Tribune News Service
New Delhi, February 2
Ending years of wait, the Ministry of Defence has approved the purchase of 73,000 new assault rifles from US arms-maker SIG Sauer. The company’s ‘SiG716’, which will replace the indigenous INSAS assault rifles, will be procured under the fast-track mode.
The rifles, chambered for the 7.62x51 mm round (bullet), are being used by the US forces as well as several European countries.
“A contract is expected soon. The US firm will have to deliver the rifles within a year from the date of finalising the deal,” a defence official confirmed today. The Army has been pressing for fast-tracking the procurement of various weapons, considering the evolving security threats along the borders with Pakistan and China. The overall requirement is for 6,50,000 new automatic assault rifles for the Army’s infantry unit.
India is also in talks with Russia to licence-produce the AK-103 assault rifle in one of the three Indian ordnance factories which can manufacture assault rifles. The AK-103 is a more modern variant of the iconic AK-47.
It is expected to meet the requirement for the 6,50,000 rifles for which a tender has been floated. This will form the bulk of the Army and the AK-103 is chambered for the 7.62x39 round, the same as used by the AK-47 rifle. A Request for Information, the first stage in a lengthy procurement process, was floated in August 2018.
In 2017, the Army had rejected a rifle made by the state-run Rifle Factory, Ishapore, after the guns miserably failed tests. Following it, the Army started scouting for rifles from the global market. The procurement of assault rifles has witnessed significant delays due to several reasons, including the Army's failure to finalise the specifications for it.
Overall, the Army needs to procure more than 11 lakh pieces of small arms, including 6.22 lakh assault rifles, 4.43 lakh carbines, 6,000 sniper files and 41,000 Light machine guns (LMGs). The process for some of these has commenced.
The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), chaired by Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, at separate meetings accorded approval to these weapons. These are needed to equip the Army’s 359 infantry units and over 100 Special Forces and counter-insurgency battalions, including the Rashtriya Rifles and Assam Rifles. — TNS
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