India’s ongoing troubles adopting a new service rifle are well documented but as a leading defence committee, chaired by defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman, announces a major procurement are India’s small arms woes coming to an end?
Following numerous failures, false starts, and calibre changes the Indian defence ministry’s Defence Acquisition Council have announced a fresh initiative to purchase 7.40 lakh or 740,000 assault rifles, 5,719 sniper rifles and an unspecified number of light machine guns. This huge order follows on from reports in January that the Defence Acquisition Council had ordered the rapid shortlisting and trials of suitable rifles and carbines for a stopgap order of 93,895 carbines and 72,400 assault rifles.
The Indian Army is currently equipped with a mix of AK-pattern rifles and India’s own 5.56x45mm rifle, the INSAS. A modernised version of the INSAS, the Excalibur, and a 7.62x51mm AK-influenced rifle put together by the Ordnance Factory Board both failed during testing.
The new initiative is being hailed as a fast-tracked procurement to meet the pressing need “to equip the soldiers on the border with modern and more effective equipment”. In a statement the Council confirmed that the 5,719 sniper rifles to be purchased would “be bought with ‘Buy Global’ categorisation, their ammunition will be initially procured and subsequently manufactured in India.” The cost of the foreign precision rifles has been estimated at Rs.982 crore or $153 million.
The entire procurement is estimated to be worth a massive Rs.15,935 crore (159,350,000,000) Indian rupees or $2.5 billion. The purchase of light machine guns for border troops is slated to cost Rs.1,819 crore ($280 million) while the rifles will cost Rs.12,280 crore or $1.9 billion.
The defence ministry confirmed that the majority of the assault rifles to be adopted would be “procured under the ‘Buy and Make (Indian)’ categorisation.” However, the ministry made no announcement about what these rifles would be or which Indian factory would produce them. The saga continues.