Defence ministry clears Rs 35.47 billion rifle buy under “fast track” process - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Tuesday 16 January 2018

Defence ministry clears Rs 35.47 billion rifle buy under “fast track” process

The army plans to buy 250,000 foreign assault rifles, and 550,000 rifles made by the DRDO and OFB. (Pictured here: a DRDO carbine)

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 17th Jan 18

The defence ministry has gone back to the start line in procuring a basic weapon for the army’s infantry battalions – the footsoldiers who make up the bulk of the army, defend or capture territory in war and carry out counter-insurgency duties in peace.

After an earlier procurement was aborted last year after years of fruitless trials, the defence ministry announced on Tuesday its go-ahead for re-starting the procurement of 72,400 assault rifles and 93,895 carbines, worth an estimated Rs 3,547 crore (Rs 35.47 billion).

This is a fraction of the one million rifles and carbines that will be needed to re-equip the entire army. However, the ministry said it would “enable the Defence Forces to meet their immediate requirement for the troops deployed on the borders.”

The ministry’s apex procurement body, the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), headed by Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, cleared this procurement under the “fast track basis”, which requires a contract to be concluded in less than six months and delivery of weapons within a year of signing the contract.

As this newspaper first reported (November 4, Infantry to get foreign rifles, others to get ‘made in India’), the army – struggling to make do with a strained procurement budget – decided against importing the army’s entire requirement of 800,000 assault rifles. Instead, it would cut costs by importing only 250,000 assault rifles for about Rs 200,000 each; and ask the Defence R&D Organisation (DRDO) and the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) to design and build the remaining 550,000 rifles in the country. An indigenous rifle, it is estimated, would cost less than half the price of an imported one.

On Friday, army chief General Bipin Rawat explained that some high-quality assault rifles would have to be imported in order to “empower the infantry soldier”, who fights eyeball-to-eyeball with the enemy.

It is still unclear whether the remaining 1,77,600 assault rifles needed for frontline infantry would be imported, or manufactured in India with technology transferred by a foreign vendor. Rawat raised that possibility, stating: “Let us see if this imported weapon can subsequently be manufactured in India also by our own industry.”

Meanwhile, the DRDO is continuing perfecting the indigenous INSAS 1C rifle, and the OFB is separately developing another rifle it calls the Ghatak. These weapons are still to pass army trials.

Once these new weapons are introduced, the army will simultaneously juggle two different weapon philosophies. The frontline infantry’s heavy 7.62 x 51 millimetre rifle will be optimised for conventional war, with a longer range and heavier bullets that kill or completely incapacitate enemy soldiers that they strike. These rifles will also be equipped with reflex sights and modern night vision sights.

The indigenous weapons that will arm soldiers other than frontline infantry, will be lighter 5.56 x 45 millimetre weapons, optimised for counter-insurgency operations, with smaller bullets that soldiers can carry in larger numbers.


  1. The local development has been going on for long, no,tangible results yet.
    OFB and DRDO need to continuously take feedback from armed forces and improve their products, keep testing the internally rigourpusly. . New platform should be rare and be preceded by technology development project. Unfortunately we mix up technology and product develoment. Screw up the time lines.

    It is good army will import AR after long delays . Sure they have selected a reliable AR, based on reports fromAfghanistan and other conflict zones. Hopefully the carbines and AR start arriving by mid next year.
    DPP prefers IGA as ideal for purchases simply follow it here too.

  2. Sir, I gather that the gun being held by you in the column's caption photo is the MSMC that has emerged from the stables of the OF, Tiruchirappalli. There is a similarity in appearance with the Uzi and the H&K MP7, especially the grip feed mechanism. But the similarity ends there as the MSMC, prima facie,seems to be too bulky a weapon to be considered for close quarter combat, unlike the svelte Uzi or the MP7. And as far as the design goes, the shadow of the INSAS rifle looms large on the MSMC!

    The INSAS rifle itself is a badly designed hybrid of the AK47 and the Galil, with the lethality or reliability of neither guns. And, that in a nutshell, is the story of the decades long effort to develop an indigenous assault rifle- haphazard mishmash of available designs to create an abomination like the INSAS rifle.

    Having said that, I hope that the entry of the private sector - the Kalyani Group, the Tatas, Punj Lloyd JV with IMI - in 'guns' manufacturing will change the narrative.

  3. Hmm. Counter insurgency ops require 7.62x39mm, no? (not 5.56x45)

  4. Galil ACE costs $2000 in the US civilian market. That's roughly Rs. 130,000. Red dot scope costs another $200. If a large order is placed, each rifle should cost less than $2000 and red dot sight less than $200. It should definitely not cost Rs. 200,00 each.
    How does MOD come up with these costs?! Are they including 10 year warranties? Spares? Bribes? Every imported weapon deal is a great way for corrupt to make money.


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