India’s Schizophrenic Rifle Program Stutters Forward: Excalibur to Be Adopted in Interim, 7.62x39mm Rifle Sought

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The frothing, boiling cauldron that is India’s collective rifle development and procurement entities has shifted again. Just two weeks ago, we reported to you that India had restarted its search for a 7.62x51mm foreign assault rifle to replace the INSAS. Now, we learn from IHS Jane’s that the Excalibur rifle – an improved INSAS – is slated to be adopted as an interim measure, while a new 7.62x39mm rifle (with 5.56mm conversion kit!) is to be sought from foreign manufacturers.

The Indian Army (IA) plans to temporarily induct locally developed Excalibur assault rifles into service until it shortlists a 7.62×39 mm rifle for import over the next few years, sources told IHS Jane’s on 24 October.

Officials said the IA recently asked the state-run Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) to supply an unspecified ‘large number’ of prototype Excalibur rifles to conduct simultaneous testing at various locations around the country to hasten the Excalibur’s induction.

“Keeping procurement delays in mind, the army has opted to provisionally employ Excalibur for its infantry and specialised counter-insurgency units, which desperately need an assault rifle,” military analyst Lieutenant General Vijay Kapoor (retd) told IHS Jane’s .

The Excalibur is an upgraded version of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO)-designed Indian Small Arms System (INSAS) 5.56×45 mm assault rifle, which the army had rejected in 2010 for being “operationally inadequate”.

The gas-operated, selective-fire weapon has a foldable butt, a MIL-STD-1913 ‘Picatinny’ rail system for sights, sensors, and bipods. Its polycarbonate magazine is an improvement compared to that of the INSAS rifle, which is known to frequently crack in extreme hot and cold climates.

What seems to be going on is some kind of problem with the internal politics of the Defence Ministry, probably in the form of competing personalities and their pet programs. We’ve seen multiple “next generation” weapons come from the country, caught in an ever-shifting procurement effort that is so indecisive it feels schizophrenic. These are the classic signs of a procurement system beset by political trouble.

It’s clear, though, that the INSAS rifle must be replaced, and soon. The weapons are not up to the standards that the Indian military expects, and it’s not clear that the design is savable without a radical overhaul of India’s rifle production facilities. Therefore, the quickest and easiest way for the Indian Army to replace the troubled weapon is to seek rifles from outside the country.



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 can be reached via email at nathaniel.f@staff.thefirearmblog.com.


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  • Jaehaerys Targaryen

    Christ, can’t some foreign company just offer a bunch of “gifts” in order to get an actually decent rifle accepted. This is embarrassing for India. Hell, they already make Tavors in India under license for some police forces, why not expand production on that? The Tavor is way better than the INSAS.

    • Tritro29

      Three different countries have tried (Russia, Bulgaria, Israel), two managed to have their rifles bought in certain numbers Bulgaria (early 2000 AR-7’s milled on 7.62×39) and Israel (Tar 21 for the IASF), Russia still tries to sell an AK-103 line.

      Meanwhile Pakistan will announce it’s 7.62Nato procurement decision next year.

      • Wetcoaster

        I wouldn’t be surprised if Pakistan went with license production of either the HK417 or the MPT-76. They have a long history of HK license production (G3, MP5, etc.) and they seem to suffer a lot less from NIH syndrome than their neighbour…

        • ARCNA442

          Germany and Pakistan are both rather different places today than they were then. Germany has been cracking down on arms exports to the Middle East and Pakistan is now more of a failed state than a solid Western ally.

          I would look to Pakistan buying something from China to go with their new Chinese fighters and warships.

          • Jaehaerys Targaryen

            Yeah, if I had to take a guess, I’d say that they’ll go with the Chinese or Turkish options.

          • Wetcoaster

            Money talks. The Germans sell plenty of small arms to the Saudis who aren’t exactly high up anyone’s list of nice people.

            There’s also the option of some kind of official or unofficial derivative. The MPT looks like a cousin of the HK417 and the Mexican FX-05 has more than a passing resemblance to the G36

    • Gallo ace in 762 isn’t bad either

  • AC97

    *facepalm*

    India and its damn asinine procurement system…

    Are they ever going to do anything that makes any damn sense? Like buying from a country that can actually manufacture guns properly instead of producing domestic garbage?

