American FN M240 Light Machine Gun

After ordering 72,400 assault rifles from the US under the fast track procedure (FTP), the army is now looking to take the same route to equip its soldiers with 16,000 new light machine guns (LMGs), two officials familiar with the matter said on the condition of anonymity.

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, said one of the officials cited above.

“Indian Army teams will visit weapon manufactures in several countries including the US, Bulgaria and South Korea in the coming weeks to initiate the LMG purchase. Tenders for buying LMGs have been scrapped in recent years as only a lone vendor met the army’s requirements, delaying the projects,” said the second official. A single-vendor situation is a strict no-no under India’s arms purchase policy.

“Previous attempts to buy LMGs have not come to fruition. It’s important to compress the acquisition process as is being done under the FTP route. It’s a critical shortfall in capability that is now being addressed on priority,” said former army vice chief Lieutenant General AS Lamba (Retd).

According to rules, weapons sought to be bought under the FTP should already be in the military’s armoury, have undergone trial evaluation, or be in service in foreign militaries so that the time required for evaluation is minimised. The army has a requirement of more than 40,000 LMGs. The army is looking for 7.62mm x 51mm weapons with an effective range of at least 800 metres.