confined spaces. “There is now a rethinking on this issue. The force may get more AK-203s instead of Berettas,” an officer said.

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