Indian Army wants to ditch the INSAS

The Indian Army was forced to buy a gun they did not want from a government owned factory. They have been trying to replace it ever since. They have finally been given the funds to replace the INSAS rifle/carbine.

The Ministry of Defence has issued a tender for the import of 66,000 5.56 mm assault rifle for an estimated $250 million (Rs 13,000 crore) to replace the locally-designed Indian Small Arms System 5.56 mm AR, which the army has reluctantly employed since the mid-1990s.

“The INSAS AR is a non-competitive weapon system and the army became a tied customer with little choice but to pay the asking price however high it might be and whatever operational objections it had to the rifle,” a senior Infantry officer admitted.

The Indian government has a bad reputation when it comes to arms tenders. They tend to disqualify contestants whenever it suits then.

[ Many thanks to Tim for emailing us the link. ]

Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


  • Tinkerer

    I guess the Tavor has a headstart if the Indian Army is really going to replace the INSAS.

    • Joe Schmoe

      I was about to say the same thing.

      I too vote that they will choose the Tavor, especially since Israel let them do the licensed production.

      • Tinkerer

        Yeah, the Zittara carbine. I wonder how that’s going.

      • Jas

        Nah, ARX160 is much better. (In my opinion) ; )

    • W

      it makes perfect sense for them to adopt the tavor. I believe it will suit the indian army just fine.

  • Jasta

    Well, quite doubtful. They want the weapon to be possible to convert to 7.62x39mm. There is no Tavor variant firing this ammo. I think that this requirement favours new Czech BREN, and possibly Beretta ARX 160.

    • Tinkerer

      I have yet to see an army that has fielded a standard issue assault rifle that can be converted from 5.56×45 to 7.62×39. That would need different magazine -which leads to different magwell-, different barrel, different bolt face… too many things to change in a rifle. It can be done, but the practicality I see is dubious at least.

      • Komrad

        Technically, an AR-15 can be converted with just a new upper and a lot of countries field AR-15 variants. /nitpicking

        There is also the issue of logistics. Sure, it might be handy to be able to scrounge ammo from enemy stockpiles, but is it really worth the added strain of either having soldiers carry both barrels and other components or have easy access to them, supplying the second ammo type to soldiers equipped with the alternate barrel assemblies, or shipping barrels and other components back and forth every time a unit switched ammo type. Not to mention not being able to share ammo with soldiers who are using the other ammo type.

        It would be a logistical nightmare unless you equipped whole regiments (or some other large group) with one type and rarely switched. At that point, there is no reason to have that capability even.
        Add the fact that the military would need to buy two sets of barrels and components per soldier or at least more than just one set, and the benefits don’t outweigh the costs.

      • Tinkerer

        The only sense I make for the quick barrel or caliber change, is at armory level, not at field level. I can recognize that such a modular weapon would be a breeze to fix -remove damaged part, replace with working part- and for mission-specific adaptation of the rifle.

      • Jasta

        Yes, I essentially agree with your comment below. They probably do not want to convert the weapon in the field (probably with the notable exception of special forces), but just to have as unified as possible weapons, ready to accept two commonly used in their army cartridges. The same lower receivers (magazine well in BREN is interchangeable), most parts of bolt, whole gas system, stocks etc. Another obvious advantage is the training…

    • W

      I think if they want 7.62x39mm firing weapons in their arsenal, they should purchase AKM’s or the updated variant from Russia or obtain licensing to produce their own.

      Or adopt a AR15 patterned rifle (where you can switch out the upper receivers).

      • Jasta

        They already have bunch of AK derivatives, and even manufacture their own AKM clone. So, they are aware that it’s sound, but hopelessly becoming more and more obsolescent weapon.

      • W

        see what happens when you forget the word “more”? you look like a ass. yeah i imagine india’s AKs as looking pretty rough.

    • Alex-mac

      Or the 7.62×51mm version of the FN SCAR. It was supposed to have a AK calibre and magazine conversion capability.

