India Scraps Assault Rifle Competition

The Indian military will have to live for a while longer with the troubled and increasingly dated INSAS, and antique hand-me-down AKM rifles, it seems. Daily Mail India reports:

In a setback to the Indian soldier’s quest for a reliable assault rifle, the Army has scrapped a four-year-old tender for purchasing 1.8 Lakh weapons.

In a June 15 letter to the four short-listed international firms, the Army said it was retracting the Rs 4,848-crore contract.

In 2011, the Army floated a contract to supply Multi-Caliber Assault Rifles (MCAR) for the Army and the Navy to replace the existing INSAS rifles.

The Army has scrapped a mammoth tender to replace INSAS rifles

An initial 65,678 assault rifles and 4,680 under barrel grenade launchers were to be procured off the shelf for Rs 2,500 crore.

With over 1 lakh more rifles to be built by the Ordnance Factory Board through technology transfer, it was the world’s largest such rifle contract.

The scrapping of the seven-year quest is a setback to the Army’s modernisation plans.

Army chief general Dalbir Singh had, in January this year, identified assault rifles as one of 20 ‘critical requirements’ including bulletproof jackets and artillery guns for the Army.

The Army cannot blame anyone but itself. The rifle quest began with the Army’s unhappiness with the indigenous 5.56 mm INSAS assault rifle which entered service in the late 1990s.

But the solution to the INSAS’s quality issues was to ask for a weapon so expensive with specifications so outlandish that it raised questions on the Army’s competence in framing General Staff Qualitative Requirements.

The Army wanted a rifle with interchangeable barrels firing different calibers, the 5.56 mm INSAS round and the 7.62 mm AK-47 round.

The requirement originated in the present practice of soldiers in counterinsurgency operations using AK-47s and switching over to INSAS rifles in peace stations.

Army officials say the specifications were deeply flawed. Five international firms — Beretta of Italy, Israeli Weapons Industries (IWI), Colt Defense of the US, Ceska Zbplojovka of Czech Republic — were shortlisted.

All the weapons they presented for the trials were prototypes, meaning, none of them were actually in service with their respective armies.

The contract appeared doomed right at the start in 2012 when the Army first delayed the technical evaluation of the rifles. Companies then began asking for extensions for sample submission. As of 2015, no trials of the competing weapons were conducted.

A whiff of corruption accompanied the contract. It was speculated that the GSQRs were tailor-made by Army brass to favour one of the vendors.

Another concern the Army had was cost. At over Rs 2 lakh a piece, each multi-caliber assault rifle with a conversion kit cost twice the price of a regular imported assault rifle and six times the cost of a Rs 35,000 OFB-made INSAS rifle.

A General called the MCAR contract the equivalent of equipping a mass transport taxi service with Mercedes S-class saloons.

Major General Mrinal Suman (retired) says the failure of the rifle contract shows the Army’s deeply flawed system of framing GSQRs.

‘Just because you drive a car for 20 years does not give you the capability to design one. Acquisition staff are neither trained nor equipped to select weapons,’ he says.

Experts say it will now take the Army at least five years to acquire rifles. The infantryman’s wait continues.

The unit lakh is equal to 100,000, while crore represents 10,000,000. An Indian Rupee (Rs) is equivalent to approximately 1.6 US cents, so therefore the initial off-the-shelf purchase would have been worth about $400 million US dollars, a very high price of almost $6,000 per rifle or grenade launcher.

We reported that the Indian government was temporarily substituting AKM rifles for all INSASes used in “Red Zones” (combat areas), awaiting the fielding of the new rifle. Now, this will not happen, leaving Indian soldiers to be issued with rifles decades older than the person using them.

Nathaniel F

Nathaniel is a history enthusiast and firearms hobbyist whose primary interest lies in military small arms technological developments beginning with the smokeless powder era. In addition to contributing to The Firearm Blog, he runs 196,800 Revolutions Per Minute, a blog devoted to modern small arms design and theory. He is also the author of the original web serial Heartblood, which is being updated and edited regularly. He can be reached via email at


  • J.T.

    “almost $6,000 per rifle”

    Ya. I smell some corruption going on there.

    • Giolli Joker

      It’s not entirely clear, to me at least, what was defined in the contract, as the price per rifle in theory would be about half (2000,000INR = 3,150$) with dual caliber conversion (according to the article).
      The article says that this would be already double the price of a conventional (non modular) foreign made assault rifle.

