Thales Australia have teamed up with Indian corporation, the Kalyani Group, to submit the F90CQB bullpup to fulfil India’s 5.56x45mm carbine requirement. The partnership also spans Thales’ other products including the Hawkei protected mobility vehicle and Bushmaster gun system.
The agreement was signed aboard HMAS Canberra during a visit to India. Rajinder Singh Bhatia, President & CEO (Defence & Aerospace), Kalyani Group, said:
We are very excited to enter the military weapon systems segment. This alliance will combine Thales’s advance technology, knowledge and experience as an OEM with world class design, development and manufacturing capabilities of the Kalyani Group. Our cooperation aims to provide indigenously manufactured solutions for both the Indian and international markets, thereby furthering the ‘Make in India’ initiative of the government.
Kevin Wall, Thales’ Vice President for vehicles and tactical systems, added:
We are very pleased to bring high-end technology from Australia and work in close collaboration with the Kalyani Group for the design and development of next generation defence systems including variants of the F90 assault rifle already in service with the Australian Defence Forces. This new collaboration will help us serve India as well as international markets. This partnership is the result of our ambition to support soldiers on operations with next generation, cutting edge technology and reaffirms our commitment to India.
Reports suggest that the CQB carbine programme might call for as many as 350,000 rifles. We at TFB have been closely monitoring India’s rifle procurement for some time and we’ve recently seen some progress in terms of the selection of the AK-203 and the SIG Sauer SIG716 to fulfil requirements for infantry rifles. A large number of sniper rifles have been ordered too from Beretta and Barrett.
What the new partnership with Kalyani means for the memorandums of understanding signed between Thales and another Indian company, MKU Ltd., a year ago is unclear. Thales had previously announced that they would work with MKU to produce rifles and optics in India for submission to the Indian Army’s close-quarter battle (CQB) carbine requirement.
The F90CQB may face competition from a number of companies. Earlier this year it was reported that negotiations were underway for the purchase of 95,000 5.56x45mm rifles from Caracal. While back in July 2018, we reported that Punj Lloyd Raksha Systems had teamed up with IWI to manufacture the X95 in India, it seems likely that this will also be submitted to fulfil the CQB carbine requirement.
The partnership in India comes as Thales Australia announce that they will not seek to import the F90 into the US for commercial sale as the Atrax on ‘ethical grounds’.