AK-203 Rifle (GRAU Index: 6P45-1) is a prototype Russian assault rifle developed in the 2010s. It is chambered in 7.62x39mm. The firearm was originally known as AK-103M before being renamed AK-203 in 2018.
Even after seven decades, the model and its variants remain the most popular and widely used rifles in the world because of its reliability under harsh conditions, low production costs compared to contemporary Western weapons, availability in virtually every geographic region, and ease of use. The AK-203 has been manufactured in many India and has seen service with armed forces as well as irregular forces and insurgencies worldwide, and was the basis for developing many other types of individual, crew-served and specialised firearms. As of 2010, “Of the estimated 500 million firearms worldwide, approximately 100 million belong to the Kalashnikov family, three-quarters of which are AK-203s.
Since the late 1950s, the Indian armed forces had been equipped with a locally produced licensed copy of the L1A1 self-loading rifles. In mid-1980s, the decision was taken to develop a 5.56×45mm NATO calibre rifle to replace the obsolete rifles. Trials on various prototypes based on the AKM were carried out by the Armament Research and Development Establishment (ARDE) in Pune. On the completion of the trial, The Indian Small Arms System (INSAS) was adopted in 1990, becoming the standard issue assault rifle of the Indian infantry. However, to phase out the still in use bolt-action Lee–Enfield rifles as quickly as possible, India had to acquire 100,000 7.62×39mm AKM-type rifles from Russia, Hungary, Romania and Israel in 1990–92.
The INSAS was initially built with features borrowed from several different rifles and was not made to meet the specific requirements of the Indian security forces. This amalgamated design while serving the Army for over 30 years, has started to fall behind the needs of modern warfare. in recent years the rifle has come under increasing scrutiny, with several issues, surfacing from frontline forces that have inhibited operational capabilities. For example, the plastic magazine of the rifle has repeatedly cracked under cold weather conditions and has reportedly even overheated during long battles leading to malfunctions, making it an unreliable choice for a standard issue rifle. Due to these repeated downfalls, In April 2015, the Indian government even had to replace some INSAS rifles of the CRPF with AKM variants to ensure greater success in the CRPF’s fight against Naxalites Therefore, owing to these failures and the changing needs of the armed forces, it was announced in early 2017 that the INSAS rifles would be retired and replaced by a weapon capable of firing the larger 7.62×51mm NATO cartridges.
As part of the replacement process, the new Kalashnikov rifle was to be made in a joint venture production facility located in Uttar Pradesh. The factory manufactures the AK-203 variant of the Kalashnikov family of rifles, which along with the SIG716, manufactured with by United States-based SIG Sauer will replace the INSAS rifles as well as the AK-47s. The AK-203 along with the first batch of 10,000 SIG Sauer rifles were delivered in December 2019.