By Marc Bagas
After Soeharto resigned from his presidency in 1998, Indonesia entered the Reform Era. This period was characterised by its more open and liberal political-social environment, and made a huge change in the nation as a whole. The Indonesian Armed Forces were very much affected by these changes, and as such saw much development during this period. During The New Order under Soeharto rule, the Armed Forces was named “ABRI” (Angkatan Bersenjata Republik Indonesia) which was led by ABRI commander and in charge of four institutions namely the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Police.
After the resignation of Soeharto, the MPR or Indonesian People’s Consultative Assembly established a separation of duties between the Army (now TNI) and the Police, which carry out operations of national defence (Army), law enforcement, and state security (Police).
Brimob, a special police unit and part of the Indonesian National Police, had to find assault rifles that could suit their tastes after they have been operating with the standard issue Pindad SS1 rifle that they had used for a long time back in ABRI. The primary selection criteria of Brimob’s new assault rifle was that it must be reliable, adopt the 5.56x45mm NATO standard cartridge, and had to be relatively cheap. The choice of assault rifles fell on the AK-101/102.
The AK-101 is a gas operated assault rifle of the AK-100 family series. It is chambered in 5.56x45mm NATO and designed for the global export market, especially for countries that adopted NATO standards. The design of the rifle is based on the AK-74M with modern composite materials, including plastics that reduce weight and improve accuracy. The improvements that were found in AK-101 are also found in the rest of the AK-100 series including the AK-102. The AK-102 is the shortened carbine version of the AK-101 and shares the same cartridge as the AK-101. Both rifles feature black synthetic furniture, with a side folding stock. The side folding stock looks just like a normal fixed stock, however it folds and locks securely to the side of the receiver.
Both AK rifles are select fire weapons (can be fired in either semi-automatic or fully automatic mode). Both rifle’s receivers are made of stamped steel. The assembly and disassembly procedure is almost identical to the rest of the AK family. It has an attachment rail installed on the side of the receiver for mounting scopes and other optics, which will accept most types of Russian and European AK optics. The AK-101 has a 16 inch barrel with a AK-74M style muzzle brake attached to the barrel whereas the AK-102 has a 12 inch barrel with a muzzle brake/booster similar to the AKS-74U’s to allow the action to cycle by increasing the gas pressure. It has been used by several countries such as Thailand, Malaysia, Uruguay, Fiji, Kenya, and Indonesia. Indonesia is a major user of AK-101/102 since the country adopted NATO standards.
After the Reformation period with the fall of the New Order, government finances grew. Throughout the country, there were many internal security upheavals and disturbances that required immediate attention. Brimob, as the spearhead of the Indonesian Police in facing internal challenges, naturally required renewal of equipment, especially improved assault rifles.
During these times, the initial desire of the National Police to continue to procure the Steyr AUG could not be accommodated due to the high price of the weapons system. The need was very urgent, as the optimal quantity of new rifles to replace obsolete and damaged Brimob weapons reached nearly 15,000 rifles in 2000-2001.
The mission set carried out by Brimob at the beginning of the reform was very extensive, including having to be the frontline in operations against GAM rebels in Aceh. At that time, Brimob’s main assault rifles were the Pindad SS1 and M16A1. The SS1 was always given complaints from the soldiers in the frontline.
According to Hendropriyono, former commander of the TNI’s education and training command, the SS1 rifle had many disadvantages. Based on former members of the Indonesian Kopassus special forces experience, the SS1 is known to be fragile. Besides that, the rifle jammed quickly when it gets in the wet or is exposed to mud. The side folding stock is also easily broken when deployed suddenly on the battlefield. Therefore, the maintenance of the rifle took a lot of work and patience. The durability is still below the AK series of rifles, but above the M16. As a result, much disappointment arose among the soldiers.
