NEW DELHI - The Indian army plans to equip around a lakh soldiers with new assault rifles this year, invoking a key clause in India’s arms buying rules that governs speeding up purchases to meet “urgent operational requirements,” said a senior officer familiar with the road map for infantry modernisation, Hindustan Times has reported.
After a series of failed efforts to equip soldiers with the basic weapon, the army has now pinned its hopes on buying around 100,000 assault rifles through the fast track procedure (FTP) prescribed in the Defence Procurement Procedure, 2016.
In need of 7.7 lakh assault rifles, the army has mapped out a three-pronged approach to meet the requirement. The new assault rifles will replace the flaw-ridden 5.56mm INSAS (Indian Small Arms System) rifles inducted more than two decades ago, a weapon that has outlived its usefulness.
“Broadly speaking, we intend to meet up to 15% (1.15 lakh rifles) of our requirement through the FTP. The Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) and the private sector will be involved in two separate programmes to supply the remaining numbers,” said another officer tracking the project.
Up to 25% of the army’s requirement could be met by the OFB and the lion’s share of 60% is likely to go to the private sector, he said. The officer did not give exact numbers, choosing to speak only in percentage terms. The army moved a case to buy assault rifles more than a decade ago.
It was forced to retract a tender for the rifles in June 2015 as none of the weapons met the force’s requirements during trials. The army has revised and finalised the qualitative requirements for the new assault rifles and will seek the defence acquisition council’s (DAC) “acceptance of necessity” for the weapon under the fast track procedure.
The FTP route to meet urgent operational requirements has to be authorised by a special DAC meeting chaired by the defence minister based on a proposal approved by a service chief, paving the way for issuing a tender.
The army has revised the caliber of the new assault rifles to the more lethal 7.62mm instead of 5.56mm.
The FTP can be invoked in cases where “undue/unforeseen delay” in buying weapons is seen to be adversely impacting the military’s capacity and preparedness.
According to rules, weapons sought under the FTP should already be the military’s armoury, have been trial evaluated or be in service in foreign militaries so that the time required for evaluation is minimised.
Experts said the army’s casualties in counter-terror operations could be reduced by half if soldiers were provided better assault rifles.
The army is also making renewed efforts to buy more than 54,000 light machine guns and 44,618 carbines.