The Army is set to begin on June 12 the first round of user trials of the indigenously developed ‘shoot-to-kill’ assault rifles, developed to replace the ageing and glitch-prone INSAS, even as it is on the lookout for other options globally.
The search for an assault rifle began in 2010 and continues till date despite firms like Colt and Sig Sauer from the US, Israel’s IWI, Italian Beretta and Ceska from the Czech Republic making offers in response to two tenders floated in the years that followed.
The new indigenous rifle (7.62mm x 51mm) has been developed in six months at the Rifle Factory Ishapore (RFI), West Bengal, in association with the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and is in line with the Army’s staff quality requirements (SQRs).
“Until about a year-and-a-half ago, the Army wanted a 5.56mm category of rifles, the same class as the INSAS. However, with changing threat perceptions and increasing terrorism and other factors, the doctrine has changed and they now require a ‘shoot-to-kill’ weapon, something that can kill and not just incapacitate enemies as earlier,” Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) chairman SC Bajpai told TOI . “We have already completed internal tests and have invited the PMT (Project Management Team) for user trials.”
Bajpai said former defence minister Manohar Parrikar had, in September 2016, set a challenge for developing a rifle that can meet the new requirements within six months. “…Work on the drawing board began in October and we had 10 rifles ready by May. Now their PMT (project management team) will come on June 12,” he said. The 4kg rifle – lighter than the 4.15-kg INSAS – has all the capabilities the Army had specified in its ‘Request for Information’ issued to potential global suppliers.