The defence ministry gave initial approvals to several acquisition proposals, including the one for 7.4 lakh new assault rifles and 16,500 light machine guns, collectively worth an estimated Rs 15,935 crore to bolster firepower of infantry soldiers a few days after the terror attack on the Sunjuwan Army camp in Jammu.
The defence acquisition council (DAC), chaired by defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman, accorded acceptance of necessity (AON) to the proposals, for which formal tenders will now be floated to invite technical and commercial bids from armament companies.
The entire process, including field trials, can take quite a few years before the contracts are actually inked and the production begins.
The DAC, however, approved the “fast track procedure (FTP)” for the 16,500 light machine guns (LMGs) to be acquired from the global market at a cost of Rs 1,819 crore to ensure the project is wrapped up within a year.
Though the Army, Navy and IAF together require 43,732 new LMGs, the initial acquisition of 16,500 will meet the operational requirements of the troops deployed on the borders with Pakistan and China.
“A concurrent proposal is being processed for the remaining LMGs under the Buy and Make (Indian) categorisation through a tie-up between an Indian vendor and a foreign armament company,” said an official.
DAC last month had similarly approved the FTP for 72,400 new-generation assault rifles and 93,895 close-quarter battle (CQB) carbines for Rs 3,547 crore from the global market. On Tuesday, it also accorded approval to acquisition of an additional 7.4 lakh 7.62x51mm assault rifles under the “Make in India” production policy for the three services.
“These rifles will be made under the Buy and Make (Indian) categorisation, through both the Ordnance Factory Board and the private industry at an estimated cost of Rs 12,280 crore,” said the official. Similarly, the shortfall in the overall requirement for 3.76 lakh 5.56 x 45mm CQB carbines will be met by a Make in India project at a later stage.
The DAC on Tuesday also approved the procurement of 5,719 sniper rifles for the Army and IAF at an estimated cost of Rs 982 crore from the global market. “While these high-precision weapons will be bought under the ‘Buy Global’ categorisation, the ammunition for these will be initially procured and subsequently manufactured in India,” said the official.
In order to enhance the anti-submarine warfare capabilities of Indian warships, the DAC also accorded approval for the procurement of the indigenous “Mareech” advanced torpedo decoy systems (ATDS), which has successfully completed extensive trials after being developed by the DRDO.
“The ‘Mareech’ systems will be produced by Bharat Electronics Limited, Bengaluru at an estimated cost of Rs 850 crore,” he added.
As earlier reported by TOI, the Army had first asked for new assault rifles and CQB carbines way back in 2005 to replace the existing glitch-prone 5.56mm INSAS (Indian small arms system) rifles and the obsolete 9mm sub-machine carbines.
But the projects were repeatedly scrapped due to graft allegations or unrealistic technical parameters as well as the lack of indigenous options for well over a decade.
The new 8.6mm sniper rifles, with an effective kill range of 1,200-metre, will in turn replace the Army’s old 7.62mm Dragunov sniper rifles (800-metre range) acquired from Russia in 1990. The Dragunov rifles are not equipped with modern magnification and sight systems as well as bipod stands, while their ammunition is also quite expensive.