The Army is now firmly pushing ahead with its long-delayed roadmap to induct new assault rifles, close-quarter battle carbines and light machine guns to arm infantry soldiers after several setbacks over the last decade.
The overall requirement for these basic weapons for foot-soldiers, who are often forgotten in the race to acquire howitzers, tanks, missiles, helicopters and the like, is huge for the over 12-lakh strong force.
With over 380 infantry and 63 Rashtriya Rifles battalions, the Army requires around 9.5 lakh assault rifles, 4.6 lakh CQB carbines and over 57,000 light machine guns (LMGs).
“Some emergency procurements from abroad as a critical operational necessity are already underway. Bulk of the requirements will be met by `Make in India’ projects with foreign collaboration,” said a senior officer.
For starters, amidst the ongoing military confrontation with China, the contract for the second lot of 72,000 SiG Sauer assault rifles from the US is set to be inked by December.
The Army has already inducted 72,400 SiG Sauer rifles, which are 7.62×51 mm caliber guns with an effective “kill” range of 500-meter, for frontline troops under a Rs 647 crore fast-track procurement (FTP) deal inked in February last year.
Simultaneously, the Army wants the stalled ‘Make in India’ project to manufacture over seven lakh Kalashnikov AK-203 rifles, at the Korwa ordnance factory in Uttar Pradesh with Russian collaboration, to take off as soon as possible.
“The requirement for longer range assault rifles has been met through the over 1.4 lakh SiG Sauer rifles. We do not require the 7.62x51mm rifle prototype developed by the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB), which has time, quality and pricing issues,” said another officer.