  • Jose Antonio

    In Spain we have been in that situation with military weapons for a long time, so nothing new under the sun.

    They better hope not to get it solved by their politicians the same way it was here.

    • Tinkerer

      Saludos desde América del Sur.

      It’s a shame what happened to the Santa Barbara company, we’re going to miss the CETMEs and AMELIs.

      How have the G36Es been working?

  • W

    there are a large number of contenders in 5.56 to replace this rifle. Im thinking the Tavor, FNC, or M16.

    • Doug

      If we could call it a “war on drugs” issue, we could just give them all our old M16’s like we have been doing for the South American countries. At least then they wouldn’t end up in the hands of Mexican drug cartels.

    • W

      if it means more budgeting for the “war on drugs” then no thank you. I believe we can provide military aid to our Asian allies without strengthening unconstitutional bureaucracies at home. I understand what you mean though…its “a” way.

  • daman

    bets option for them would be the new AK-12 easy to use, they are already familiar with it, its cheap and you can convert calibers

  • Paralus

    Has India’s Defence Research and Development Organization or the State Ordnance Factory Board ever designed or procured anything that right?

  • Vhyrus

    Sucks for them. It’s a good thing the American Military isn’t forced into a contract for an obsolete and overpriced combat system due to a misguided sense of nationalist pride….

    oh, wait….

    • erwos

      Obsolete, maybe. Overpriced? Not so much. And, in any event, it get the job done… which you can’t say so much about the INSAS.

    • mosinman

      umm how is the M-16 obsolete? because it doesnt have HK or FN stamped on it , or because it isnt a piston system? please tell me 🙂

    • W

      “It’s a good thing the American Military isn’t forced into a contract for an obsolete and overpriced combat system due to a misguided sense of nationalist pride….

      oh, wait….”

      why the thumbs down? its the f–king truth. Lets talk about this:

      1.) The Bradley IFV
      2.) The Stryker IFV
      3.) Future Combat Systems
      4.) The F35 JSF
      5.) The Joint Tactical Radio
      6.) Crusader Howitzer
      7.) Different uniforms for each branch
      8.) Direct impingement carbines
      9.) V22 Osprey

      I can do this all day long.
      Here’s a idea: rugged, dependable, highly protective combat vehicles that can integrate advanced technologies and possess highly effective firepower. I recall a post on thefirearmblog about the defense acquisition process in a chart. This does not surprise me one bit.

  • Doug

    India is making quite the aquisitions lately, $250M for small arms and leasing a Russian nuclear sub for $900M last month. Maybe they’re finally planning on taking Kasmir(sp) by force.

    • rosignol

      I doubt the sub is going to do them much good in Kashmir.

  • Burst

    Dividing 66,000 into 250 million yields a figure of about $3800 per rifle, which seems a little generous for a military contract.

    If I were a cynical man, I’d point out how unlikely this is to be above-board.
    But the INSAS really does have glaring issues, so we’ll see.

    • Alex-mac

      The Tavor is $3000+ so I assume that’s what they are going to buy. Overpriced, but investing in Israeli small arms tech has it’s long term advantages. (the new Galil Ace being a good example)

  • Shooter

    Weren’t they purchasing Bulgarian AKs in 5.56×45? Heard rumors to that effect…perhaps this is they.

  • Spiros-Hellas

    My guess for India would be the Galil ACE.There is a 5..56X45mm and a 7.62X39mm version of it -India uses them both-and it can use standard AK mags that India already has-and Pakistan…-.India could also secure full production rights for this firearm just like Colombia.Plus,India and Israel have pretty close political and defence relations…
    p.s. :I skip Tavor because its pretty expensive for mass deployment,even Colombia,whose special forces already used the Tavor,decided to adopt the ACE.

    • W

      wow…good thought on that one. I totally forgot about the Galil Ace.

    • Alex-mac

      Yes but they’re not caliber convertible, instead they are separate models. What India should get is the new AK-12, but it seems their money grubbing military procurement arm is set on a home designed bullpup.

