NEW DELHI — In major move towards modernisation of the Indian Army’s infantry, the defence ministry has cleared a long-pending proposal to procure around 73,000 assault rifles from the US under fast-track mode, official sources said on Saturday.
Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman approved procurement of the Sig Sauer rifles, which will be used by troops deployed along the nearly 3,600-km border with China, the sources told PTI.
They said the rifles, being used by US forces as well as several other European countries, are being bought under the fast-track procurement procedure.
“The contract is expected to be finalised within a week. The US firm will have to deliver the rifles within one year from the date of finalising the deal,” said a senior official involved in negotiation of the deal said.
Army sources said the US-manufactured rifles will replace the INSAS rifles. The world’s second-largest standing Army has been pressing for fast-tracking the procurement of various weapons systems considering the evolving security threats, including along India’s borders with Pakistan and China.
In October, 2017, the Army began the process to acquire around 7 lakh rifles, 44,000 light machine guns (LMGs) and nearly 44,600 carbines.
Around 18 months ago, the Army had rejected an assault rifle built by the state-run Rifle Factory, Ishapore, after the guns miserably failed the firing tests. Following this, the Army started scouting for rifles from the global market.
The procurement of assault rifles has witnessed significant delays due to a variety of reasons including the Army’s failure to finalise the specifications for it. The Army needs around 7 lakh 7.62×51 mm assault guns to replace its INSAS rifles.