July 2, 2015

India to renew hunt for assault rifles after scrapping 4-yr-old tender

India will now re-launch the hunt for new-generation assault rifles for its 1.18-million strong Army, following the scrapping its four-year-old tender for the guns worth around Rs 4,850 crore.

TOI on May 20 had reported that the proposed mega project for the assault rifles, with interchangeable barrels for conventional warfare and counter-insurgency operations, was on the verge of being scrapped since it had run into major problems.
Now, the armament firms that had participated in the extensive trials -- Colt (US), Beretta (Italy), Ceska (Czech) and Israel Weapon Industries (IWI) - have been told that the proposed contract was being retracted. This is a serious blow to the long-standing demand for new rifles to replace the 5.56mm indigenous INSAS (Indian small arms system) guns, which have suffered from technical bugs since their induction in 1994-95.
As per the now-cancelled project, 65,000 rifles were to be directly acquired from the selected foreign vendor to equip the 120 infantry battalions deployed on the western and eastern fronts. The Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) was to then subsequently manufacture over 1,13,000 such rifles after getting transfer of technology from the foreign company.

But the proposal for the new rifles -- with a 5.56x45mm primary barrel for conventional warfare and a 7.62x39mm secondary one for counter-terror operations - was found to be "impractical" both in terms of high costs and technical requirements, said sources.

The plan now is to either get a foreign arms company to shift some of its manufacturing facilities to India or task the OFB to manufacture the new assault rifles with foreign collaboration.

Weighing around 3.5-kg, the new rifle will need to have a 1-km range, advanced night-vision devices, holographic reflex sights, laser designators, detachable under-barrel grenade launchers and the like.

The INSAS rifles, with an effective range of just 450-metre and weighing over 4.25-kg, had replaced the even more cumbersome 7.62mm self-loading rifles. The Army also uses over one lakh AK-47s, known the world over for their sheer ruggedness and fail-safe nature, for counter-insurgency operations in J&K and northeast. 

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