India has long sought a modern 5.56x45mm carbine and has launched numerous efforts to procure one internationally and locally. The latest initiative will see a competition launched to find indigenous Indian companies who can manufacture hundreds of thousands of carbines. This is in line with India’s well-known ‘Make In India’ initiative which is seeking to foster self-sufficiency.
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At the end of July, the Indian Ministry of Defense launched the project which has the status of being Acceptance of Necessity (AoN), which means that the “current complex paradigm of conventional and hybrid warfare and counter-terrorism at the borders” requires rapid procurement. The AoN is the first step in the Indian defense procurement process. India has been trying to procure a suitable carbine since the late 2000s with a number of false starts. The carbines are envisaged to replace not only INSAS rifles but also 9x19mm 1A1 submachine guns which are still in service with some elements.
There are several methods the Indian government can follow for the procurement either by the ‘Buy India’ initiative which sees Indian-owned and India-based joint ventures able to bid or via Indigenously Designed, Developed and Manufactured (IDDM), which would see a more limited number of bids. Given the numerous Indian and Indian joint venture companies which have established themselves in recent years the ‘Buy India’ path seems likely.
The Print reports that the 5.56x45mm carbines will have to weigh a maximum of 3.2kg, but further details on the requirement specification for the weapons remain unclear. There are, however, numerous options from various vendors which may fit the bill.
Initially, in 2017, India launched a request for information for international vendors to provide 200,000 5.56x45mm carbines while an AR carbine made by UAE-based company Caracal was also selected as an urgent operational requirement, while 95,000 weapons were ordered, this procurement, stalled despite offering to enter into a joint venture with an Indian company. India’s Times NOW reported that due to the sheer size of the order, the Indian Ministry of Defense is looking to procure rifles from two bidding vendors with the contract winner responsible for the majority of the production and the second place vendor picking up the production of the remainder.
So which companies might bid for the contracts to produce India’s 5.56x45mm carbine? In addition to India’s state-owned Ordnance Factory Board, which has recently undergone efforts to modernise and corporatise its establishments, over the years TFB has covered the establishment of a number of Indian small arms companies and joint ventures with international partners. These include PLR which has a relationship with Israel’s IWI and has positioned itself to offer Tavors, Carmel, Arad and Galil Ace carbines. The Kalyani Group Is a joint venture with Thales and offers the AUG-derived F-90 and the Jindal Defence Group agreed on a joint venture with Brazil’s Taurus and could offer M4-patterned carbines while US-based Desert Tech has a joint venture with Neco Defense Systems Limited, and would potentially see the MDR offered. There is also SSS Defence which prides itself on being an Indian-owned small arms company with its own proprietary designs.
It remains to be seen what carbines may be offered and which companies may bid on the upcoming tender. Once the specification is revealed and exactly what the Indian military wants is clear, we may have a better idea of which potential vendors are well placed to win.