The INSAS family was inducted into service with the Indian Army in 1998 and has already seen extensive combat service, particularly during the Kargil War (1999) against Pakistan and during portions of the Nepalese Civil War (1996-2006). The INSAS is the current standard issue assault rifle of the Indian Army and has also been purchased for use by the military forces of Bhutan, Nepal and Oman. While design of the INSAS was handled by Armament Research & Development Establishment (ARDE) manufacture is headed by the Indian State Ordnance Factory Board and Ishapore. For all intents and purposes, it is a conventional assault weapons design that has, from the beginning, been branched out to become a family of compatible automatic weapons. Some 300,000 examples are believed to have been produced to date.
In the 1980s, the Indian defense network developed a new assault weapon series to be known collectively as the "INdian Small Arms System" - or "INSAS". The design was influenced by the Soviet-era Kalashnikov AK-47 pattern and was similarly of gas-operation with a rotating bolt. The weapon even featured the Kalashnikov-style "over-barrel" gas cylinder mounting as well as a curved magazine. However, for decades the Indian Army had relied on foreign exports for their military needs and several defining features of these weapons were further incorporated into the new INSAS - essentially making the gun a "mutt" design of sorts. While there were some very apparent Kalashnikov features, the magazine was designed to the M16 standard and chambered for the same 5.56mm cartridge (as opposed to the AK-47's 7.62mm cartridge) firing from a 20- or 30-round polymer detachable box magazine. Additionally, the cocking handle was very similar to the ones found on some Heckler & Koch automatic weapons. A cleaning kit was fitted into the stock ala the British Lee-Enfield while gas regulation was akin to the Belgian FN FAL. Despite this amalgamation of components, the end-product became a solid and serviceable assault weapon system that could now be indigenously produced without reliance on foreign parties or logistics.
The weapon's inception was intended for 1994 but problems in acquiring substantial amounts of locally-produced 5.56mm ammunition delayed service introduction until 1998. Once in circulation, the INSAS Assault Rifle quickly showcased some inherent design flaws. Chief among these were reports of full automatic fire being accomplished with the selector switch set to the three-round burst mode. The overall construction of the weapon was also found to be lacking in these early batches to the point that much of the plastics could not hold up well through battlefield abuse and cold temperatures. Several revisions of the system and construction process have since ironed the issues out, leaving newer batch production models as more than adequate service rifles for the Indian Army.
The INSAS family line consists of a few variations of the base weapon. The basic standard product is the assault rifle. It sports a fixed solid stock and is completed with a semi-automatic and three-round burst firing facility managed by a selector switch. A specialized version of the base INSAS adds a full-automatic fire mode while still another form is given a folding stock for a more compact design - the latter intended for use by special forces, paratroopers, vehicle crews and the like but lacks full-automatic fire. An underslung, single-shot grenade launcher is optional for the INSAS Assault Rifle as is an AK-style bayonet for close-quarters battle. Rifle grenades fired from the muzzle are supported. The INSAS Assault Rifle sports an empty weight of just over 9lbs. It features a running length of nearly 38 inches with an 18 inch barrel. While developed to fire the 5.56x45mm NATO standard cartridge, the INSAS has also been seen in 5.56x45mm INSAS and 5.56x30mm MINSAS calibers as well. Rate-of-fire is listed at 650 rounds per minute while muzzle velocity is approximately 2,953 feet per second.
The INSAS LMG is a light machine gun version that is given a heavy duty barrel assembly, bipod and full-automatic fire - all these intended for the squad-level support role. Commonality of parts is an economical measure here and the additions to the LMG version ensure that it can survive the rigors of suppression fire through a compact automatic weapons package that differs little from the base INSAS design. The INSAS MSMC is a proposed submachine gun version firing a slightly different 5.56mm cartridge (the 5.56x30mm MINSAS). Outwardly, the weapon shares a resemblance to the Israeli UZI submachine gun including the pistol-grip fed magazine well. The KALANTANK is a "micro" assault rifle design currently being proposed - perhaps similar in scope to contemporary carbines. Like other INSAS family weapons, it has commonality of partsand fires the 5.56mm cartridge. This version does, however, include more in the way of support for optics and accessories through the inclusion of Picatinny-type rails. The folding wire stock also makes it a compact and light design.