India will replace its home-made INSAS rifles from the army with an imported assault rifle and later manufactured in the country.
The Indian Small Arms System (INSAS) is likely to be replaced with assault rifles of higher caliber (7.62x51), official sources were quoted as saying by PTI Monday.
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.
The sources said that as many as 18 vendors, including some Indian companies having a tie-up with foreign arms manufacturing firms, have sent in their consent to replace nearly two lakh such rifles used by the army along the borders and in counter-insurgency operations.
The reason for phasing out of INSAS, as cited by experts, was that it was not effective at long range and at best, could only maim the enemy.
The sources said that 7.62x51 assault rifles have already been introduced in the Pakistani army which purchased them from Heckler and Koch from Germany.
The proposal for procuring the new assault rifles was in pre-Acceptance of Necessity (AoN) stage and expected to be completed by the end of the year after putting the process of purchase of these weapons on a fast track.
The sources said that emphasis was being laid on arming the Special Forces of the army in the Northeast as of now and the proposal will come up before the Defence Acquisition Committee (DAC) soon.
After the new weaponry for the Special Forces aimed at helping them in close-combat situations, the focus will shift to procurement of the assault rifles and replace the INSAS, the sources said.
The foreign vendor would also be required to participate in Transfer of Technology (ToT) so that there is no dearth of ammunition and maintenance of the assault rifles in the country. These weapons can kill the enemy up to an effective range (rpt) range of 500 metres.
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, the Hindu had reported in October last year.