The Indian Army which is facing huge delay in acquiring new rifles for its soldiers is now reluctantly planning to induct the indigenously developed Excalibur assault rifle, which was initially rejected, in limited numbers as a stopgap till a new rifle is procured.
Army sources said that with the procurement delays in mind, the force is looking to induct the Excalibur to replace the INSAS till the time a new rifle joins the force.
“The Army has shown interest in a modified form of Excalibur. The exact number and time frame has not yet been intimated by the Army,” the Public Relations Officer of the OFB was quoted as saying by The Hindu Monday.
The Excalibur is a fully automatic rifle, which fires 5.56mm ammunition built by the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB), is an upgraded version of the trouble-prone INSAS (Indian National Small Arms System) inducted in the mid-1990s.
The Indian defense ministry on September 28 this year issued a Request for Information (RFI) seeking a 7.62 mm x 51mm assault rifle with lethality to achieve the objective of shoot-to-kill to replace its existing 5.56 mm INSAS (Indian small arms system) rifle.
Tentative date of the issue of RFP is April 2017. The army has so far not shortlisted any particular gun to replace INSAS that entered service in the late 1990s.
The army had initially tendered for a rifle with interchangeable barrels firing different calibres — the 5.56-mm INSAS round and the 7.62-mm AK-47 round as the troops use them in counter-insurgency operations while the INSAS rifles are issued for peace stations.
However, none of the firms which had pitched for the contract could satisfy the army with sources saying that the General Staff Qualitative Requirements “could well have been too ambitious”.
The Indian Army had on June 15 informed the four short-listed international firms (Colt (US), Beretta (Italy), Ceska (Czech) and Israel Weapon Industries that it was retracting the multi-crore contract.
However before induction, the Army wants to carry out extensive user exploitation trails to validate the rifle.
To save time and shorten the process, the Army intended to procure large volume of the guns to carry out simultaneous trials in various locations, the news daily quoted unnamed sources as saying.
The Rifle Factory, Ishapore, had produced 15 prototypes for user and quality evaluation, and additional features sought by the user are to be incorporated. However, the OFB is yet to receive any communication for large volumes for exploitation trails, sources said.