Monday, 19 November 2012

India Army goes shopping to replace its small arms

                          Lighter and more lethal guns for soldiers

The army is looking to replace an entire range of small arms used by its foot soldiers with new guns that are lighter and more lethal.

In terms of sheer numbers, the army's plan would translate into buying more than a lakh weapons - a mix of assault rifles, carbines, light machine guns and sniper rifles.

The purchase will come at an estimated price tag of more than Rs 10,000 crore.

The guns are being bought under separate acquisition programmes, which are currently at different levels of a layered process.

The army has been trying to find a replacement for its outlived guns for some time now but without much success.

Army chief General Bikram Singh is hopeful that he would be able to resurrect the projects by providing a fresh impetus.

The most visible sight of a foot soldier carrying the home-made INSAS - slammed for being a poor copy of the Kalashnikov - as standard weapon will fade away in the coming years.

Early next year, the army will begin trials for a new doublebarrel assault rifle.

The competition is among guns manufactured by wellknown global giants Colt, Beretta, Israel Weapon Industries, SIG Sauer and Ceske. Six guns offered by the five vendors have been evaluated for the army's standard infantry weapon in future.

The army is looking for a 5.56mm gun (same as INSAS) as its primary barrel and 7.62x39 (same as AK-56) as its secondary barrel.

The gun will come with a conversion kit so that its configuration can be changed according to requirements in a peace location, and in counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism operations in the northeast and Jammu and Kashmir.

If the acquisition process remains on track, the army expects to get the guns by 2014. The government will order 65,000 guns, out of which 59,000 are meant for the army and the rest for the navy.

Part of the order would be shipped directly while the rest would be manufactured by local ordnance factories under transfer of technology.

Around the same time, the army hopes to acquire close-quarter battle carbines as well.

The evaluation has been completed, sources said. The army is looking to buy 40,000 carbines and evaluated guns from Colt, Beretta, IWI and SIG Sauer.

The gun is meant to be used by section commanders. Every infantry unit needs 96 carbines.

While the assault rifles and carbines have been evaluated, the army is still in the process of drawing fresh specifications for new light machine guns (LMGs) and sniper rifles.

At present, it uses the INSAS LMG, which has a range of 700m and weighs 6.23kg.

The army wants to have a new gun which is more lethal, lighter and with a longer range. It will soon finalise the specifications after which bids would be invited from global vendors.

Coming to sniper rifles, the existing Dragunov sniper rifle is outdated, has no bipods and doesn't have a suitable sighting system, said an infantry officer.

The estimated cost of the carbine project is Rs 3,200 crore while the assault rifles are expected to cost Rs 4,800 crore.

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