When it comes to a mass produced weapon of destruction, what could be better than the old good AK? Especially if the weapon is needed to arm one of the world's largest military land forces. The armed forces of India is about to start phasing out INSAS, the domestically designed and manufactured rifles they used for more than two decades.

The weapon will be succeeded in service by Russian-made AK-103, an assault rifle developed in the late 1990s by Kalashnikov Concern. As reported by Jane's citing sources close to the Indian Ministry of Defence, high ranked Indian officials are expected to sign the out-of-tender contract at Kalashnikov HQ in Izhevsk by the end of this month.

The deal foresees the first batch of 150 thousand rifles manufactured by Kalashnikov in Russia. The company will later grant a production license to India's Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) which will take over the remaining production, with the remainder of the total order of 768,496 units to be assembled at its factories in Tiruchirapalli and Ishapur.

In addition to this gigantic order from the #Indian Army, another 50 thousand rifles will be required for the country's Air Force and the Navy. The proposal to acquire a license for AK-103 rifles is part of New Delhi’s ‘Make in India’ initiative. The move is already approved by the army, following earlier detailed discussions between senior Russian officials and Indian Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman during her trip to Moscow early this month.

INSAS: India'S Own Kalashnikov That Went Wrong

Cloned and customised versions of the famous AK design, which is often mislabelled as AK-47, are popular around the world and India is no exception. Back in the 1990s, India decided to get a modern assault rifle of its own design and manufacture.

The project resulted in INSAS, a rifle chambered for NATO 5.56×45 mm round. Its design was primarily based on AKM, an upgraded 1959 version of the original AK, yet it also incorporated features from other rifles, such as the venerable FN FAL India was using previously alongside other Commonwealth nations.

The resulting hybrid proved to be less than satisfactory. During the 1999 Kargil War, the new weapon was issued to troops fighting in the Himalayas. Soon enough there were complaints of frequent ammunition jamming, the rifle's magazines cracking due to the cold at high altitudes and the rifle going into automatic mode while being set for three-round bursts.

Another problem was oil sprayed during shooting into the marksman's eye, with other injuries reported during the standard firing practice.

Similar complaints followed by the Nepalese Army which used the INSAS rifles they labelled 'substandard' in 2005 clashes with Maoist rebels.

According to the experts, the Indian MoD had to recognise the INSAS as "operationally inadequate" as far back as 2010. As reported by Daily Pioneer, back in 2015 on request from CRPF, the Indian government had to replace some INSAS rifles in their service with older yet reliable AKs. The Director General of CRPF Dilip Trivedi was quoted to say by Times of India that the INSAS jams more frequently compared to the AK and the Israeli IWI Tavor they tested.

AK-103: Classic Kalashnikov In New Flavour

AK-103 is effectively an export version of the current Russian standard issue AK-74M assault rifle, but unlike the latter, it is chambered for the 7.62×39 mm M43 ammunition round used by older AKM and AK models. Specifically for the Indian service, this rifle is rumoured to be adapted for the powerful NATO 7.62×51 mm round used in likes of M-14 and FN FAL.

It can be fitted with a variety of sights, as well as a knife-bayonet or a grenade launcher. While its forearm, magazine, foldable butt stock and pistol grip are made of high strength black plastic, protective chromium coatings ensure excellent corrosion resistance for metal parts, a feature essential in the hot and humid climate of the Indian subcontinent. In addition to CRPF who tested it several years ago, the rugged and compact rifle became the weapon of choice of MARCOS, India's Naval Special Forces.