New Delhi: India will soon begin induction of a new assault rifle from the American firm SiG Sauer‘s stable for its soldiers posted along the Pakistan and China border, almost 15 years after it first began a search for new infantry weapons to replace the indigenous INSAS rifles.
The Indian Army had ordered for 72,400 of these rifles from the US under a fast-track procurement mode, of which 10,000 have been received by the soldiers as the first consignment, people familiar with the matter said today. The deal, signed in Feb., is worth Rs 638 crore ($90 million).
The procurement was part of the new enhanced financial powers, through which critical operational requirements could be purchased under the fast track procurement route by the armed forces headquarters.
The new longer-range SiG716 7.62X51mm calibre rifles have a 500-metre range and the deliveries will be completed in the first quarter of 2020, the people, requesting not to be named as the information is not public yet, said.
The SiG-716 procurement is only to meet the immediate exigencies, whereas the government will continue with its plan to produce 745,000 Kalashnikov Concern JSC AK-203 rifles, a variant of the iconic AK-47 rifles with a 300-metre range, under a technology transfer from Russia through a joint venture project at India’s Korwa ordnance factory in Uttar Pradesh. The 7.62x39mm calibre AK-203 order from the armed forces would be worth Rs 12,000 crore ($1.7 billion).
Again, the Indian Army will get the bulk of these AK-203 rifles – over 700,000 rifles – whereas the air force and the navy will get 29,000 and 13,600 of the weapon systems.
Indian Army chief General Bipin Rawat too had said that the entire army strength could not be equipped with advanced rifles and other weapons due to budgetary constraints.
India began a search for new assault rifles in 2005, along with other infantry weapon systems such as 458,000 of the close-quarter battle carbines for its 382 infantry battalions, each having a fighting strength of 850 troopers.
The new rifles would replace the in-service 5.56 INSAS (Indian Small Arms System) rifles made by the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB). However, bad technical requirements parameters had led to the cancellation of the tendering process for the infantry weapons repeatedly in the last 14 years.
Among the recent emergency purchases by the army include the 210 ‘Spike‘ anti-tank guided missile from the Israeli Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and the Beretta‘s .338 Lapua Magnum Scorpio TGT and Berrett‘s .50 calibre M95 guns having an effective kill range of 1.5 km to 1.8 km. All these weapons are for deployment along the 778-km line of control on the western border with Pakistan.
The Narendra Modi government’s push is for procurement of a large number of similar weapon systems from Indian industry, rather than importing them. Hence, the armed forces have been asked to go for small quantity emergency purchases to meet their immediate requirements.