INDIA’S ASSAULT RIFLE PROJECT CANCELLED
Media reported in late May 2015 that the proposed mega project for the assault rifles for its 1.18 million strong army, with interchangeable barrels for conventional warfare and counter-insurgency operations, was on the verge of being scrapped since it had run into major problems. It has now been confirmed as per media reports on July 2, 2015. The firms that had participated in the extensive trials-Colt (US), Beretta (Italy), Ceska (Czech) and Israel Weapon Industries (IWI)—have been told that the proposed contract was being retracted. This is a yet another blow to the Indian Army’s urgently required weapons. The basic weapon of the infantryman which is the assault rifle needs immediate replacement. Army has had a long-standing demand for new rifles to replace the 5.56mm indigenous INSAS guns, which have suffered from technical bugs since their induction in 1994-95.
As per the now-cancelled project, 65,000 rifles were to be directly acquired from the selected foreign vendor to equip the 120 infantry battalions deployed on the western and eastern fronts. The Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) was to then subsequently manufacture over 1,13,000 such rifles after getting transfer of technology from the foreign company. But the proposal for the new rifles—with a 5.56 x 45mm primary barrel for conventional warfare and a 7.62 x 39mm secondary one for counter-terror operations—was found “impractical“both in terms of high costs and technical requirements, said sources. The plan now is to either get a foreign arms company to shift some of its manufacturing facilities to India or task the OFB to manufacture the new assault rifles with foreign collaboration.