    • JSmath

      Too damned greedy.

    • DaveP.

      Problem is, they normally buy from Russia (and the USSR before that). The Rus being clever dudes, understand that the whole Indian military procurement setup is more corrupt than a big ol’ corrupt thing and have been playing them for close to two generations now.
      Here’s how it normally goes: India wants military gizmo, guy with vodka breath submits contract for price x and quality Y with bribes for anyone with a hand to stick out (prosthetic arms accepted at the going rate), contract is passed through India’s parliament on a wave of more bribes, gizmo ships at price = 4X and quality 1/4Y, Indians (most of whom weren’t bribed) complain about getting hosed, vodka-breath guy shrugs and wanders off to the bar until the next contract.
      When India moved to get a lot of big-ticket military items produced locally instead of imported from the Land of Vodka, it wasn’t really an improvement because the exact same bureaucracy that was in charge of getting bribed by foreigners was placed in charge of, essentially, getting bribed by Indians.
      So what happened here (and with about four other major purchases I can think of offhand) is less “India decides to stop buying from corrupt vodka-breath sellers and make their own stuff” and more “India decides to stop sending bribes to Vodka-land and instead moves to keep corruption in-house”.

      • Uniform223

        Case in point PAKFA. Not just their dealing in Russian arms. Look at their debacle with the French Rafale multiple fighter. Their procurement is like watching a terrible Mnite Shamamamalan movie…

  • iksnilol

    Called it, now they’re just running reruns. They ran out of ideas when they had to add the “Excalibur” character to spice things up.

    • randomswede

      [Said in snarky ditz voice] I think you’ll find the technical term is “clip show”, it’s a collection of old material, yes, but it’s put together in a new and meaningful manner and adds value to the viewers that have missed some of the earlier episodes.

  • Geoff Timm

    I think you underestimate the corruption level in India. The power elite just keeps collecting bribes and making promises and it will go on forever. Geoff Who is cynical.

  • DaveP.

    “Whom the Gods would destroy, they first get involved with an Indian weapons procurement contract…”

  • DaveP.

    The sad and stupid thing is, India actually produces (its own version of) the FN FAL. What you’re looking at is a 20-year festival of bribery corruption, and blatant incompetence designed to replace a perfectly usable rifle with something that doesn’t even work.

    • MPWS

      What Brazil did recently – created their own advanced version of FAL, permitting cheaper production, would be the possible direction.

      • Kurt Akemann

        The problem is the Brazil’s military procurement is functional and India’s is not.

    • Jaehaerys Targaryen

      In addition to the FAL, they also make Tavors in India. There you go, a good 7.62 battle rifle and a good 5.56 assault rifle. This shouldn’t be so difficult, and it only is because of crippling corruption.

  • MPWS

    What this ‘chase of own tail’ indicates is that in current perception, there is not a real progress attainable over AR/AK plateau. It may be just perception, but that’s what moves the wheels. India can easy buy either version, but can not make the step.
    Also, there is not certainty what is best caliber; conversions did not catch up – yet.

  • Bob

    And they’re a Nuclear Power…… while it is socially acceptable to take a dump in the street.

    India is a failed corrupt state and was far better under British Rule.

    • Malthrak

      Its a country of over a billion people, twice Europe’s entire population and 3 or 4x that of the US, in every conceivable stage of economic development across a vast area of land with large multiple ethnic and cultural differences. It’s a patchwork nation thats progressing and modernizing rapidly, but it has problems and that development is uneven, like most other places went through.

      The idea that it’s some sort of failed state is nothing more than a racist canard.

      • Julius No

        Every single one of those apply to China, and yet they seem to manage.

        • UnrepentantLib

          Just based on what gets reported in the western press, it appears the Chinese periodically round up some of their most corrupt characters and shoot them as a warning to the rest. Perhaps that has something to do with it.