A weapons examiner in an elite unit stated the SS1 has a relatively short life span. The barrel couldn’t stand the heat and easily bent, which disrupts accuracy. However, Pindad disputed this claim, stating that the barrel did not bend easily when hot.
In accordance with the permit letter of the head of Indonesian National Police, a team of Indonesian Police officers were sent to Moscow to test both AK-101 and AK-102 assault rifles at the Klimovsk Central Scientific Research Institute or known as TsNIITochMash accompanied by Austamindo Environmental Services which is a representative of Rosvoorouzhnie (Rosoboronexport’s predecessor) as a consultant.
The trial was held on 29th of March 2000 in TsNIITochMash and the result was satisfying. Both rifles were suitable for the Brimob needs because the price is relatively cheap, it has high accuracy, is very practical, and it has top-notch endurance in various heavy fields. A total of 3000 rifles of AK-101 and 1000 rifles of AK-102 were decided to be purchased under a contract on 12th October of 2000.
The price for both rifles were relatively cheap. The cost for the AK-101 was US $436.10 whereas the cost for the AK-102 was US $422.04, only a slight difference from SS1 rifle. Both AK-101 and AK-102 rifles were seen in many conflict such as in Aceh against GAM rebels, in Poso against IS-affiliated groups, and currently in Papua against OPM rebels.
The Russian-made AK-101 and AK-102 shipped with AK-74M pattern (6X5) double-edged bayonets (except AK-102), a canvas magazine pouches with the capacity of four magazines, a standard canvas sling, a in the buttstock stored cleaning kit, polymer grease bottle, and black polymer 5.56x45mm magazines.
The Russian-made rifles that were issued to Brimob came with a standard Russian canvas AK sling that is widely used by the Brimob forces. There are also black nylon commercial slings in use by Brimob members.
BRIMOB soldier use a diversity of rail systems, foregrips, weapon lights, suppresors, optics, and stocks with their issued rifles. While some of the attachments are hard to identify concretely due to the commonality of cloned components, let’s take a look at some of the different setups BRIMOB employs. One rail system in particular, which you’ll see classified as “unidentified rail system” was not possible to ID, although according to our conversations with BRIMOB soldiers, it is often issued to them.
AK-102 fitted with CAA XRS74YG, M4 stock adapter, Aimpoint CompM4s, generic light, and laser sight.
Based on the photos that we have examined, we can conclude that most of the Brimob troops used standardized attachments such as the Israeli CAA XRS74YG rail system which has been used by every single Brimob personnel in the photos. for the optic sights they mostly used American made Aimpoint T1, T2, CompM4s and Holosun HS515CM red dot sights in general. they also used Chinese attachments on their AKs for instance the Vector AK rail system and the NCSTAR scope. vertical foregrip and angled foregrip are commonly in use by Brimob and along with the magazine pull such as the Crye Precision Magclip and Magpul magazine pull. Bulgarian 5.56 AK mags are commonly in use alongside the standard black polymer mags.
Unfortunately, there is very little explicit information or photographic evidence available to compare and contrast. however, thanks to Youtube and Instagram for the incidental video and pictures that happen to include close-up shots of the rifles. We are able to take a look at some of the close-up photos.
On the right side of the receiver, it has the original Russian fire selector markings.
Fire selector markings from АВ (automatic) to ОД (semi-automatic)
On the left side of the receiver, the marking reads “AK-101” and its caliber, “5.56x45mm”. The factory markings and serial numbers can be clearly seen on the trunnion. Interestingly, it has a “BRIMOB” stamp on the rear sight block.
Since the AK-101/102 is quite popular and well-liked in Brimob, we have interviewed four Brimob personnels who already have experience and familiar enough with the AK. we would like to know their thoughts on the AK and based on their personal experience. the identity of these personnels remained anonymous for the sake of privacy.
1. Is the AK-101/102 well liked in BRIMOB?
2. How has your experience with those rifles been?
3. What are some of the preferred attachments and brands of accessories that BRIMOB operators like to use on their rifles?
