In an ongoing national conference where the top Indian Army generals are convening to discuss issues and ways to improve the military, one of the top issues is small arms program reform, especially in regards to the 5.56x45mm INSAS infantry rifle currently in use by most Indian Infantrymen. Secondarily, leaders are looking towards ways to improve or adopt better machine guns and light support weapons for the troops. One news report stated that the service is in dire need of at least 200,000 replacement rifles for the INSAS, which was adopted in 1988.
Though plans are now on track to plug major operational gaps in artillery guns, air defence missiles and helicopters, “small arms” remain a big worry. As per overall plans, the 12-lakh strong Army needs 8,18,500 new-generation assault rifles, 4,18,300 close-quarter battle (CQB) carbines, 43,700 light machine guns and 5,679 sniper rifles. All these figures also include some weapons for the much-smaller IAF and Navy, say sources.
But all these induction plans, which are supposed to include direct purchase of an initial number of weapons from a foreign vendor followed by large-scale indigenous production with technology transfer, have failed to materialize so far.
In September 2016, for instance, the Army was forced to re-launch its global hunt for new-generation 7.62 x 51mm assault rifles to replace the old glitch-prone 5.56mm INSAS (Indian small arms system) rifles after similar bids over the last decade were scrapped due to corruption scandals, unrealistic technical requirements and change in caliber of the desired guns, as was first reported by TOI.
The predicament of the Indian Army service rifles is no stranger to TFB. Not only has the MoD realized the extent of this problem before, but its own Ordnance Board has completely failed to come up with a reliable alternative that could pass any test. So far what we have seen from the Indian Army is this cycle of realizing that the current service rifle is far from acceptable (to the point that troops in India’s most actively engaged combat zone, the Kashmir are very often seen with AKMs), deciding that something needs to be done, attempting an initiative that involves designing and producing an alternative in India as apart of the ‘Buy & Make’ Indian drive, failing, then going right back to where the command structure is right now.
Case in point, Indian soldiers in Kashmir with AKMS’.