IAF floats tender for 32,000 assault rifles
The Indian Air Force (IAF) has floated a tender for the procurement of 32,000 assault rifles under the ‘Buy & Make (Indian)’ route using an Indian partner. The IAF has stipulated that the assault rifles should be compact, foldable, easy to carry, handle, operate, simple to maintain and with high effective range. The new RFI is only the latest in a spate of efforts by the IAF to arm its Garud commando units as well as other personnel with new modular weapons as part of a more extensive modernisation thrust. The new weapons will be for units guarding airfields and other assets round the year, and especially in hostile environments, the new weapons will be required for units that may operate in hostile territory as part of cover operations in conjunction with the special forces of the Army and Navy. The Army special forces and certain infantry units are armed with the Israeli TAR-21 assault rifle that would presumably fit the bill for the IAF too, though the process will be a competitive bid. The quantity of rifles required by the IAF alone, when tagged to the numbers still required by the Army make it a test case for the ‘Buy & Make (Indian)’ procurement route. The Ministry of Defence sources suggest the new assault rifle procurement could be testing ground for manufacture of infantry weapons by private sector firms too in a shift beyond the Ordnance Factory Board.