The Indian Army has been trying to get new rifles for its soldiers for over a decade now.
The long awaited discussion on the procurement of 93,895 close-quarter-battle carbines (CQB), worth $553.33 million did not take place at the recently concluded Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) meeting, as it was removed from the agenda for discussion.
Speaking to Financial Express Online on condition of anonymity a senior official said that at the DAC meeting, the CQB was not discussed even though it has been put on Fast Track Procurement (FTP) process, as the Oversight Committee failed to submit their report ahead of the meeting.
Explaining the process, a senior officer confirmed that the Oversight Committee has no fixed time to submit its reports, however, in the case of FTP, it can be anytime between three days to a month and in the case of CQBs, it’s been more than a month.
“After the recent Pulwana attack, the Indian Army needs these CQBs urgently as the soldiers are continuously using the INSAS which has major reliability issues and the modernisation of the army is urgently required,” a senior army officer added.
The UAE based Caracal, which was declared L1 after several rounds of intensive trials has reached out to the Ministry of Defence (MoD) after other bidders including the L2 French Company Thales failed to qualify as L1 and have sent letters complaining about the UAE based company.
Caracal has been accused by other bidders of not conforming to the format of responding to the earlier RfP, and also that it has no facility to meet the order of the Indian Army of 93,000 CQBs.
A letter to the MoD, which the Financial Express Online has read, states clearly that the company is NATO compliant and Caracal International is part of Emirates Defense Industrial Company (EDIC).
According to letter sent to the MoD, the company has stated that it has in its portfolio the latest technology 9×19 striker fired pistol, submachine gun in standard, compact and suppressed versions, tactical rifle platforms including 5.56×45 and 7.62×51, and modular sniper rifles including .308; .338 and .50 BMG. And all these originally designed in-house for military and paramilitary forces internally and globally.
The company has also said that it also has international subsidiaries with manufacturing capabilities in countries like German, Algeria in North Africa and in USA and North America.
Responding to a question if the clearance of the CQBs will violate the code of conduct in place due to Lok Sabha elections. “These discussions are an ongoing process. And an early decision has to be taken in an effort to ensure that the soldier on the ground is equipped with modern arms.”
The Oversight committee had asked the L1 Company which was invited for commercial negotiations to give further rebate and the company brought down its price further by one more percent.
There is a requirement of around six to seven lakh CQBs by the Indian Army which has been pushing for fast tracking the procurement and it was put on FTP. But it got struck as those vendors who did not get down selected have been registering their protests with the MoD.
Sources confirmed that a nine member team headed by an Army brigadier which had visited the facilities of the companies who had responded to the RfP were very transparent in their report, based on which the trials of the CQBs were carried out extensively. These companies went through trials both in India and in their home country and Indian ammunition were used and tested in different terrains and temperature.
Is the delay due to DRDO’s Excalibur assault rifle?
Fully Excalibur is an assault rifle which is derived from the INSAS rifle, which is the standard rifle of the Indian Army. In 2018, the Indian Army had started looking for a new generation (NG) assault rifle after the 5.56x45mm calibre Excalibur rifle of DRDO-Ordinance Factory Board failed trials.
The Indian Army has been trying to get new rifles for its soldiers for over a decade now. Currently they are using the 7.62mm AK-47 rifles for counter-insurgency operations in Kashmir and the northeast. The infantry is also using the indigenous 5.56mm INSAS (Indian small arms system) rifles, which were inducted in the service in 1995.
According to sources, the DRDO and OFB have made prototypes and have been conducting tests and carrying out major improvements. However, it will be at least a few years before they can meet the requirements of the Indian Army.
The Indian Army is looking for 7.62mm rifles for greater lethality.