Ahead of the 2+2 Indo-US Ministerial Dialogue scheduled for October the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) gave its approval for buying additional 72,000 SiG Sauer Assault Rifles from the US. And these are expected to be used by the Indian Army troops along the 3,500 Km border with China.
These rifles are being procured at a cost of Rs 780 crore through the Fast Track Procedure (FTP) for the modernisation of the Infantry arm of the Indian Army. Today’s approval comes close on the heels of the ongoing tension along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) between India and China.
Financial Express Online has reported earlier that the process of acquiring modern weapons for the Indian Army including 44,000 light machine guns (LMGs), nearly 44,600 carbines, and seven lakh rifles, started in Oct 2017. These are expected to replace the obsolete and ageing weapons and to help in enhancing the fighting capability of the Indian Army.
According to sources, the government has used the option of buying additional assault rifles through the FTP, and under this procedure the delivery will be soon.
What is the Indian Army using?
Currently 5.56×45 mm INSAS Rifles which have been built and developed by the state-owned Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) is in use and these need to be replaced with the latest technology and a compact 7.62×51 mm Assault Rifle.
The American Assault Rifles are going to be manufactured at the SiG Sauer’s New Hampshire facilities.
Why the American Rifle?
An assault rifle made by the Rifle Factory, Ishapore, was rejected by the user when it failed the firing tests. In September 2018, this led to a competitive process and finally, the SIG716 was down-selected when it had beaten the UAE based Caracal which was also bidding for the Close Quarter Carbines.
How many does the Army need?
The requirement approximately is for 7-8 lakh new 7.62mm assault rifles, which will replace the glitch-prone 5.56mm INSAS (Indian small arms system) rifles.
The defence trade between India and the US has witnessed a significant upswing in the last few years touching almost USD 18 billion mark in 2019. This is a reflection of the growing defence procurement from that country.
The two countries have a dialogue scheduled for later next month when the military trade and other issues of mutual importance will be talked about and also the options of jointly manufacturing locally here in India.
The US in June 2016 has designated India as a `Major Defence Partner’ which means it has been elevated to a position where defence trade and technology sharing will commensurate with that of the closest partners and allies.