Even as the Defence Acquisition Council cleared the global procurement of 72,400 assault rifles and 93,895 carbines for the Army on a fast-track basis for ₹3,547 crore last month, trials of an assault rifle being developed by the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) are to simultaneously continue unabated.

A new 5.56 assault rifle was developed by the Armament Research and Development Establishment (ARDE), Pune, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and the OFB.

“The OFB is in the process of development of the weapon and the same is planned to be fielded for user evaluation in order to strengthen the Army’s combat capability,” sources said. Several contracts for capital acquisitions for the Army were signed during 2016-17. Official sources said 11 contracts were signed with Indian and foreign vendors for ₹12,588.06 crore, for the procurement of various equipment including artillery guns, missiles, rocket launcher system, simulator and ballistic helmets. Acceptance of Necessity (AoN), the very first stage of a military procurement, has also been accorded to eight capital procurement cases for the Army, official sources added, at an estimated cost of ₹19,120.89 crore.

‘Buy Indian’

Of this, four cases are under the ‘Buy Indian’ category at a cost of ₹16,469.14 crore, and two cases are under the ‘Buy (Indian IDDM)’ at a cost of ₹1,684.13 crore. Faced with massive delays in acquiring technologically advanced rifles for its soldiers, “the ministry is to issue tenders for the procurement of the assault rifles and also ink deals on a government to government basis,” sources added.

INSAS replacement

During the same time, in February 2016, the Alteration Committee of the defence ministry approved modifications in the existing Indian Small Arms System (INSAS) 1B rifle. Sources indicated the INSAS will be replaced with deadlier assault rifles of higher caliber 7.62x51 mm.

The assault rifles will be of 7.62 mm calibre, while the carbines will be of 5.56 mm calibre. The request for information (RFI) for the new assault rifle with specification 7.62x51mm has also been issued Sources added that acquisition of new artillery guns, “through five procurement cases that also involve indigenous production,” has also been approved.

Self propelled guns

Even as a deal has been signed with the US Government for the procurement of 145 Ultra Light Howitzers (ULH) through the Foreign Military Sale route, a contract has also been signed with Larsen and Toubro for the procurement of 100 self propelled guns.

Another indent has also been placed by the defence ministry for the procurement of 114 electronically upgraded gun system from OFB, Kolkata. A case for procurement of 400/1180 Towed Gun System is at the trial stage, as is another case for upgunning of 130 mm guns to 155 mm guns.