A contract for the procurement of 72,400 Assault Rifles through the Fast Track Procurement (FTP) from M/s Sig Sauer, US was signed today and will be delivered over the next 12 months. The Indian forces are currently using 5.56×45 mm INSAS Rifle which were built and developed by state owned Ordnance Factory Board (OFB), which needed to be replaced on urgent basis with the most modern technologically advanced and compact 7.62×51 mm Assault Rifle.
An AoN was accorded by the DAC in 2018 and the case was categorised as `BUY’ (Global) under FTP for the procurement of 72,400 SIG716: Indian Army, 66,400; Indian Navy 2,000 and IAF 4,000 along with accessories under FTP. These Assault Rifles will be used by the troops deployed along the 3,600 km long border with China.
According to official sources, 72,400 SIG716 will be manufactured at Sig Sauer’s New Hampshire facilities. The Indian Army has been pushing for fast-tracking the procurement of various weapons systems for not only modernising the weapons they carry but also to meet with the emerging threats along the long borders shared with China and Pakistan.
In 2017, the Indian Army had rejected an assault rifle built by the state-run Rifle Factory, Ishapore, when they failed the firing tests. After this, the Indian Army through a competitive process chose the SIG716 in September 2018, beating Caracal of UAE which is also in a contest to supply 93,895 close-quarter battles (CQB) carbines. The number for the CQB carbines is 4.58 lakh.
The Indian Army has a requirement of around is for 8.16 lakh new 7.62mm assault rifles to replace the existing, glitch-prone 5.56mm INSAS (Indian small arms system) rifles.. The acquisition of the assault rifles has witnessed significant delays due to a variety of reasons including the Army’s failure to finalise the specifications for it. According to MoD officials, the FTP route is only for limited numbers of weapons due to critical operational necessity.
In the last decade the Indian Army has just procured a few thousand Israeli Tavor TAR-21 5.56mm assault rifles for its Special Forces and Rashtriya Rifles counter-insurgency units.
However, to meet the major shortfall for the modern weapons for the infantry is expected to be open to the Indian private sector as well the OFB will be encouraged to tie up with Foreign Companies to Make in India which will take a few years.