First Brimob personnel
1. Yes, we like it. For its reliability and easy maintenance, and the weight (compare with SS1). However we have to train more on manipulation (especially safety & reload). Since it’s challenging to master it compare with AR pattern or even Steyr AUG. Some AK safety lever also very very stiff out of the box, sometimes we have to bend it a little at the first time.
2. I always have good experiences with the rifle. I used it on my 2 deployments, Aceh and Poso. IMO, AK is perfect for jungle operation but not so much on CQB or Urban Warfare
3. For me, I prefer not to attach anything on my AK since the rail provided is very heavy. Some other guy put them on their AK. Such as optic, pistol grip and weapon light.
If I have to mount an RDS and I could choose which one, i want sabrewerks optic mount for my AK. But my department provide me a top cover and handguard which is very heavy, so I’m not using it.
Second Brimob personnel
1. Yes it is, but i personally hate the recoil.
2. IMO, it’s not bad. so far so good.
3. For preferred attachments, I would go for Aimpoint RDS.
Thanks to C.L. for both interviews
Third Brimob personnel
1. The AK-101/102 are standard rifles for us Brimob. Speaking of the “well-liked”, it depends on the personnels whether they like it or not because there are other weapons besides the AK. But for the AK, we oftenly used it if there’s an operation where most of the area or terrain is in the mountains or what we called “jungle warfare”. The rifle is resilient which means even though the weather is moist, the rifle is still smoothly working. Aside from that, the assembly and disassembly of the AK is easy, unlike the AR15 / M4 variants.
2. I personally liked the AK because the performance is simple and resilient in any kind of terrain. While operating this AK, i’ve never experienced such a malfunction like the rifle being jammed, etc
3. Speaking of preferred attachments and accessories, there are some of them that came from the department and some of them were personal items or bought for themselves. If those (attachments and accessories) came from the department, they have to use it because it’s a must whether they want it or don’t want it. But a lot of them want to attach it to their AK. If I want to buy it for my personal needs, I personally would buy the ACOG scope and Trijicon RMR reflex sight for close range.
Fourth Brimob personnel
1. To be frank, I don’t know if the AK is well liked by the others here but I personally liked the AK.
2. I personally like the AK because it’s a great rifle. it’s rarely prone to jamming and reliable
3. It depends. Most of them don’t used attachments in their AKs. I don’t use AK anymore because I’ve already used a SIG Sauer assault rifle
The AK-101/102 has been generally well received and well liked by the Brimob troops. It’s proven to be a reliable, dependable, durable tool that works well with the aggressive environment of the Indonesian tropical climate.
The weapon is slimmer and lighter than past rifles, making the movement of the troops more agile in the battlefield. It doesn’t jam when it hits mud, and is overall quite reliable.
It has become the backbone of the Brimob Special Police Forces and it has been used in overwhelming majority for all types of operations both in urban areas, mountainous areas, and in rural areas.
But the question is why the police must buy it from Russia rather than Pindad which was a state-owned company?
This kind of question is in the head of many circles and it had become a widespread controversy that unmasks the increasingly sharp competition between the TNI and Police – a latent rivalry that has long been buried under the surface. There are rumors saying the high ranking generals of TNI fiercely opposed the procurement of Brimob’s AK at that time but eventually it was a rubbish rumor after all. The reason the police chose an import weapon was the need for a modern weapon suitable for Brimob to replace the outdated SS1, that could be effectivley used to fight against precarious situations such as the insurgencies in Aceh and currently in Papua.
Overall, the AK-101/102 became a weapon of pride in Brimob, and it’s one of the most commonly used weapons systems among operators today.
Big thanks to AnalystMick and Equipment ID’ers from Freelancers for helping me identifying all the attachments that were shown in the photos. Go follow @mick.analyst and AnalystMick on both Instagram and Twitter for more content about Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) and Non State Armed Groups (NSAGs).