    • mosinman

      i kinda like the look of the INSAS but ive only heard bad things about it, so yeah they gotta find something new. i dont blame them for wanting a homegrown design…. but yeah the galil ace makes alotof sense

  • Brad

    I think the evidence for the Tavor is kind of overwhelming. At over $3k per unit, the Tavor is right at that level which they have bought in the past at huge numbers, plus the fact don’t they have just over 200K units already in the supply chain? Seems like the most obvious choice with already being so heavily invested.

    • Brad

      I meant 20K. With that last order of x95’s still being delivered(I think) they will be right at 20 thousand tavors.

    • Alex-mac

      66 000 Tavors is also a pretty low amount for India which has a large army. So likely this purchase is only for elite units or those in special positions.

      We did recently hear that India is planning on designing a bullpup rifle in country. So that rifle will be the one that replaces the INSAS as the standard rifle, not the Tavor.

  • James

    I hope we get some new parts kits!

  • Benjamin

    Weren’t they trying to get a version of the SAR-21 a while ago?

  • Finally, they’re getting rid of junk. Good job! Crowbars do not a rifle make.

    • Jas

      Hahaha! Very well said! I cannot understand Why they chose it in the first place! It is an embarassmet to India’s Designing and Manufacturing Capabilities (or lack of!)
      Just glad they’re getting rid of it! But not as glad as the Indian Soldiers I bet!!!

  • Kevin

    The INSAS is probably the biggest disaster in modern weapons. The pointless carry handle and weight of a FAL, the “poodle shooting” 5.56mm power and the long range “accuracy” of the AK. Good job fellas.
    But the INSAS is probably not really going anywhere. India still issues and deploys SMLEs in .303 and .308.
    I would be interested to see what is included with the Tavor for the astronomical price of $3,000 for a 5.56 carbine. Maybe it might be worth it if the rifle includes sights, laser designator/sight and 6-10 mags apiece and some spare parts, but I bet it is not. I can’t imagine that the Tavor is in really any way better than a host of other options. It seems that the Indian military is incapable of making good decisions on small arms.

    • Alex-mac

      The Tavor even taking in Israels overblown marketing efforts is the first bullpup that simply works. It’s got rails, no hydro lock problem, is ergonomic, modular, not bulky, light and it’s side ejecting shells eject forwards making it almost ambidextrous.

      It’s the best choice for special forces. It’s only deficiency is that it doesn’t have a larger caliber version, but it’s safe to say Israel is working on one.

      So if anything the wise purchase of the Tavor, a platform India can truly build on and grow with, gives hope that their small arms procurement isn’t totally broken.

      • JMD

        “the first bullpup that simply works.”

        Steyr AUG? Hello?

    • Raven

      I think I’d rather a Lee-Enfield over an INSAS if half of what I hear about it is true.

  • chino

    The Singapore military did not adopt two indigenous rifles – SAR-80 and the SR-88 – produced by the government arsenal CIS (now STK). Choosing instead to stick with the locally license-produced M16.

    We did adopt the locally-made Ultimax-100 LMG.

    Finally, the third indigenous rifle – the SAR-21 – is currently adopted.

    I’m surprised that while India faces so much external and internal threats to security, the government can still force its armed forces to buy inferior quality product just because it is a domestic produce.

    • With regards to the SAR-80, it was adopted in small quantities. I saw service personnel from an artillery unit carrying them in 1990 when I was in basic military training.

  • Jas

    The Beretta ARX 160 is a MUCH Better assault rifle than the Tavor. It is also Modular but is available in both calibres that the Indian Army wants.
    The INSAS Rifle they currently have is just plain embarrassing! There is no psychological fear of it from the enemy what so ever!! ARX160 all the way!!

  • Jas

    …Also, I wonder why they are not looking at the HK416 from Heckler & Koch? (As used by the US Marines, the M27)
    H&K are Arguably the top manufacturer and designer of Assault Rifles. Too expensive? As I don’t know the price as compared to the others.