In a bid to strengthen Army’s infantry and held it in operations in Jammu and Kashmir, Army has started the process to procure around 1,500 anti-materiel lightweight rifles capable of damaging targets like battle tanks, low-flying helicopters and bunkers. The process to procure such kind of sophisticated weapons was pending for the past quite some time.

Official sources told the Excelsior that a Request for Information (RFI) for purchasing the rifles which should have a range of at least 1.8 kilometers with a calibre of 12.7 mm/0.50, has been issued. The light weight rifles will boost operational capabilities of the troops both along the borders as well as hinterland.

“The light weight rifle was a long pending demand of the Army. Earlier also, the process had been initiated to procure this weapon by floating the Request for Information. However, the previous efforts didn’t materialize due to varied reasons. This time, the process to purchase the weapon would be set into motion after May 15 when the deadline for Request of Information will be over,” they said.

“The ammunition which should be available for the rifles include armour piercing incendiary and tracer, saboted light armour penetrator, armour piercing explosive incendiary and high explosive armour piercing incendiary,” sources said, adding all these requirements have been made cleared in the Request for Information floated by the Army Headquarters.

The interested manufactures have been asked to respond to the RFI by May 15.

The procurement of the anti-materiel rifles has been long overdue after the Government had scrapped a deal for it in 2005.
At present, the Army is using South African weapons which are not very light and that is why, it was decided to procure the lightweight rifles whose weight will not be more than 15 kg each.

South African firm Denel was banned by the then UPA Government in 2005 after allegations that it had paid kickbacks to secure a deal with the Indian Army in 2002 to sell 1,000 NTW-20 anti-materiel rifles, along with 3,98,000 rounds of ammunition.

Under the deal, 700 rifles were to be purchased directly and the remaining 300 license-produced in one of the factories of India’s State-owned Ordnance Factory Board.

Only 400 rifles had been inducted into the Army and the remainder put on hold after the 2005 blacklisting.

An anti-materiel rifle (AMR) is a rifle that is designed for use against military equipment (materiel) than against enemy troops.

As per the RFI, in case of foreign vendors, the Army asked them to explain whether they will be ready to offer Transfer of Technology (ToT) to the Indian industry for licensed manufacturing of the weapons. They have also been asked as to whether ToT will be offered for sub-systems.

The manufacturers have also been asked to give details about cost of annual maintenance, product support package and training of the crew.

State-run Ordnance Factory, in association with the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), had developed an anti-materiel rifle called `Vidhwansak’ in 2007. The rifle was offered to the Indian Army but it chose not to induct it due to weight issues.

Sources pointed out that the Army was in search of very light weapons, which would be easy to carry and operate by the Army jawans.

According to sources, the Defence Ministry was very keen that the Army requirements for the frontiers as well as the hinterland are met expeditiously and it was in this context that Global Request for Information has been floated to purchase the light weight rifles.

Sources said the Army is confident of getting encouraging response globally for the light weight rifle.