Another interesting trend in the small arms is the movement away from obsessive standardization over 5.56mm weapons.
As most of us are aware, the trend in eighties was to develop everything around one family of guns & around one round and an example is off course is the INSAS family. Now we keep hearing criticism of INSAS which tends to confuse us, without realizing that to a certain extent this is a world wide trend wherein the designers have given up trying to search for the El Dorado of weapons i.e. one weapon & one round which can play all roles. The 5.56mm round remains the standard round but other calibers have been accepted to be equally relevant in many situations.
This requirement of different calibers is being accepted. But the Indian military establishment has never been renowned for its capacity to spot simple commonsense trends (brochure mentality?). The apocryphal story is off course some reluctance in the brass to adopt the SLR in place of bolt action, as it did not lend itself to beautiful handling in the parade ground.
In the INSAS saga, the effort initially was to develop an over powerful round with more powerful propellant and heavier bullet then NATO SS109. Due to the failure of DRDO this was thankfully given up and the INSAS family is in production, but no attempt is being made to keep up the development in the other calibers.
The various calibers and weapons are also relevant in continuing exchange of fire across the border, light skirmishes at the border, special operations and COIN (or more appropriately COT/COPW/COCW)
Indian forces in any case are using almost all the calibers discussed below. In addition the sniper rifles and suppressed weapons even of the same caliber preferably use special ammo/weapons for better results.
Let me make a list of relevant calibers/bores (as per my choice
1. 9mm x 19
This is off course the caliber in which pistols and sub machine guns are produced. OFB produces a good pistol FN-35 in this caliber.
The submachine gun is the ubiquitous Sterling gun (or wrongly called sten gun) that is very old model. Though it was adequate for sometime but now a more modern gun is needed like Uzi or MP-5. I say- Uzi. Because it is cheap and used in around 70 nations. MP-5 is very costly.
This caliber is used in mainly police actions, personal security, and urban gunfights. The reason is the big bullet with slow speed tends to drop the target while limiting collateral damage. For instance the collateral damage can be through bullets traveling through the door & killing off somebody, bullets killing of bystanders 600 m away unintentionally or the bullets killing a person behind the target and so on. The weapons of 9mm are also small and easily wielded around in confined spaces. Normally used in ranges upto 50m-100m.
No development of new submachine gun in this caliber is known to be in progress in India.
(A newer trend of PDW for instance H&K 4.6mm x 30 and FN 5.8mm x 28 is also evolving but it is not yet fully caught on. On the issue of small arms one can easily trail behind to learn from the experience of others)
2. 7.62mm x 39mm
Now this is the caliber for the famous Kalashnikov. This caliber has found wide acceptance as military level carbine. The bullet is adequately heavy and the gun can be used for around 100m-200m.
The reason is that all this wounding business is good for explaining the inadequacies of 5.56mm but the fact remains that the soldiers prefer this heavy/big caliber alongwith legendary reliability of Kalashnikov.
India has around 200-300,000 weapons of this caliber. Lot of nations use this caliber for special forces even though their standard caliber is 5.56mm. Some western nations donot use it due to more political reasons then military but the same constraints do not bind us.
I think what is required in acknowledgment of the military relevance of this round and giving up needless competition with INSAS. The better course would be to adapt and develop an variant of the INSAS to fire this caliber also.
It can replace the sterling from “military” use especially COIN.
India has incidentally started manufacturing ammo of this caliber.
Now the other thing I wanted to mention is the equipping policy of the military. It would be prudent to maintain a large number of guns extra for different situations at (say) Battalion level. Like Kalashnikov for COIN, LMG for troops moving in enemy areas, extra sniper/marksmanship rifles for imposing attrition/seize situation and GPMGs/HMGs for holding positions etc.
Before raising the issue of training, remember we are volunteer army with very long service years and we can adequately train men. While on the issue of cost - the small arms are still very cheap (relatively).
Obsessive standardization around one round and even around one standard mix is incorrect.
The present situation & actually the ground reality seems to be that different weapons are issued on demand but in an ad hoc manner which creates confusion in the mind of DDM (leading to criticism of INSAS) and also more importantly is ad hoc and not well thought out policy. For instance, the use of AKM in COIN, INSAS in conventional military situations and handing over of heavy machine guns in forward areas (under fire to relieving units/re-enforcing units to bolster their fire power).
3. 5.56mm x 45
I have said a lot on this though I want to add that this family should be developed further by for instance adding a sniper rifle in this caliber. The LMG is dieing to be upgraded to a sniper/marksmanship weapon. It has a heavy barrel and all that is needed is the special care in selecting/machinning the barrels and special (accurate ammo) bullets.