    • Wetcoaster

      Normally, I’d say ‘it depends’ on how much armourer training, spare parts, tooling, etc. are involved on whether or not it’s more uh… ‘grafty’ than your average defense procurement (anywhere).

      Given India’s record on domestically producing anything though, I’m going to have to agree with you on this one.

  • John

    >”We reported that the Indian government was temporarily substituting AKM
    rifles for all INSASes used in “Red Zones” (combat areas), awaiting the
    fielding of the new rifle. Now, this will not happen”

    I’m confused. The trade-in of broken INSAS rifles for functional AKMs won’t happen, or a new rifle contest won’t happen?

    • Giolli Joker

      The latter.

    • Tyler McCommon


    • The latter. You’re right that the sentences are ambiguous out of context.

  • Patrick M.

    When was the last time a military held a weapons contract competition and just chose the winner? Never?

  • Giolli Joker

    This looks like a surprisingly good, detailed and realistic article for any newspaper and especially for a platform like DM! Chapeu!
    Not to say I told you so… but in the previous article of TFB on the INSAS my guess was on unobtainable technical requirements defined out of incompetency.

    • Ben Loong

      What strikes me about this is (assuming they couldn’t stick to just one caliber) had they split the tender into two parts with one part being for a Kalashnikov-pattern rifle in 7.62×39 and the other part being for the same in 5.56×45 they would still have had multiple choices to pick from. And it would probably have still been cheaper.

      • Giolli Joker

        Well, doubling training would hardly be any cheaper…

        • Iksnilol

          AK in 5.56 and AK in 7.62×39 are the same in regards to controls.

  • Tom

    Just had a somewhat politically incorrect giggle to myself, how funny would it be if the Morongo succeed in taking over Colt and go on to sell rifles to the Indians.

  • Tyler McCommon

    Well Indian modernization efforts are pretty hodge podge as it is. They’ve got everything from the latest 21st century tech to stuff that would be better suited in WW2 and its all in service…

  • Wetcoaster

    “Now, this will not happen, leaving Indian soldiers to be issued with rifles decades older than the person using them.”

    That’s not uncommon at all. Weren’t you guys just showing us M16s with lowers from the late 60’s to early 70’s not that long ago? Augs and FAMAS date back to the late 70’s and that doesn’t even get to even longer-lived platforms like the FN MAG or Ma Deuce

    • Sam Schifo

      I’ve said it before on here, but one of my friends was in the USAF and stationed in South Korea several years ago. They gave him an M16A1 when he got there. I believe he was around 20 or so at the time.

      • Beju

        I have a co-worker who was deployed to the former Yugoslavia with the US Army (some form of light vehicle mechanic, IIRC) when he was about 20 years old. His issue weapon was an M3 grease gun, which AFAIK, stopped production in 1945.

        He had a couple good anecdotes about it. One, when it was issued to him with 2 magazines full of 45ACP, he was told that it would be all the ammo he’d ever get.

        The other was that he was standing for inspection when some visiting general stopped in front of him and looked him over, making him rather nervous. The general then said, “Son, I haven’t seen one of those since I was your age.”

    • El Duderino

      B-52 pilots are chuckling right now…

      • Wetcoaster

        Oh, many modern combat aircraft. 720/707-based planes like the KC-135 and E-3 are the B-52’s contemporaries.

        The F-15, F-16, and entire Flanker family are still in production and date back to the mid-70’s through early-80’s.

        Browning Hi-Powers and 1911s are still issue pistols (Although I rate the MEU 1911s as a stubborn manifestation of USMC individuality than anything practical).

        Newer isn’t always better (or when better, not by that much) when dealing with mature technologies.

        • Grindstone50k

          C-130 has been around since the 50’s, too.

          • Chi Wai Shum

            The design is that old but the most of the plane being used right now is not really that old, unlike the B52

        • Iggy

          I think the issue is more the individual rifles are older than the soldiers using them, it may be a fine piece of design and adequate for garisson and training but you’d probably want new manufacture when heading to a war zone.
          Obviously less of an issue if the guns have been stored well, but I highly doubt that and they’ve probalby already seen heavy used.

          • Wetcoaster

            Ironically, if the Indian AKs are too beat up, the PLA might be happy to sell them lots of old warstock Type 56 rifles since their modernization in the last 30 years saw both a significant reduction in force sizes and the replacement of the Type 56 with the Type 81, then the 95

        • mikee

          Seems to be that the Indians were looking for the “F35” of combat rifles. A jack of all trades and a master of none….very expensive!!!

