Delhi, 01 October 2002
present below Mohan Guruswamy’s well-researched and analytical
piece on the INSAS 5.56 mm rifle. As usual the DRDO has attempted to
‘reinvent the wheel’
of going in for licensed production of tried and proven automatic
weapons which may have been manufactured at much cheaper costs. The
so-called INSAS rifle (‘standing for a very grandiloquent Indian
National Small Arms System’), is a little heavier than planned and
we hear it jams at times and is still no match for the AK 47 and it
costs double. We hope this is not true and the MOD statement that
the rifle is well received by the Indian Army is valid and so export
orders can also be sought easily. In Pakistan because of the Gun
culture AK 47s are available at Rs 6000 in plenty.
Fighting and Not Fun!
‘Uzi’ Gal died last week at the age of 78 of cancer. It merited
a small paragraph at best in several international newspapers and
magazines, which is quite disproportionate to the impact his
invention had on our times. For along with Mikhail Kalashnikov, Uzi
Gal will be a name associated with the greatest mayhem since the end
of the Second World War, a war in which almost 20 million died. In
years after that almost a hundred million have died to bullets
sprayed from Kalashnikov and Uzi automatic weapons. No other weapons
have killed so many in so short a time in the history of man. It is
much more than what AIDS or a major disease like Cholera or Typhoid
has killed during the years since when the 7.62mm Kalashnikov
assault rifle and the 9mm Uzi sub-machine gun made their debuts.
development of the light automatic rifle was the consequence to a
well-known post WWII study of the pattern of usage of infantry
weapons by US infantrymen in combat by Brig.Gen. SLA Marshall, the
prominent American military analyst. Marshall’s study revealed
that most infantrymen actually used their weapons very little,
preferring to take cover for most of the time and firing
occasionally. The study also revealed that the infantrymen most
likely to fire their weapons were those closest to a soldier firing
a Browning automatic rifle. This was because when the BAR man fired,
he was able to literally hose down a wide arc in front of him. When
he did this the opposing infantry lay low and infantrymen by his
side were able to rise from behind their chosen cover and fire their
weapons. Quite clearly this itself suggested a need for greater
deployment of automatic weapons, if you had to get more fighting out
Americans were first off the mark with their M-14 7.62mm automatic
rifle and most others soon followed. But we in India missed this
switch completely. While
we were expending our defence rupees on Hunter, Mystery and Ouragon
jet fighters and even on an aircraft carrier, the Chinese went in
for better equipment and gear for its men on the ground. Thus when the 1962 war was upon us the poor foot soldier with
.303 Lee Enfield single shot rifles and in flimsy clothing was left
to deal with the Chinese juggernaut.
would have thought that the Indian Army and our defence planners
would have derived lessons from this.
But it seems that little has been learnt and much forgotten,
for even now we have not fully equipped our forces with the latest
generation of automatic rifles. Way back in 1980 the Indian Army
stipulated its qualitative requirements for a new basic combat
rifle. This called for a 5.56 mm automatic rifle. It took the DRDO
and the Indian Ordnance Factory at Ishapore over a decade and a half
to commence any serious production. Even though the INSAS 5.56 mm
rifle has been around for a few years now, but there doesn’t seem
enough of them for most of our troops still carry the AK-47 or the
old Ishapore 7.62 mm semi-automatic rifle. Only about 200,000 units
have been produced which is very little considering that the Army
alone has a million men to arm.
the pattern of recent defence spends it seems our strategists once
again seem to have reverted to the old habit of spending all on the
big and extravagant and least likely to be used, than on arms for
the foot soldier who in the ultimate analysis, even today, still
wins or loses battles for his country. Thus while debates have raged
and money obviously made on purchases of SU-30 and more Mirage 2000
jets, 155mm self-propelled guns, nuclear submarines, and another
aircraft carrier, little thought has been given to the foot soldier
and his weapon. This reminds me of the lines of a ditty, in another
context, from the Leon Uris war novel “Battle Cry” which went:
“This is my rifle, this is my gun, this is for fighting, this is
for fun!” The jets and big howitzers certainly look very sexy
trundling down Rajpath on January 26 and are great fun to watch, but
don’t forget it is the infantryman with rifle in hand that does
most of the fighting.
reader may be wondering why a smaller caliber weapon is better when
it seems that for most things in life, bigger is better? This change
in thinking, as far as rifles were concerned, was as a result of
three observations. First
was due to the fact that the larger 7.62 mm round needed a bigger
explosive charge to propel it at the desired 900 meters per second.