        • Fb14352

          Have you been to China? I have…People on average are too scared to say even complain about their government. Absolutely no freedom of expression. Tall buildings and highways are not the only sign of developing countries

      • You maybe right on some of that and knowing as much as I do about India I old say calling it a failed state is hyperbolic and not true, but calling it a racist canard is a bridge too far bubba. you don’t know he’s racist and it’s shopworn and tiresome to see people whip out the racist card fast and loose. Heres a nation it is dead on the mark to say they were better off under colonial rule and thats old

        • Malthrak

          I dont believe I called anyone racist, I said the idea that India is now a failed state is a racist canard.

          Zimbabwe and other places are many thousands of miles away from India with very different circumstances and are other conversations.

          • Yeah I hear you. but another eye could interpret it as that, so all I’m saying is maybe real it in a bit. on the other your right they are physically oceans apart, I was just observing that his thought could be applied to some foriegn colonies of the UK Rhodesia for example, but India doesn’t fit the bill.

    • Fb14352

      While it’s a nuclear power… it’s ok for its presidential candidate to grab pu*^%y. XYZ is a failed state because of ____ reason. You are genius. Calling India a failed state makes 80% democracies in the world “failed”

      • john huscio

        “it’s ok for its presidential candidate to grab pu*^%y.”

        a non-issue that has nothing to do with the discussion at hand.

        • Fb14352

          Absolutely it does. You choose to ignore and that’s not my problem

  • 40mmCattleDog

    If I facepalmed any harder I would knock myself out.

  • Jim Slade

    Is it just a bad picture, or is there not a straight line anywhere on that thing?
    The Iranians have much better photoshop skills for their “We’re totally going to build this any day now” rifle.

    • Uniform223

      Atleast with Iranian small arms they just copy a design, they don’t try a reinvent the wheel.

  • John

    I think they’ll adopt the Excaliber for 5.56 and general issue, and just buy Russian AKs for 7.62 and soldiers in hot zones. They get to stimulate local industry, while appeasing the people making their naval vessels and aircraft, and maybe get a discount on all of it.

    They appease both Indian nationalists and Russian vendors at the same time. Makes sense.

    And now we know what soaps TFB watch. 🙂

  • Saumya Supratik

    The rifle which supposedly according to the OFB the Army is interested in is a milled receiver variant. Personally I don’t believe it since the Army has floated a RFI for 7.62x51mm rifle and there is no point buying this rifle. The Army also hasn’t been mentioned anything about acquiring Excaliburs.

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/3b5fab137bc10db46f756fc981c5f61c8587c5457a3fc51b1007ca503ef24ac1.png

  • Yadav

    Institutionalized corruption is the problem that has made India a laughing stock when it comes to technological innovation and growth of our nation to realize its true potential. The biggest achievement and contribution of 60+ years of Congress party rule is corruption, inefficiency, societal decay, social striff, failed educational system, affermative action. We need atlest 3 to 4 terms of a leader like Modi to get our country back on track. Really sad, we could send a probe to mars, but not able to create a rifle.

  • frrst245

    With all things Indian, the government screws it up. Without the bureaucratic corrupt government mess, India would be a world Super Power

  • Fb14352

    Growing up in India, no one ever bought anything made by government- and they used to make lot of stuff including wrist watches, scooters and tractors. Today, that socialist/communist experiment is a part of history. Sadly, defense industry has remained largely untouched by progress and development seen by other sectors so far. OFB and other government owned defense units are one of the last bastions of incompetence/lack of accountability and lethargy. Hopefully, this too will change in near future. Measuring India by its defense industry is like judging horse by its color.

  • Doom

    God why is India so bad? Is it just that there is horrific management at every level, or is there something in the water(Besides dead bodies and poop)?

    • Fb14352

      Just look at the brain drain… Most brainy Indians have left India, enriching their new homelands.

      • Doom

        Hey, Great point. Yet another reason to be against immigration from 3rd world countries. Though it doesn’t take a rocket surgeon to know poops smells bad and is filthy and unhealthy and you probably shouldn’t drop your trousers anywhere you feel the urge.

        • Fb14352

          Frankly speaking that’s the only immigration I support: that of highly skilled, smart and educated. These people need the ecosystem and infrastructure to excel and USA provides that. Win win. Their homelands need to fix their problems on their own.

