Security personnel with Israeli made TAVOR-7 Assault Rifles

Ten days after the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) chaired by Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman approved a major proposal for acquiring assault and sniper rifles to enhance firepower capabilities of infantry soldiers guarding the borders and fighting insurgency, the Army on Friday floated a request for information (RFI) or a global tender for more than 5.5 lakh rifles and 6,000 sniper rifles. The estimated cost of the project is about Rs 10,000 crore. 

The DAC approval for these acquisitions on February 13 came almost 11 years after the Army first mooted the proposal to acquire a state of the art rifle to enable the soldiers to fight the enemy in close quarter battle on ground. The DAC had given the nod for 7.4 lakh rifles for three Services (Rs 12,280 crores), 5,719 sniper rifles (Rs 982 crores) and nearly 17,000 light machine guns (LMG) at a cost of Rs 1,189 crores. The total cost of the three proposals is Rs 15,000 crores.

The Army tender stipulates that the assault rifles will be procured under the ‘Buy and Make(Indian)’ category with nearly 1.8 lakh rifles to be manufactured by the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) and remaining by the private industry within the country after tying up with the foreign original equipment manufacturer(OEM), officials said here on Friday.

Incidentally, the DAC last month approved the procurement of nearly 72,400 assault rifles and 93,985 carbines on a fast track basis to meet the urgent operational requirements of the troops deployed on the borders and engaged in counter-insurgency operations in Jammu & Kashmir and the North-East. The total cost of these two deals is Rs 3,547 crores.

The assault rifles will replace the Army’s existing standard issue Indian Small Arms System (INSAS) rifle of 5.56 calibre which was designed some three decades ago. The new rifle will be 7.62 calibre, meaning the rifle can fire bigger ammunition at a range of 500 metres.

The rifles developed in India will eventually be the standard issue for the forces and also the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF’s). This will mean some 15-18 lakh such rifles in all. In June last year, the Army rejected the rifle made by the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB).

The OFB made eight such pieces which were being tested by the Army. The OFB was not happy with the Army’s decision and said the weapon did well in the trials.

The carbines are seen as replacement for the Russian made AK-47 assault rifles. These will weigh less than 3 kgs and have the ability to fire at distances up to 200 metres. The Army, however, needs another 3.25 lakh carbines.

The tender for 6,000 sniper rifles states that the rifles will be brought under the ‘Buy Global’ category. Another party of the RFI also invited bids for 1,00,00,000 rounds of ammunition with the condition that 50 per cent of the ammunition will be manufactured in India, they said.

The LMGs, meanwhile, will be procured through the fast track route to meet the operational requirements of the troops of three Services.

A concurrent proposal was now getting processed for the balance quantity of more than 32,000 LMGs to be procured under the ‘Buy and Make (Indian)’ categorisation, officials said adding the main purpose of these clearances was to equip the soldiers with modern and more effective equipment.