The Indian Army could finally get its hands on new close quarter battle (CQB) carbines, manufactured by a UAE firm, for immediate operational requirements. The proposal has been in the works since 2017.

The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) could soon decide on the signing of the contract with the UAE firm, Caracal International, which finished as ‘L-1’ or the lowest bidder in September 2018 for a contract that was supposed to be fast tracked, reported ThePrint.

Several overseas equipment manufacturers — including Beretta of Italy, FN FAL of Belgium, Heckler & Koch of Germany, Colt's Manufacturing Company of the United States, and Sig Sauer of Switzerland — are likely to tie up with Indian defence companies such as private sector firms Mahindra Defence, Larsen & Toubro, Bharat Forge and Reliance Defence.

The army plans to spend Rs 3,500 cr on rifle acquisition. Army has cited urgent operational requirements for procurement of weapons. An official said the rifle procurement is a top priority for the infantry

The UAE arms firm Caracal's CAR 816 close-quarter carbine finished 'L1' in a separate bid for 94,000 carbines.

The army plans to spend Rs 3,500 crore on these rifle acquisitions for which it had issued RFPs on 17 global arms manufacturers in February this year. It has cited urgent operational requirements for the procurement of these weapons. A senior army official called the rifle and carbine procurements a "top priority" for the infantry.

The new carbine will replace the 9 mm Sterling carbines which are being gradually phased out. The new battle rifle which chambers the heavier 7.62x51 round will replace the indigenous INSAS assault rifles which are to be retired soon.

The bulk of the Indian army will, however, be equipped with a new assault rifle chambered for the 7.62x39 round, the same as used by the AK-47 assault rifle. A Request for Information or RFI, the first stage in a lengthy procurement process was floated by the defence ministry last month.

The UAE is top diplomatic priority for the Modi led government. This Fast Track Purchase (FTP) procurements are to be followed by a government-to-government deal with another diplomatic priority for the Modi government-Russia.

The Indo-Russian plan to make assault rifles in Amethi has missed another key milestone over differences in pricing and the travel ban imposed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, making it highly unlikely for the factory to start operations this year. As per the plan, the OFB-Kalashnikov joint venture (JV) was to arrive at a fair price for setting up and producing almost seven lakh rifles by May-end. This decision was crucial as official plans were in place to commence work at the factory by this year-end.

The Caracal carbine is based on the AR-15 rifle designed by legendary US designer Eugene Stoner in the 1950s. If acquired, it will be the first large-scale induction of short-stroke piston-based rifles from a first timer namely the UAE.

The piston is a feature of gas-operated automatic rifles that use gases generated by a fired cartridge to fire other bullets. (The army's Para-Special Forces units use a small number of US-made M-4 rifles using a similar firing mechanism). The INSAS uses the long-stroke piston used by the AK-47 family of weapons.

The process to replace the troubled INSAS rifle began over a decade ago but has muddled along as the army changed specifications for the replacement two times. It first wanted a rifle which could shoot two types of cartridges-an AK-47 bullet and an INSAS bullet -- then scrapped it for a modified INSAS rifle. This requirement too was scrapped in favour of a new 7.62x51 battle rifle which it now seems likely to acquire.

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