It feels like déjà vu: India has once again issued a Request For Information (RFI) for a new rifle, this time in 7.62x51mm NATO caliber. The RFI was reportedly issued on the 27th of September, making it two and a half months between the nation’s government announcing they were preparing the document, and actually issuing it. DefenseWorld reports on the RFI’s contents:
Total Quantity required is approximately 1,85,000 Assault Rifles out of which the immediate requirement is of approximately 65000 rifles. The approximately quantity 65000 Assault Rifles should be delivered within four (04) months to twenty eight months (28) from the day of signing of the contract, the RFI issued this Tuesday stated.
Tentative date of the issue of RFP is April 2017.
According to the RFI, the rifle should be capable of achieving accuracy better than three Minutes of Angle up to a range of minimum 500 meters. The rifle should be capable of fitting and firing of Indian in-service UBGL manufactured by Indian Ordnance Factory, Trichy. The rifle should have integrated open sight and multi option telescopic sight. The rifle has to be compatible with all modern sights and accessories and provision for mounting the same.
Oddly, in a DefenseNews article, Indian defense analyst Rahul Bhonsle did not feel the requirements for 500-meter accuracy and compatibility with telescopic sights were reasonable:
“The RFI is watered down, yet it still remains complex. Why does the Army require an assault rifle with a telescopic sight? [It] is not clear. Does it want every soldier to have a sniper capability? These complex, qualitative requirements do not augur well for the future of this RFI … unless at the [request for proposal] stage there is a change,” Bhonsle said.
“The range of 500 meters is highly optimistic,” he added.
The Indian Armed Forces have been trying to replace the troubled INSAS rifle for several years now. India’s indigenous AK-derived rifle has repeatedly underperformed, due to problems both in build quality and inherent to the design. The Indian government had sought a foreign-made weapon, but that program was cancelled for what were likely political reasons. In the meantime, the country decided to replace the INSAS rifle in all major combat zones with the aging AK pattern of rifles, as a stopgap. With this most recent RFI, India is back on the international market, shopping for options. This time, however, the country is requesting larger-caliber guns, possibly joining both Pakistan andTurkey as nations using the 7.62mm NATO caliber as standard issue in lieu of a small-caliber, high-velocity round.