Such a gun would be relevant till say 300-500m. Try aiming at something the size of a head (football equivalent) at 200 m and you will know that the iron sights are inadequate. Scopes are a necessity to see the target.
The objection off course is that the gun is difficult to use at short range if a scope is added. To tackle this situation, emergency iron sights or Reflex sights can be mounted on top of scopes for short-range use. Or the scopes can be mounted towards a side so that the iron sights remain useful.
A belt fed LMG should also be considered for areas where something heavier is needed (then normal INSAS LMG) but the weight is still an issue like for Paras and in Siachin.
An important indigenous attachment missing from the INSAS family is the grenade launcher attached to the rifle. The muzzle launched grenade is a different thing (heavier – shorter ranged) then the single round grenade firing weapon attached beneath the barrel (forgot the exact term) The design that seems to be adopted is the Soviet/Russian and some Bulgarian rifles equipped with such a grenade launcher were imported.
There is no known policy to develop any of the three things mentioned under this caliber.
4. 7.62mm x 51 NATO
This caliber was the standard round till recently. Interesting enough this round will continue to remain relevant. Some armies (e.g. Australia) that phased out this caliber GPMG and replaced it with 5.56mm LMG had to induct it back. The more powerful bullet gives a better range and penetration at longer ranges. (Around ~ 800m compared to ~ 400m of 5.56mm)
Most of the western armies that have shifted to 5.56mm continue to use 7.62mm GPMGs. It seems (hopefully) Indian forces will also use this caliber GPMG.
For people interested in trivia, the US army adopted two weapons in late eighties (discarding their local designs) that were being used by Indian forces for decades. Those being Gmag GPMG and Carl Gastaf (both manufactured by India)
Though one of the limitations of this Gmag GPMG is lack of single shot and short 2-3 round burst fire capacity. I wonder whether DRDO is interested in addressing these (non high profile) concerns.
Now the thing I find odd is non-conversion of Isapore rifle (the standard 7.62mm rifle) for marksmanship role. This rifle is very very very well made and considered the best rifle in the western portfolio. By adding an accurate barrel (using INSAS machinery- I am assuming it is flexible) and special ammo it can b converted to replace Dragnovs. Can be used for say 300-600m use. Issue can be one per section. Dragnov 7.62mm x 54R which are currently being used, are very poor sniper rifle and in fact are not even called sniper rifle but a marksmanship weapon. Their only relevance was in Soviet type doctrine to supplement the normal conscript troops who were armed with short ranged inaccurate Kalashnikov.
No activity of DRDO or OFB is known in any these directions.
Just to add trivia, the US sniper rifle M21 action IIRC is inherited from their WW I rifle. It is not the best but is very adequate. Though their rifles are definitely sniper quality.
I think there is requirement of strong dose of immediate realization that adequate, simple and innovative solutions are the best. Refer the erstwhile Soviet Union. In the present slow attrition policy and special operations, every small advantage has to be pressed. Even Israeli Galil sniper is considered terribly inaccurate but is still adequate for most of the tasks assigned.
5. .338 inch Lapua Magnum (X ?67)
This caliber is emerging as a suitable rifle for a high quality “long range” “sniper use” use say 600m-1200m in preferably bolt action. Note - if marksmanship capable rifles are used by normal infantry as discussed above then the sniper rifle becomes limited for special purpose sniper teams. This is the only caliber in this note which I think has not found introduction in the (regular) army (for the special forces nobody can really tell)
Now just for info the bolt action is practically deemed to be perfected since Mauser action in WW I. It is a simple reliable action and does not need long production line or complicated designing.
One does not need to manufacture the best rifle under the sun. It is enough to be adequate.
Another off repeated argument is that no indigenous manufacturing is done, as adequate numbers are not needed by the army. This is biggest nonsense – tripe if I ever heard one. Countries with smaller requirement then India have set up manufacturing base for high quality small arms/sniper as these weapons are usually handmade on specific orders.
6. 12.7mm x 107 (Soviet caliber)
India manufactures Heavy Machine Guns of this caliber that is used in tanks, helos and ships. To my knowledge these guns have not been applied for infantry use except for a small batch imported -? Browning. The nations that use this caliber HMG are for instance US, Russia, Pakistan, China, Argentina etc.
A benefit of this weapon is long-range area suppression weapon ~2000m. It seems that army wants to use 30mm AGL (automatic grenade launcher which will be manufactured under license for this role.
