The Indian Army (IA) plans to temporarily induct locally developed Excalibur assault rifles into service until it shortlists a 7.62x51 mm rifle for import over the next few years, sources told IHS Jane's on 24 October.
Officials said the IA recently asked the state-run Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) to supply an unspecified 'large number' of prototype Excalibur rifles to conduct simultaneous testing at various locations around the country to hasten the Excalibur's induction.
"Keeping procurement delays in mind, the army has opted to provisionally employ Excalibur for its infantry and specialised counter-insurgency units, which desperately need an assault rifle," military analyst Lieutenant General Vijay Kapoor (retd) told IHS Jane's .
The Excalibur is an upgraded version of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO)-designed Indian Small Arms System (INSAS) 5.56x45 mm assault rifle, which the army had rejected in 2010 for being "operationally inadequate".
The gas-operated, selective-fire weapon has a foldable butt, a MIL-STD-1913 'Picatinny' rail system for sights, sensors, and bipods. Its polycarbonate magazine is an improvement compared to that of the INSAS rifle, which is known to frequently crack in extreme hot and cold climates.
The IA's years-long efforts to acquire 66,000 assault rifles and licence-build another 200,000-300,000 to meet pressing operational requirements failed in 2015 after none of the competing foreign models - the Beretta ARX160, the Ceská Zbrojovka CZ 805 BREN, the Israel Weapon Industries ACE 1, and the Colt's Manufacturing Company Colt Combat Rifle - were able to meet IA requirements during trials.
These stipulated that each rifle should weigh no more than 3.6 kg and and be able to convert from 5.56x45 mm to 7.62x39 mm merely by switching their upper receiver and magazine for counter-terrorism operations and conventional employment.
Consequently, the IA initially decided to induct Excalibur into operational service in late 2015.