The recoil as a result of this explosive charge in the
automatic fire mode made the weapon virtually uncontrollable.
Not only was the soldier unable to aim properly, but also
quite often the recoil caused serious injuries.
second observation was that the infantryman did not need a
marksman’s weapon firing accurately up to 800 meters. Statistical
analysis by the US Army of rifle engagements in WW II, Korea and
Vietnam revealed that 90 per cent of them were at ranges less than
300 meters and 70 per cent at 200 meters and less. Therefore, the emphasis on long-range accuracy of 300-800
meters was found somewhat redundant. Since most engagements were at
close quarters it also suggested a weapon that could be fired from
either shoulder or hip.
third observation related to wound ballistics. Studies commissioned
by the US Army revealed that a smaller round caused more damaging
wounds. A bullet is stabilized to fly straight in air, but when it
enters another medium, like water, its flight characteristics
undergo changes. Instead of a stable flight the round develops a
tendency to tumble. The human body is 80% water held up by bone and
fiber and so what happens to the bullet in water happens in the
body. While a heavier round because of its greater momentum often
carries through the new medium leaving a clean exit, the smaller
round tends to tumble more easily and thereby doing more damage to
the body. The
paradoxical consequence of this is that an enemy combatant hit by a
smaller bullet risks suffering greater bodily harm and therefore to
a higher probability of being incapacitated.
followed from the increasing dependence on automatic weapons was
that greater quantities of ammunition were now needed.
The propensity to consume ammunition reached the astounding
rate of 50,000 rounds per kill in the Vietnam War.
This obviously means that the soldier now needs to carry
greater quantities of ammunition. The smaller the caliber, the
greater the number of bullets the soldier can carry into the
battlefield. All these clearly pointed towards a lighter weapon
firing a smaller round to increase lethality, reduced recoil and
with new ergonomics. The
result of this was changes in infantry combat philosophy and in
conformity with it the introduction of a light small caliber weapon
in most armies keen to win their wars.
since the US army introduced the Eugene Stoner designed M-16, a 5.56
mm caliber automatic rifle in the latter stages of the Vietnam War,
the 5.56 weapon has been the NATO standard.
The older Russian AK-47 assault rifle while a 7.62 mm caliber
weapon fires a lighter round at a lower muzzle velocity of 710
meters per second. The consequent drawback is its limited range as
over at 200 meters the AK 47 round begins to drop. Since the recoil
is minimal it makes it an extremely manageable weapon with the wound
ballistic characteristics and ergonomic advantages of the 5.56 mm
India a decision was taken way back in 1980 to switch to the 5.56 mm
assault rifle and steel core ammunition.
It took the Army two years after that to ask for weapons for
trials from all over the world. The Army tried out these weapons for
three years. They then
short-listed the Austrian Steyr AUG and the German Heckler and Koch
G-41. Of these the
Steyr AUG was considered the best suited as its modular design
enables it to be converted from a carbine to an assault rifle to a
light machine gun by merely inter-changing barrels.
It has an effective range of 600 meters and fires 850 rounds
per minute. It
incorporates the innovative Bullpup design, which makes it the
shortest weapon with the longest barrel, besides giving it the best
ergonomics because it can be fired from either shoulder.
It has a larger 42 round magazine and a telescopic sight
fitted into the carrying bracket.
manufacturers offered us licensed production.
However, we decided to develop an automatic rifle of our own, the
INSAS 5.56, with INSAS standing for a very grandiloquent Indian
National Small Arms System. The INSAS has not only been very late in
coming and that too not in enough numbers, but is reported to have
serious performance drawbacks, particularly in cold conditions. The
Indian Army’s Performance Quality Requirements have typically been
unrealistic and have hindered the development of an effective basic
combat rifle. Among the PQR’s was a requirement that it should
also be capable of being swung by its barrel like a club when
ammunition runs out!
we have a weapon that looks more like the Ishapore ordnance
factory’s 7.62 mm SLR rather than a modern infantryman’s combat
rifle. In fact the official web site describes it as “gas operated
selective fire weapon having an interesting blend of features culled
from a variety of sources.” And it is! The receiver and pistol
grip are that of the Russian Kalashnikov; the butt, gas regulator
and flash hider from the Belgian FN FAL; fore-end from the US
Armalite AR-15; and cocking handle from the German Heckler and Koch!
Looks good on parade with a bayonet stuck on top. But is it more for
fun than for fighting?