The benefit of AGL is that the explosive content of the heavier round and the curving trajectory can be used to destroy sangars and also fire at targets behind the cover. The disadvantage is that it cannot be used for anti aircraft use and spread is greater. This anti aircraft use will become more important due to proliferation of UAVs and use of Helos & props.
Manpads are very costly, single use, high maintenance items. Also they are not issued widely for border deployment in peacetime. The life cycle cost of manpad against a HMG can be ten times higher.
This is not to say, the current doctrine is correct but rather the point is that 12.7mm x 107 continues to be relevant and its use in infantry deployment has to be seriously reconsidered.
Now this caliber is also relevant to anti material rifle use. For anti material rifle use also two types of rifles can be selected/are relevant. One “light” “SLR” for special purpose use, say, 12.7mm NSV HMG manufactured by India converted to such use with better barrel and special ammo. This type of rifle will be light, cheap and can be used extensively in anti material role over long range ~1500m.
As would be obvious no plans by DRDO and OFB in this direction.
7. India has imported a bolt action anti material rifle from South Africa (~100) that can fire 14.5mm, 20mm (and 12.7 mm for training) rounds. 14.5mm is used for longer range (~2500mm?) and 20mm for heavier punch (~1500m). Though on the heavier side, this is one of the best rifles of its type. It is accurate and has low recoil. Indigenous manufacture is definitely warranted in role of heavier anti material rifle.
As would be obvious no plans by DRDO and OFB in this direction.
It should be mentioned at this stage that anti material rifle though have good range but are not really meant for sniper use. 7.62mm and .338 rifles achieve the best accuracy. These rifles are meant for use against larger targets like vehicles and targets like radars etc. Their accuracy may be almost 2-4 times less in MOA compared to genuine sniper rifles.
8. Another category is off course, suppressed varieties of the aforesaid rifles. Normally for suppressed rifles special/different barrels and special (slower & heavier) ammo is warranted.
9. For the sake of context it should be mentioned that OFB intends to manufacture 30mm AGL and hand held 40mm grenade launcher (? 6G-30)
10. India as we off course know, manufactures 84mm Carl Gastaf that is a very good weapon. Its performance can be enhanced by use of tripod, FCS, laser range finder etc. It would be useful to develop a lighter disposable version like AT4.
Now in this context, an important deficiency that was felt during the Kargil was the lack of a heavy RPG. The Milan 2 system is very costly (~US$ 10,000) a round. The imported RPGs were something like US$ 1500-3500 a round.
A simple method would be to adapt Milan-2 rocket by removing the guidance system & actuators for the movement of fins i.e. using the warhead and the two stage rocket motor to make an RPG. It would be cheap, indigenous and available in short time with a ready manufacturing base. It is big caliber (?) 135mm round and carries a very heavy punch (2-3) times compared with Carl Gastaf. The flame launcher can be adapted for non-disposable launcher tube and a disposable launcher tube can be developed for the lighter variant. It would be a formidable tank killer and bunker buster. Somewhat similar surgery can be done on konkur also which is also manufactured by India.
The latest offering of Bofors for US/UK unguided RPG competition is also based on adaption of their Bill-2.
As would be obvious no plans by DRDO and OFB in this direction.
11. Some of the areas that is being addressed for the infantry is off course: -
Bulletproof jackets – after a long delay
Better radios – when?
Thermal imagers – why no order is being given to BEL that has set up license manufacture with ELOP?
These aforesaid issues seem to be same as the flare dispensers, everybody knew their importance but the delay was perpetual till the M-17 was downed in Kargil. I hope somebody could call up Musarraff and tell him to hold off troubling us till MoD – brass – OFB – DRDO can think up the proper equipping policy.
12. I admit most of this post is taking the colour of one of earlier posts on this issue but over last 6 months I had time to do some polishing (grin) and it is from a different context.
13. Most of the things I have mentioned are very short gestation projects and whose requirement is immediate.
14. Slightly out of context but some other weapons on which indigenous base have to be created are Manpad, vshord and “Light” anti aircraft. Manpad can be license manufacture of Igla, vshord can be Igla with a booster and “light” anti aircraft gun can be adaptation of Medak 30mm gun or preferably 14.5mm single barrel gun with electric traverse.
15. I have written this portion to show that INSAS is a good rifle but it is not enough to rest upon the laurels and there are a lot of things to be done. High profile technologically complex projects are perhaps necessary but simultaneously there are some specific needs to be met for a continuing conflict.
16. Caveat- this is my interpretation of the situation from open sources or lack thereof. It off course possible that there is dedicated policy of DRDO-OFB-Army of which I am unaware. (Though I am skeptical that this is a position)