          • Doom

            The only way the third world can hope to stop being the third world is if the first world stops stealing anyone with an IQ of over 80. Europe and the US can bring up our own engineers and scientists, the third world needs their own desperately apparently.

          • Fb14352

            I disagree. You don’t need people like Nadela (Microsoft CEO) or bhatia (invented hotmail) or thousands others from 3rd world doing top class work in the West back in 3rd world. They need environment where they can blossom and that doesn’t exist in those places. Those places don’t need them either because they need basics. Talent from anywhere should be respected and cultivated. If you disagree then that’s very un-american and anti-capitalism

          • Doom

            Why does Microsoft need an Indian CEO? Are there not plenty of Americans who can do the same job? Email cant be invented in India and shared with the world? Does the third world not need physicians to heal them? Engineers to build safe structures? Anyways were off the point. I am against mass immigration, especially to a country where there are overly generous social benefits. Talent is talent. The US and Europe have plenty of people with talent, the third world has nowhere near enough and the west drains what they do have and they stay in a terrible loop. Im not a capitalist, at least not in the sense of money is god at the expense of people. Making money is excellent, but only if it doesnt smash people getting there.

          • Fb14352

            If you know anything about capitalism you wouldn’t say that.. Steve job couldn’t find 5000 engineers to build phone sin USA- had to outsource design. No there’s not enough talent in the USA . Look at our crappy educational system and low ambition of kids- you’ll get the point. My town can’t find doctors and have drs from India (excellent physicians too). Should I wait to see dr till your fantasy world trains enough American Doctors?

          • Doom

            Oh wow, you call me a racist even though I am sitting here complaining about brain draining the third world so they dont have to live in squalor for all of eternity? you are more worried about email and CEO’s than about road and building engineers developing India, Africa, the middle east? Your town doesn’t have enough doctors? some cities or at least villages you are lucky to have one poorly trained and equipped GP since all the rest moved to the west instead of helping their own people. And I am against Any mass immigration from any country where people are poorly educated and low skilled, they don’t serve any purpose but to drive up costs here for all the native citizens. we already have a glut of low skilled labor in the US at least. I also said talent is talent, How the hell is that racist? My point is they need the talent way more than we do. We have schools, we have plenty of smart people and can incentivize people into certain careers to fill any gaps that might open when we stop stealing talent from the third world. Where did I say only European people had money? what the hell did you read, because it sure wasnt my comment… American capitalism is what causes working conditions so horrific in china that people kill themselves rather than work. there are plenty of bad things that happen in the US too, but at least it isnt as bad as what companies do in poor countries to people they treat like trash.

          • Blaine

            Hahah I knew that was going to happen.

          • Fb14352

            First of all, I don’t live in a third world country- I live in California where my town doesn’t have enough doctors, oil industry doesn’t have enough engineers and schools don’t have enough AP students. Nearby UC system has 50% foreign students pursuing advanced degrees. The brain drain you are talking about is just an excuse for not letting the best and brightest come to USA which I am against. You probably are not in high tech business and hence clueless. At the same time, you are ok with European immigrants coming here even if they are not bright- but dont want educated and motivated non-European people- if that’s not racism then I don’t know what is!
            Third world doesn’t get better or worse by your so called brain drain” only in your fantasy world your ideas have ANY value. There are millions of Chinese all over the world but China is developing. There are millions of Mexicans here but Mexico is in shambles. Immigration has nothing to do with that. Local factors far outweigh anything else. Also, stop crying for third world countries. Worry about USA

  • 3==>~Sharia

    There are so many great rifles already in production that exceed expectations. FN, HK, CZ, IWI, Colt, jeesh, just pick one. Put me in charge and I’d just go with the Bren 2 on the condition that CZ setup factories and build them all in country–done!

  • Fb14352

    Just look up I last 20 years how many people were taken out poverty in India: more than total population of USA. How many ‘famines’ occurred in India after independence? Zero. Their growth rate is respectable 6-7%. They are not perfect but guess what! Their presidential candidate is not grabbing pu##ies either. There is more rape in USA per capita, significant more gun crime and you have audacity to worry about others?!

  • Docduracoat

    AK’s in hot zones says it all