After the first prototypes were built in 2008 as the Mehmetçik-1 in 5.56 x 45 mm NATO, the rifle received negative feedback from Turkish soldiers testing it who reported that they preferred the 7.62 x 51 mm NATO round used in their G3 service rifles with far greater knock-down power and range. The proposed Mehmetcik-1 was cancelled after the first prototype and engineers started over again with a battle rifle design instead.
The key factor that allows moderns soldiers to be noticeably more effective in terms of hit probability is in fact sighting equipment…
The first batch of 200 MPT-76s was delivered on May 18, 2014, and received positive feedback. The rifle was reported to be extremely accurate, reliable and had impressive knock-down power and outmatched the G3 in all categories. The Turkish Army plans to phase out its G3 throughout 2015 and to make the MPT-76 its main service rifle by the end of 2016. And it seems that the Turkish infantry can put up with decreased ammunition capacity in hopes of getting a more effective and far-reaching weapon. With these weapons, automatic fire is reserved for rare but still probable situations such as ambushes or CQB, and most shooting is to be made in deliberate, aimed semi-automatic fire.
Thus, it would be safe to say that the West is back to square one and the Indians have so wisely cancelled the tender for search of an imported Multi-Calibre Assault Rifle. As we have seen above, in terms of ballistics, those most modern weapons are very close to first-generation weapons dating back to WW I. However, rapid evolution of sighting equipment, with low-power telescope sights and red dot sights, and especially with emerging class of electronic sights with built-in ballistic computers and other digital sighting aids, helps to stretch the envelope of effective small arms fire beyond practical capabilities of intermediate-power ammunition.
The battle winning and game changing ability has not changed when it comes to assault rifles right from the WW II days till recently in Afghanistan. In November 1942, the beleaguered German Army unit was surrounded and outnumbered by Red Army forces on the Russian front. The German Luftwaffe dropped the new and super-secret MKb42 machine carbines and equally new 7.92 x 33 mm Kurz ammunition to this vastly outnumbered German unit. The encircled German troops broke out of the tightening Russian noose to fight another day in great part to the tremendous and sudden increase in firepower provided by the revolutionary new German “assault rifle” and its intermediate rifle cartridge in its first appearance on the battlefield. Close combat would never be the same again.
Then, on July 13, 2008, during the Battle of Wanat in Afghanistan, Combat Outpost Kahler was manned by US troops. In this horrific infantry battle, nine US troops were killed with another twenty seven injured in what arguably was a failure of US small arms to keep up with Russian weapons designed decades earlier. Numerous M4 Carbines, M249 Squad Automatic Weapons and MK19 AGL’s stopped firing as they overheated in the US Army troop’s valiant attempt to repel the superior numbers of determined insurgent fighters armed with AK-47s and RPGs. No specific case study like the Battle of Wanat mentioned above could be quoted to suggest the inadequacies of our own Assault Rifle, the INSAS. However, it is important to mention that, in 1999, the Indian Army fought a three-month-long undeclared war with Pakistan over the dizzy heights of Kargil. It was also the combat debut of India’s new INSAS assault rifle.
The first batch of 200 MPT-76s was delivered on May 18, 2014, and received positive feedback…
During the conflict waged over the control of heights strategically important to India for the defence of Leh — the INSAS rifles suffered with serious stoppages, and their cheap, 20-round plastic magazines cracked in the cold weather and often led to being a reason of choice between the life and death. Designed to shoot in semi-automatic and three-round burst modes, soldiers would pull the trigger and the gun would unexpectedly spray rounds like a fully automatic rifle. Soldiers also preferred the heavier 7.62 mm rounds in the FAL rifle which the INSAS and its 5.56 mm rounds replaced.
In 2005, Maoist rebels attacked a Nepalese army base. The Nepalese troops had INSAS rifles bought from India. During the ten-hour-long battle, the rifles overheated and stopped working. The Maoists overran the base and killed 43 soldiers. When the INSAS rifle was initially designed, the Indian Army wanted rifles with a lower kill capability. The 5.56 mm rifle was designed based on that demand. The INSAS is a family of infantry weapons consisting of an assault rifle, a Light Machine Gun and a carbine – all the same calibre. The first demand for a smaller calibre rifle came in 1982, when the army wanted to replace the 7.62 mm SLR that had been in use for over 30 years.
Aping the philosophy of the West, the Indian Army wanted a rifle that would incapacitate a solider instead of killing him thus increasing the logistics burden for each soldier injured. However, as the Army started getting involved in Counter Insurgency especially in the North, the requirement for a gun with a higher kill capacity was felt. The infantrymen now prefer the famed AK-47 rifle over the INSAS.
However, scientists from the Small Arms Division of the ARDE defended the INSAS claiming that the problems encountered during the Kargil War were manufacturing issues. They also agreed that the rifle is now outdated and upgrades are needed. The problems that came up during the Kargil War were quality related, and for that, the ordnance factory (manufacturing it) is responsible. However, the fact remains that the INSAS technology is now very old and upgradation is an urgent need, these scientists added.
