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INSAS: INdian Small Arms System

insas2.jpg (59912 bytes)

The INSAS is a family of weapons consisting of an assault rifle, a light machine gun (LMG), and a carbine. A folding butt Paratroop version of the assault rifle also exists. INSAS has been in development since the mid-1980s under the auspices of the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) and Armaments Research and Development Establishment (ARDE), Pune. Of the three weapons types, the assault rifle and LMG have already entered service with the Army. The  INSAS assault rifle provides a much awaited  replacement for the cumbersome 7.62 mm Ishapore FN FAL. In line with the Indian Army's standardization plans, the INSAS also allows the Army to begin replacement all rifles presently in service. INSAS introduction was delayed due to the lack of an an indigenous facility to produce the needed 5.56X45mm SS109-based ammunition. Though this round is based on the SS109, it  is not NATO standard, as it is intended to provide a long range firing capability.  The approach now appears to be induct INSAS with NATO standard ammunition while production gears up for the local round. In the meantime 50 million Indian Standard rounds (with options on a further 50 million) rounds were ordered from Israel Military Industries in 1997.  The INSAS appears to have entered full service with the Indian Army during late 1997. It was significant that the 1998 Republic Day parade for the first time featured all marching contingents with the INSAS. In 1997-1998 production for the assault rifle stood at 90,000 units. In light of the Kargil conflict of 1999 it is possible that production of the rifles has increased. The Kargil conflict also provides a good testing ground for the rifle and feedback will undoubtedly be incorporated into the future versions of the rifle.

Description: The INSAS 5.56mm assault rifle is a gas-operated selective fire weapon which shows an interesting blend of features culled from a variety of sources: receiver and pistol grip (Kalashnikov); butt, gas regulator and flash-hider (FN FAL); Fore-end (AR-15); cocking handle (H&K). The gas system operates the usual front locking rotating bolt. Sheet metal pressings (1.8mm thick) are used for the receiver and the barrel bore is chrome plated. All furniture is made from a plastic-based material. The magazine housing accommodates standard M16 magazines, although the standard magazine is made of semi-transparent plastic and holds 20 rounds; the 30-round magazine for the INSAS LMG can also be used. The selector mechanism allows single shots and 3-round bursts. The adoption of 3-round bursts is a result of the Indian Army's experience in Sri Lanka. It was found that 3-round bursts gave the user optimal control over the weapon and prevented the waste of ammunition.

Passive night sights or optical sights can be mounted. The muzzle attachment doubles as a flash eliminator and rifle grenade launcher. Accessories include a blank firing attachment, multipurpose bayonet, and a sling. One design detail is the use of the old Lee-Enfield No 1 Mark III butt-plate, complete with trap for oil bottle and cleaning pull-through. The LMG differs from the AR in possessing a longer and heavier barrel with revised rifling, and a bipod (a revision of the bipod fitted on Indian produced Bren guns). The 20-round AR magazine can be used as well as the 30-round LMG magazine (also semi-transparent plastic). There is no 3-round burst selection and the iron sights are calibrated for ranges of 200 to 1000m because of the higher ballistic performance of the longer barrel; the barrel cannot be rapid-changed. A grenade launcher adaptor is fitted but there is no provision for a bayonet. As with the AR, a folding-butt model is available and also a shorter barrel version. Mounting points for attachment to vehicles and ground mountings are provided.

Specifications (Assault Rifle):
Cartridge: 5.56X45mm SS109 Special
Operation: gas, selective fire (3-round bursts)
Locking: Rotating bolt
Feed: 20 or 30 round plastic box magazine
Weight: empty (w/o magazine), 3.2kg, loaded, 4.1kg
Length: fixed butt 945mm; butt folded, 750mm; butt extended, 960mm
Barrel: 464mm
Rifling: 6 grooves, rh, 1 turn in 200mm
Sights: fore, blade; rear, flip aperture, 200 and 400m
Muzzle velocity: 915m/s
Rate of fire: cyclic, 650rds/min
Max effective range: 400m
Muzzle energy: 1684J
Manufacturer: Rifle Factory, Ishapore

Specifications (LMG):
Cartridge: as for AR
Operation: as for AR (no 3-round burst)
Locking: as for AR
Feed: 30-round plastic box magazine
Weight: fixed butt, empty, 6.23kg, loaded 6.73kg; folding butt, empty, 5.87kg, loaded 6.37kg
Length: fixed butt, 1.05m; butt folded, 890mm; butt extended, 1.025m
Barrel: standard, 535mm; short, 500mm
Rifling: 4 grooves, rh, 1 turn in 200mm
Sights: as for AR (200-1000m instead of 200-400m)
Sight radius: 475mm
Muzzle velocity: 925m/s (std barrel), 915m/s (short barrel)
Muzzle energy: 1780J (std barrel), 1740J (short barrel)
Recoil energy: 2.75J (std barrel), 2.85J (short barrel)
Rate of fire: as for AR
Max effective range: 700m (std barrel), 600m (short barrel)
Manufacturer: Small Arms Factory, Kalpi Road, Kanpur.

We are grateful to the Ordnance Factory Board for their assistance. Copyright Bharat Rakshak

15 July 1999