Army rejects indigenous assault rifle, not satisfied with design

Army rejects indigenous assault rifle, not satisfied with design
The Indian Army has rejected an indigenous assault rifle designed by a domestic ordnance factory, claiming that the gun requires “considerable design improvement” before it becomes fit for trials at the Infantry School, Mhow.

Demonstration firing of the 7.62 x 51 mm rifle — made by the Rifle Factory Ichapore, Kolkata — took place on June 13 and 14. Following this, the army’s project management team said the gun was “only a prototype that requires comprehensive design analysis and improvement”.

In September 2016, the defence ministry issued a request for information (RFI) seeking to procure 1,85,000 assault rifles with telescopic sights for the army, of which 65,000 guns would be purchased
immediately.

The manufacturers were asked to spell out whether they would be able to supply the weapon within four to 28 months of signing the contract. More than a dozen manufacturers from all over the world including the Israel Weapon Industries, Beretta (Italy), Ceska (Czech), SIG Sauer (Switzerland) and Colt (USA) responded to the RFI.

A final decision on the indigenous rifle and the roadmap for the assault rifle procurement programme might be taken at a meeting at the army headquarters on Wednesday, sources said. For long, the army has been trying to replace its existing assault rifles, but could not succeed in the absence of a suitable replacement.

While the indigenous effort to create a shoot-to-kill gun at Ichapore was encouraged by the defence ministry, the product is far from satisfactory. The shortcomings range from “excessive recoil experienced in the prototype” to the “barrel bulge” that raises concerns about the safety of the rifle. Other drawbacks are “excessive flash and sound signatures” and a need to “redesign the magazine for achieving effective feeding”.

“A compatible sighting system is essential for employment or even evaluation of the weapon for various parameters like effective range and accuracy. In the absence of these, is the rifle ready?” said a source at the army headquarters.

In 2011, the army floated a global tender for the purchase of 66,000 assault rifles, which included the transfer of technology to the state-owned Ordnance Factory Board. The tender was cancelled later because none of the competitors could meet the quality specifications.

The rifle would replace the INSAS 5.56 mm assault rifles, which the army has not found satisfactory, even though the force was using it since the 1990s.

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