In a major boost to infantry modernisation, India has signed a contract for acquiring 72,000 Sig Sauer 716 Assault Rifles from USA for the Indian Army under fast-track procedures.
The US firm will deliver 72,400, 7.62x51mm rifles within 12 months from today (12 February), the date of signing of the contact.
Earlier last week, the Defence Ministry has cleared a long-pending proposal of the Indian Army to procure around 72,000 assault rifles from the US under fast track procedure.
This will be Indian Army’s largest infusion of basic assault rifles in decades.
Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had approved procurement of the 72,400 SIG716 assault rifles which will be used by troops deployed along the nearly 3,600-km long border with China.
The order for 72,400 assault rifles from Sig Sauer Inc. will be the single largest contract for assault rifles since the INSAS, developed and built by the state-owned Ordnance Factor Board (OFB), entered service.
All of the rifles contracted will be manufactured at Sig Sauer’s New Hampshire facilities and the e US firm will have to deliver the rifles within one year from the date of finalising the deal
The US-manufactured rifles will replace the INSAS rifles. The world’s second largest standing Army as been pressing for fast-tracking the procurement of various weapons systems considering the evolving security threats including along India’s border with Pakistan and China.
In October 2017, the Army initiated the process to acquire around 7 lakh rifles, 44,000 light machine guns (LMGs) and nearly 44,600 carbines.
Around 18 months ago, the Army had rejected an assault rifle built by the state-run Rifle Factory, Ishapore, after the guns miserably failed the firing tests.
Following a competitive process, Indian Army chose the SIG716 in September 2018, beating Caracal in a contest to supply 93,895 battle carbines.
The procurement of assault rifles has witnessed significant delays due to a variety of reasons including the Army’s failure to finalise the specifications for it. The Army needs around 7 lakh 7.62×51 mm assault guns to replace its INSAS rifles.
The Indian Army has, over the last decade, procured a few thousand Israeli Tavor TAR-21 5.56mm assault rifles for its Special Forces and Rashtriya Rifles counter-insurgency units, but has continuously failed to land a large-scale induction of desperately needed assault rifles.