AK 203 vs P-72: Is Army Against Indigenous Weapons?


Senior Member
Oct 20, 2015
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Recently the deal for 70,000 Ak 203 has been signed. Why do we always import small arms? Why can’t we become self-reliant in terms of small arms manufacturing? In this article, we are going to discuss why the Indian army is reluctant to induct Indigenous weapons and why the small arms industry never grew in India.

AK 203 is a part of Kalashnikov’s AK 200 series. It is manufactured by Kalashnikov concern of Russia. It is based on the legendary AK 47 design and somewhat is a cheaper version of AK-12. India and Russia made an intergovernmental agreement to produce AK 203 rifles in India. A joint venture company, called Indo-Russian Rifles Private Limited was formed. In this company, the state-owned Ordnance Factory Board has 50.5% shares, followed by Kalashnikov concern which has 42% shares, and the rest 7.5 % shares are owned by Rosoboronexport. A rifle manufacturing Facility was also set up in Amethi, Uttar Pradesh.

AK 203 is perhaps the most advanced version of the legendary AK 47. Thus it is a battle-proven platform and will perfectly fit the requirement of the Indian army. The Indian Army will receive more than 7 lakh of this rifle. The central police forces such as the CRPF, BSF, SSB, ITBP, Assam Rifles, and CISF are also expected to order this rifle.

So far there is no problem with this deal. Now let us look at the issues. It has almost been 2 years since the Rifle factory in Amethi had been inaugurated in 2019. Over a year, the deal is stuck due to pricing issues. Moreover, we see many cost-cutting elements from the standard AK 203 variant when compared to the Indian production variant. For example, the Modular telescopic collapsable buttstock was replaced by a regular wooden buttstock. Now Indian government is procuring 70,000 rifles directly from Russia, which was earlier supposed to be 20,000.

The P 72 family of rifles is a family of Indigenous assault rifles developed by Indian Private Firm SSS Defence. We have already covered this company in detail. We recommend you to read the above article as well for a better understanding.

P 72 is based on the advanced western design philosophy, which can be seen in ACR, FN Scar, and Czech CZ Bren 2 Family. Compared to the AK 203, the design of P 72 is much more advanced. However, the simplicity of the Kalashnikov rifles is its strength.

Now if an indigenous private firm is capable of producing world-class technology that too at a very competitive price, then government must think twice before importing foreign rifles or producing them under transfer of technology.

Why Army Didn’t Choose P 72?
There are many reasons why the Indian Army didn’t choose P-72. First of all, is still in the development phase. Like Ak 203, this platform is not battle-proven. It will be a huge gamble for Army if it decides to procure 6 lakh rifles to replace INSAS. The army does not want to put all eggs in the same basket. Moreover, the platform of P 72 is entirely different. The army is convenient with operating either AR 15 type rifles or Kalashnikov. Although switching over to an entirely new platform won’t be difficult. P 72 is a versatile platform. It comes with many variants like Carbine. The army is yet to procure large numbers of carbines. There is still a lot of space where P 72 can fit in.

India is a country that is capable of sending its probe to Mars but cannot develop a modern assault rifle. Not only assault rifles, our Ordnance Factories are also incapable of designing any sort of small arms, be it a pistol or a sub-machine gun. OFB has been producing copies of guns for decades.

The monopoly of OFB has led to a situation where Makarov style .32 ACP pistols are sold in the civilian market for 2 Lakh INR, whereas no one would pay more than 10000 INR for it in the International Market.

The same story is true for INSAS. Initially, it was supposed to be a derivative of AK-type rifles with a 5.56 mm caliber, somewhat that IMI Galil. However, ARDE ended up making a rifle that was way more complicated yet as effective as the initial rifle on which it was based.

We cannot say that the Indian Army is against Indigenisation. The Army has shown its faith in HAL and DRDO in the past. The situation is that the Army just cannot expect that an Indian company can come up with a world-class small arms system, thanks to the brilliant record of OFB and ARDE. But Things are changing now as Government has realized the importance of the Indigenisation of the defence sector. Slowly we are becoming self-reliant in terms of small arms manufacturing. Companies like SSS defence and Researchers like Lt. Col. Prasad Bansod are coming up with brilliant products. Only a little support from the government and the armed forces is required.

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