India signs contract with Sig Sauer for 72,400 rifles

An attendee looks over a Sig Sauer semiautomatic rifle during the SHOT (Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor Trade) Show in Las Vegas. Reuters file photo for representation.

The Defence Ministry on Tuesday signed a Rs 647-crore deal to buy 72,400 assault rifles from US company Sig Sauer within a year.

These rifles will replace the indigenous (5.56 x 45 mm) INSAS rifles being used by the troops for years.

The fast track procurement case was approved by the Defence Acquisition Council on January 16, 2018. These rifles are only the first part of an elaborate plan to replace the small arms used by the three services with modern and more lethal weapons.

Out of the 72,400 assault rifles, Indian Army would receive 66,400, while Indian Air Force and Indian Navy would get 4,000 and 2,000 of these guns respectively.

The rifles would be manufactured at Sig Sauer's production unit at New Hampshire, a battleground state in the next US presidential election. The deal is expected to create jobs in the US state from where US President Donald Trump won his first primary in 2016.

For long, Indian Army was trying to replace its existing assault rifles, but did not succeed in the absence of a suitable replacement.

While an indigenous effort to make a replacement gun at a domestic ordnance factory was encouraged by the defence ministry, the product is far from satisfactory.

In June 2017, Indian Army rejected the indigenous assault rifle claiming the gun would require “considerable design improvement” before it is fit for trials.

Requirement

The armed forces require 8.1 lakh assault rifles for the 3-services, out of which Army alone needs 7.6 lakh rifles to replace the home made Indian Small Arms System (INSAS), which was inducted in 1978.

The new rifles, on the other hand, would fulfill the “shoot to kill” objective, Army sources said.

While 5.5 lakh rifles are to be bought from the open market, another 1.8 lakh rifles will come from the Ordnance Factory Board. Together, the project is expected to cost around Rs 12,300 crore.

In addition, the Army plans to buy 44,000 light machine guns and nearly 44,600 carbines.

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