Firepower-starved Army to get new rifles
In wake of terror attacks in Jammu & Kashmir, the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) on Tuesday approved a major proposal for acquiring more than 7,00,000 assault rifles, 5,700 sniper rifles, and nearly 17,000 light machine guns (LMG). The total cost of these deals is more than Rs 15,000 crore. The acquisition will enhance the firepower capabilities of the soldiers deployed on the Line of Control (LoC) facing Pakistan and Line of Actual Control (LAC) bordering China.
Chaired by Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, the DAC met two days after the terrorist attack on an Army camp in Jammu. The go-ahead for such critical acquisition came almost 11 years after the armed forces gave the proposal for modern weapons for the soldiers engaged in close quarter battle with the enemy on the ground.
Giving details of the approvals, officials said the DAC okayed procurement of 7.4 lakh assault rifles for the three Services. These rifles will be ‘Made in India’ under the categorisation of ‘Buy and Make (Indian),’ through both Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) and private Industry at an estimated cost of Rs 12,280 crore.
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 crore.
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.
Besides the assault rifle project, the DAC, meanwhile, on Tuesday also approved the procurement of LMGs through the fast track procedure at an estimated cost of Rs 1,819 crore. Officials said this will 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.
The DAC also approved procurement of 5,719 sniper rifles for the Indian Army and Indian Air Force (IAF) at an estimated cost of Rs 982 crore. While these high precision weapons will be bought with ‘Buy Global’ categorisation, the ammunition for these will be initially procured and subsequently manufactured in India.
To enhance the anti-submarine warfare capabilities of warships, the DAC accorded approval for the procurement of Advanced Torpedo Decoy Systems (ATDS) for the Indian Navy. The ‘Mareech’ system has been developed indigenously by Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and has successfully completed extensive trial evaluations. The ‘Mareech’ systems will be produced by Bharat Electronics Limited, Bengaluru at an estimated cost of Rs 850 crore.
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