An Indian private sector firearms technology firm is all set to unveil and offer for test an assault rifle that it claims is an answer, and improvement, over the legendary Russian Kalashnikov AK-47 and its derivatives. The Indian Army and security forces are currently one of the largest users of Kalashnikov rifles, and the government is all set to activate an Indo-Russian joint venture entity that will build over 600,000 Kalashnikov AK-203 rifles in Amethi in northern India.
Bengaluru-based SSS Defence is currently completing design and development of the 7.62×39 rifle, currently simply designated ‘7.62×39 SSS Defence Weapon’ and will unveil a specimen shortly. The weapon is a modification of the company’s existing P-72 Rapid Engagement Combat Rifle (RECR), replacing, among other things, the short stroke piston with a long stroke piston.
Speaking for the first time on the new AK-type weapon, SSS Defence CEO Vivek Krishnan tells Livefist, “There is a view that many people hold that the AK-203 is probably not the best weapon for a modern military force. It’s fine for general infantry. I doubt the Special Forces would want the AK-203 in as many numbers. At the back end, we’ve been working to create an AK variant. My team likes to call it the 7.62×39 SSS Defence Weapon.”
While the AK-203 is all set to be the Indian Army’s standard issue assault rifles for its regular infantry units in the years ahead, SSS Defence believes India’s recently imposed import ban, which includes 7.62×39 assault rifles, offers an opportunity for the company’s upcoming weapon product.
“The embargo on 7.62×39 rifles allows me to present my weapon as an alternative. Ours may not be manufactured in the same quantities as the AK-203, but for sure I can put it out as a very high quality alternative at a very affordable price,” says Krishnan. “What the AK-203 does not have, we have, including a full length rail. Our technical team doesn’t really think highly of the AK-203’s riveted rail. We’ve used the best materials. Ours has a milled receiver rather than the AK-203’s stamped receiver. Things have changed, and we shouldn’t be going back to Cold War Russian technology. Our weapon will have the ability to accomodate every type of optic, day or night, any type of sight. The butt stock is both telescopic as well as can be folded. What the AK-203 offers is that it a reliable weapon. As long as you have a long-stroke piston working in there, it’s reliable.”
SSS Defence also has a retrofit upgrade for the Indian Army’s existing legacy AK-47s that has been under test and is pending a decision. The upgrade involves the integration of a rugged dust cover that fits without any external locking mechanism, a new tactical buttstock, a new gas tube, quad rail fore-end and a flash suppressor. This allows an optic to be mounted along the full length rail along with an under-barrel grenade launcher (UBGL) on the bottom rail. According to SSS Defence, the package lowers recoil significantly and reduces the classic ‘pull up to the right’ traditional to the AK system.
On the AK-47 retrofit package, in a series of tweets in June, SSS Defence said, “No SF operator should have to go into battle with anything less than the SSS Def SOPMOD for AK. Existing upgrades, all of them imported, cost as much as a new weapon for delivering far less. We languish for being an India made system. Where is the soul in Atmanirbhar bharat? We do like the FN Scar but it’s time to reflect on what is optimal for India. 3x the cost for a new system, training afresh & building new tactics don’t come easy. Not to forget, we’ll be importing all the 7.62×51 ammo on this package for a long time to come.”
Apart from the AK-203 local build program, the Indian Army is in the process of inducting over 140,000 SIG 716 battle rifles from the United States, and on the verge of ordering nearly 100,000 CAR 816 carbines from the UAE. SSS Defence sees opportunities going forward in the sniper rifle, carbine and assault rifle space.
You can catch videos of the upgraded AK-47 in action and a whole lot more on the company’s other firearms programs in Livefist’s full interview with SSS Defence CEO Vivek Krishnan on our YouTube channel, and linked below. Please do subscribe and share if you like our video content!