When the INSAS rifle was initially designed, the Indian Army wanted rifles with a lower kill capability…
A lot of water has flown under the bridge since the development of INSAS and today, the dedicated team of scientists have mastered the desired technology boasting that it is comparable to the best in the world. The Army has to overcome its phobia in this regard, the earlier, the better. Another DRDO scientist cited the lack of working in close collaboration as the reason for the shortcomings in the technology development and evolution.
“Between the time when we get a request and the time the product is ready after initial testing, the requirements change,” informs a helpless scientist. “If the Army and the DRDO work together, and we are updated about the change in requirements, the product can be simultaneously upgraded,” this senior scientist adds. Quoting an example he mentioned that India is now almost self-sufficient in radars because the Navy and the DRDO worked very closely on it.
Another ARDE official, meanwhile, informed that apart from MCIWS Assault Rifle, other weapons and weapons system are also being worked on including a Joint Venture Protective Carbine (JVPC). The user trials of which were recently conducted involved the German MP-7 and Belgium P-90, our JVPC fared better than the other two. Commenting upon the irrationality overshadowing the logic during trials, he cited the unnecessary non-critical tests responsible for delayed induction. He informed us that as per the GSQR laid down, this carbine was required to pass through 99.7 per cent reliability test. All the weapons (JVPC) tested were proved above 99 per cent reliable. However, six out of the lot were above 99.5 per cent thus largely bracketing them between 99.4 to 99.5 per cent reliable. All necessary changes are being incorporated to pass through the stringency of the tests. He said 50 JVPC will be provided to the Army for fresh trials in January 2016.
The top scientist looking after the development of the Small Arms informed us that the MCIWS Assault Rifle will be ready for trials by December 2015 – January 2016 for trials. Beaming with confidence they boasted of the mastery achieved over the metallurgy that will produce the world’s one of the finest weapons in its class. The body of the MCIWS under development is made up of a single block of very high grade aluminium alloy. The rivet-less body makes the weapon more resilient to combat stress. The modular design makes the weapon unique and extremely soldier friendly. A soldier will be able to field strip MCIWS without any tool by just removing a pin.
During the conflict waged over the control of heights strategically important to India for the defence of Leh — the INSAS rifles suffered with serious stoppages…
The deadly looking weapon likely to become the basic weapon of an Infantryman has a multi calibre option between 5.56 x 45 mm, 6.8 x 43 mm and 7.62 x 39 mm. It is capable of firing different calibre ammunition by changing barrel group, breech block and the magazine while retaining 92 per cent of commonality of parts. This affords the Army a choice between going in for a multi-calibre or a single calibre weapon as the case may be.
It is lightweight and modular in design having multiple picatinny rails for sighting system and foregrip. The already under production, indigenous 40 mm Under Barrel Grenade Launcher fitted with MCIWS makes it a very lethal combination. The air bursting grenade having a range of 500 m could work havoc on the enemy defiladed behind at those ranges.
Having superior finish, it has a fully supported engineering plastic magazine with metallic insert and push type magazine release mechanism thus making it extremely strong and reliable plastic magazine unlike that of the 5.56 mm INSAS.
Other features that make this weapon system comparable to the best in the world are its ambidextrous features – cocking, change lever, magazine release. The MCIWS has a foldable butt with variable lengths, picatinny mounted universal iron sights, advance day and night sighting systems, automatic electronic graticule set for selected calibre and the earlier mentioned air burst capability.
The MCIWS is a highly impressive weapon system. On July 13, 2015, a composite team comprising Director General of Para Military and representatives of various forces under the Additional Home Secretary visited ARDE. This weapon had impressed the visiting team and they are now willing to induct MCIWS for use by the BSF, CRPF, ITBP, CISF and the SSB as soon as possible. The strength of Indian paramilitary forces outnumber that of the Indian Army. This move could boost the sagging morale of the scientists whose tremendous efforts have constantly been overlooked thus far. And also, the MCIWS will give a huge impetus to those fighting the Naxal insurgency and may well prove to be a game changer.
The ineffectiveness of the INSAS rifle led to super imposition of the 7.62 mm AK-47 thus increasing the financial and logistical burden…
No matter how confident these zealous scientists of ARDE, Pune are over their technological achievement in the form of MCIWS, the litmus test will be the field trials that lay ahead. It is to be seen, whether the Indian Army continues to follow the West blindly or professes a philosophy of its own. After all, our Army is one of the most combat experienced army in the world having been in combat since independence. Ironically, the responsibility of heavy costs incurred both financial and human in selecting the 5.56 mm as the calibre for the Infantry assault rifle is yet to be accounted for.
The ineffectiveness of the INSAS rifle led to super imposition of the 7.62 mm AK-47 thus increasing the financial and logistical burden. Our think-tanks need to debate and evolve a logical reason in confirmation with our environmental realities to go in for dual calibre as professed by the West. Or will a single calibre rifle suffice for our Infantry befitting our operational philosophy, budgetary considerations and logistic strain.
The MCIWS, if selected, will give us the option of three calibres (the Army can opt for single or dual calibre) to choose from. However, the other major advantage will lie in the technical support from the already established research and development institutions and manufacturing industry. A kind of back up no foreign vendor will ever be able to match.