SIG 716 7.62x51 NATO

On February 12, 2018, Indian government signed a contract with American arms manufacturer SIG Sauer for the procurement of 72,400 SIG716 Assault Rifles (for Indian Army-IA) through the Fast Track Procurement (FTP) which will be delivered over the next 12 months. According to official sources, SIG716 will be manufactured at SIG Sauer’s New Hampshire facilities.

Just two days later (according to local news reports), the government also cleared the procurement of 747,000 Kalashnikov AK-203 Assault Rifles - to be built by a joint venture led by India's Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) and Russian Avtomat Kalashnikov. The new manufacturing plant for the same will be set up near Amethi in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.

A 7.62 mm Kalashnikov AK-203 Assault Rifle

According to India's Ministry of Defence (MoD) officials, the FTP route is only for limited numbers of weapons due to "critical operational necessity". And, currently, the IA has a requirement of around is for 816,000 new 7.62 mm assault rifles and 5.5 mm 93,895 close-quarter battles (CQB) carbines. The actual requirement for the CQB carbines is 458,000 - together they will replace the existing, glitch-prone 5.56 mm INSAS (Indian small arms system) rifles. 

The acquisition of the assault rifles has witnessed significant delays due to a variety of reasons including the IA’s failure to finalise the specifications for it. In 2017, the IA had rejected an assault rifle built by the state-run Rifle Factory, Ishapore, when they failed the firing tests. After this, IA chose the SIG716 in September 2018 through a competitive process, beating CARACAL of UAE which is currently contesting for CQB carbines. According to the sources, this American assault rifles will be issued to IA's frontline counter-insurgency operations (COIN) units, as well as to troops deployed along India's disputed borders with Pakistan (incl. Line of Control) and China (incl. Line of Actual Control).

Earlier in May 2017, Israel Weapons Industries (IWI) & India's Punj Lloyd Group inaugurated a 65-acre state-of-the-art integrated defence manufacturing facility at Malanpur (near Gwalior) in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh to supply small arms, including Tavor-21, and Galil ACE carbines to Indian armed forces. This, incidentally, is also the country’s first private small arms manufacturing facility.

File photo of India's Punj Lloyd and IWI small arms manufacturing unit being inaugurated by then-Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan in Malanpur, near Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh