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Baby TAR: India’s Smallest Assault Rifle

(This News Article Is Originally Posted on India Today by Sandeep Unnithan

It’s laptop-sized, can be carried inside a coat and can spit AK-47 bullets out at the rate of roughly 700 rounds per minute. Meet the ‘Baby TAR’, India’s smallest assault rifle. Developed by the Indian Ordnance Factory Tiruchirappalli, the weapon is a compact version of the legendary AK-47, which the factory has been mass-producing since 2017. This in-house OFB innovation comes soon after the Indian Army unveiled a 9x19mm carbine developed in-house.

The TAR-3, a compact, fully automatic version of the Trichy Assault Rifle (TAR), recently passed a series of trials at the Ordnance Factory Trichy (OF Trichy). A dozen prototypes have been produced during the lockdown. The weapon is currently undergoing ‘unofficial trials’ with the Indian Army, where three prototypes are believed to have fired over 2,000 rounds each without stoppages.

The ‘Baby TAR’ fires the same 7.62×39 mm cartridge as the AK-47—this ammunition is in widespread production and use, thereby easing logistics. It uses the AK-47’s distinctive 30-round curved box magazine and features a commonality of parts with existing weapons. Its designers chopped down the AK-47’s 16-inch barrel, producing a weapon with an 8.3-inch barrel and an effective range of 150 metres. The TAR-3 is 19.2 inches long with its stock folded, and at 2.7 kg (unloaded), is one kg lighter than the AK-47. It has a monoblock receiver, shockproof polymer lower parts and two Picatinny rails that can mount a variety of sights and scopes.

Its designers say it is ideal for users like special forces and counter-terrorist operators who want compact, concealable weapons but with the firepower of a full-sized AK-47. The assault rifle is also suitable for aircraft, tank and vehicle crews. Significantly, the weapon was developed as an unsolicited design—without waiting for army General Staff Qualitative Requirements (GSQRs), which usually is the start point for weapon development. To do so, the factory used the experience it gained from mass producing the Trichy Assault Rifle, a wholly indigenous copy of the AK-47.

Designers at OF Trichy appear to have solved a problem that stumped the gun designers of the DRDO’s now-discarded INSAS carbine variant in the 1990s—how to reduce the barrel heating and the excessive sound and flash produced when an assault rifle bullet is fired from a short barrel. The DRDO did it by switching over to a smaller bullet, the 5.56×30 round used in the JVPC carbine. The Baby TAR designers solved the problem by used internal metal reflectors to insulate the foregrip from the barrel and by designing, in-house, a compact flash hider at the barrel muzzle. The gun can presently fire four full magazines—around 120 rounds—without the barrel heating. This development is noteworthy because it means Indian designers now understand the ‘know-why’, rather than just the ‘know-how’ that they would have gained from a licensed production.

Compacting the AK

The Soviet Union began producing compact, stubbier versions of its AK-74 rifle (an AK-47 evolution firing the 5.45×39 mm cartridge) in the 1970s. Copies of this compact assault rifle have been famously attached to Osama bin Laden, ISIS chief Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi and more recently, Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko. Compact versions of the AK-47 believed to have been produced in the frontier regions of Pakistan, have been recovered by Indian security forces from terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir in recent months.

Trichy is one of two Indian ordnance factories already mass-producing Indian versions of the legendary Kalashnikov (the original weapon was never patented and is freely made by countries across the world). The ‘Ghatak’, a copy made by Rifle Factory Ishapore, did not find as much favour. The full-sized TAR is believed to be a copy of the Bulgarian AR-M1, itself a licensed copy of the Kalashnikov. Over 500,000 Bulgarian weapons have been imported by India’s central, state and paramilitary forces over the past decade—the TAR, which began bulk production in 2017, has also helped reducing imports from that east European country. OF Trichy has developed four variants of the rifle, with fixed, side-folding, under-folding and telescoping butts. Nearly 20,000 weapons have been delivered to the Indian police, paramilitary and central armed police forces. Interestingly, each TAR costs around Rs 55,000—far less than the licensed AK-203 to be produced by Indo-Russian Rifles, which will cost upwards of Rs 75,000. And the compact version could cost less than the full-length TAR.

The compact TAR’s arrival has added to growing numbers of indigenously designed small arms. From a virtual drought a few years back, there are now multiple indigenous designs available, chambered for various cartridges. Besides the Army’s 9x19mm carbine, the DRDO has developed a variant firing a 5.56×45 mm cartridge, for a different Army requirement. The JVPC, a DRDO-OFB carbine, passed Army and MHA development trials last year. Bengaluru-based small arms start-up SSS Defence has its own designs for weapons, chambered for 5.56×45 and 7.62×39 cartridges, and an upgrade kit for existing AK-47 variants. All these designs, of course, are at the prototype stage and will need to fire several thousand rounds before they are fit for mass-production and induction.

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Shankul Bhandare

Hello, I am shankul and I love defence research and development and want to spread it through blogging.

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