Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) or paramilitary forces in public parlance have always been considered a critical part of India’s interrnal security mechanism, without which the war against anti-national elements can’t be taken to a logical conclusion and socio-political order in country can’t be maintained. While three branches of the Indian Armed Forces (Army, Navy, and Air Force) are expected to counter external security ats at the border, paramilitary nations such as Assam Rifles, Border Security Force(BSF)Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), Indo- Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB), Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), and special forces like National Security Guard (NSG) e expected to reign in internal sub-conventional level threats emanating from isolated pockets and closely guard the nation’s vital strategic installations from hostile forces. It goes without any saying that these troopers need better arms and ammunitions along with cutting-edge communication gadgets to live up to the best of national leadership’s expectations.
Replacing old assault rifles
Assault rifles are one of the primary service weapons being used by CAPF opers in sub-conventional level battlefields. Starting with close-quarter battle (CQB) engagements with left-wing insurgents in an asymmetric warfare environment and ending with long-range shooting at infiltrating terrorists at the border, the assault rifle remains the standard issue weapon of military soldiers for countering threats. While the Indian government decided to phase out the L1A1 Self Loading Rifles (SLR) and the highly obsolete Lee-Enfield bolt-action rifles from the Indian Army’s armory during the early 1990s, many of these scrapped weapons were handed over to CAPFs till the advent of INSAS (Indian National all Arms System) weapons in the late 90s. Large numbers of AK series rifles were also inducted into paramilitary races as a stopgap measure until the duction of INSAS weapons.
Three variants of INSAS which included an automatic assault rifle, a carbine, and a light machine gun (squad automatic weapon) were planned by the Indian Ordnance Factory Board (IOFB) which entered serial production in 1997. The weapons were displayed during the 98 Republic Day parade in Delhi.
Capable of firing the 5.56X45mm ammunition, the INSAS underwent the first combat use during the 1999 Kargil war during which a lot of issues came regarding the battle-worthiness and the quality of the weapon system. Indian Army and paramilitary soldiers have frequently complained of the rifle jamming during automatic firing in fully automatic mode while it was set to fire three-round bursts, thus rapidly draining out ammo during long-range target engagements. Reports of the magazines cracking in cold weather and high-altitude conditions has also come up quite frequently. It is thus proved that INSAS isn’t the gun the Indian army or CAPFs are looking for in order to meet their long-term operational requirements.
While there is an increasing thrust on replacing some of the ageing INSAS weapons with the Russian-designed AK series automatic assault rifles capable of firing the highly penetrating 7.62X39mm calibre rounds, the orders are still running short of addressing the massive deficit. With the CRPF itself having almost three lakh active personnel, the union government approved the initial batch of 36,000 AK-47 rifles for quick import and induction into the force. As matter of great disgrace, the vintage NSAS rifles also remain as the mainstay service weapon of the BSF. With over 2.5 lakh active BSF personnel serving the nation, the availability of AK series rifles is very limited.
Other CAPFs like the ITBP, CISF and SSB also suffers from modern infantry combat weapons shortage and are ill-equipped with the infamous INSAS weapons. There is an urgent need to arm all 14-lakh active duty CAPF troopers with cutting-edge Ak series rifles on the earliest. On March 3, 2019, Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone of manufacturing unit of AK-203 rifles at the Ordnance Factory in Amethi. More than 7,50,000 rifles will be initially manufactured in the new plant under full technology transfer from Russian firm, Izhmash.
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