Defence ministry clears Army’s case for 73,000 more assault rifles from US

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NEW DELHI: The defence ministry has now finally cleared the Army’s proposal for the import of another 73,000 SiG Sauer assault rifles from the US, which will add to the 72,400 such guns bought earlier for frontline troops, amid the continuing delay in the manufacture of Russian AK-203 Kalashnikov rifles in India.
The approval for the additional 73,000 SiG-716 `Patrol’ rifles, at a cost of around Rs 840 crore, was granted by the Rajnath Singh-led Defence Acquisitions Council recently, sources told TOI on Tuesday.
The move comes at a time when the military confrontation with China in eastern Ladakh has entered the fourth successive winter now, and the much-awaited deliveries of the over six lakh AK-203 Kalashnikov rifles from the Korwa ordnance factory in Amethi district of UP are yet to begin.
The AK-203 project, through a joint venture called Indo-Russia Rifles Private Limited, was first announced in 2018 but was hit by huge delays due to costing, royalty, technology transfer, indigenisation level and other issues, as was reported by TOI earlier.
The delay in the project had led to the import the first lot of 72,400 SiG-716 assault rifles(66,400 for the Army, 4,000 IAF and 2,000 Navy) under a Rs 647 crore contract inked with US firm SiG Sauer under the fast-track procurement route in February 2019.
Dismissing reports of glitches in the US-origin guns, the Army contends the SiG-716 rifles, which are 7.62×51 mm calibre guns with an effective “kill” range of 500-metre, have “longer effective range, more lethality and higher recoil” as compared to the indigenous INSAS (5.56×51 mm) or AK-47 (7.62x39mm) rifles.
“The Army has been using ammunition manufactured by Indian ordnance factories for the SiG-716 rifles. No deviations in the performance of the weapon have been found,” an officer said.
“The rifles are also fitted with Picatinny rails to facilitate mounting of various equipment and accessories, such as optical sights, UBGL (under-barrel grenade launchers), forehand grips, bipods and laser pointers, without any modifications,” he added.
While the SiG-716 rifles will meet the immediate operational requirements of frontline troops, the AK-203 guns – with an effective range of 300-metre — will cater to the overall needs of the 12-lakh strong Army, as also the IAF and the Navy.
The Ak-203 rifles are also part of the Army’s long-delayed `future infantry soldier as a system’ (F-INSAS), which is aimed at equipping soldiers with three primary subsystems.
The first is the AK-203 assault rifles, with day and night holographic and reflex sights mounted on the weapons as well as helmets to enable a 360-degree visibility and accuracy in operational conditions.
The second subsystem is protection through a specially-designed helmet and bullet-proof jacket, while the third consists of a communication and surveillance system. “F-INSAS is capable of being upgraded further by incorporating real-time data connectivity,” an officer said.



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