  • I want an INSAS to compliment my last ditch Type 94 Nambu. Similar craftsmanship!

    • UnrepentantLib

      It does appear that many of the problems with the INSAS relate to poor craftsmanship and quality control, plus some unnecessary “features”. Of course, there’s more money to be made getting a replacement rifle instead of fixing the one they have.

    • LCON

      should add a Chauchat for a Trio.

  • Kev

    Indian special operations currently use the tavor, however a few weeks ago the ishapore rifle factory showcased a tacticool AK rifle, an attempt to curb foreign exports from abroad apparently, and this was after the release of the tritchy rifle and the multi caliber rifle, it makes you wonder if they were even serious and just didn’t like the idea o of a foreign design over indigenous.

  • ItalianAmerican

    Good luck working with the Indians of India. There’s no way anything of value will ever come out of there UNLESS management is outsourced. Yes, you heard it here.

    • AK

      Seems the middle class has largely emigrated over the past decades there. The middle management is glaringly absent in that country. You have workers waiting for someone’s direction, then you have the elite, who are really smart and educated and know how things work in the developed world. The sorely missed ingredient is the people who would actually make the things happen – it’s amazing. And somehow everyone just goes along and puts up with the BS.

  • Mutenri

    How hard is the project when multiple civilian companies in the US can manage it for $2k? AR 15 with two uppers (Hydra if you insist on AK mags), Sig 556xi (quality issues aside), SCAR 17 with some Hi-Desert Dog parts, and these are all boutique options without the economies of scale of a national army. This is entirely a politics and corruption issue.

  • Nicholas Mew

    I feel so sorry for the poor soldiers who have to carry the INSAS.

    • Marcus D.

      Don’t. It is their karma to carry inferior weapons and be mercilessly slaughtered in battle.

  • Joshua

    So they ask for a gun to meet a set of requirements that no other nation uses…and then is shocked when they get guns to meet those requirements, which are requirements no one else uses.

    Did they really expect to get a gun in use by its host nation?

  • Tom-UK

    The entire process would have gone better for everyone if the 6 competitor rifles had been laid out and a blindfolded man told to randomly pick one up. Seriously its 2015 and this is mature technology where its hard to go wrong even when picking a random modern rifle ffs.

    Everytime Indian procurement is mentioned it involves a complete and utter 300mph orphan packed fiery train wreck followed by a commission lasting several years before it comes out with the startling conclusion that bananas do not offer a cost effective replacement for hammers etc.

  • ClintTorres

    I’m sorry. When your country can’t even solve its open defecation or potable water problems, finding a serviceable rifle can fall pretty far down the list of priorities.

  • Ed

    I wouldn’t call the AKM antique. They in use around the world and have had success in ISIS hands over US supplied Iraqi troops.

    • iksnilol

      I think they meant antique as in individual rifles are very old. Nothing wrong with the design itself.

    • mosinman

      i think that has to do more with better command and morale rather than just the equipment. the best rifle in the world is useless if the guy who has it doesn’t want to fight with

  • Manny Fal

    At least they have no intention of manufacturing the rifles in India, they appear to be the only country to ever mess up an AK.

    • Mike N.

      The article stated that OFB were to build 1-lakh (100,000) of the rifles in India via “technology transfer”. FWIW, I’d rather trust my life to a Norinco M4 knockoff than an Indian built one.

  • ghost

    India buys at one price, and then tries to gyp you out for a lower one, much lower.


    The Indians can’t get anything right. Doesn’t matter if it is a gun, or a plane. It will be one of the two things listed below or both.
    1. It is a complete failure
    2. It is hopelessly outdated by the time it finally “worked”

  • kyphe

    The Indian government has often used it’s military purchasing as a political tool to gain leverage on the international stage. Ofc they lose this leverage when ever they actually sign a contract.

  • Zebra Dun

    Why not just buy a Rifle from some of the many countries that have them for sale?
    An AK-74 would do just as good.

  • RicoSuave

    India buys a lot of defense equipment from Russia. Surprised they didn’t just put in a contract for AKs direct.

  • Mick

    The CZ805 BREN made in the Czech Republic would have been a good choice for the Indian military. The Czech make excellent assault rifles I bet the price would have been good also.