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A Carbine for the Indian Army: A Perpetual Jam?

Published Jun 06, 2019
Updated Apr 14, 2020

The Indian Ministry of Defence (MOD) issued initial tenders or RFPs (requests for proposal) for 72,400 assault rifles, 93,895 CQB carbines and 16,479 light machine guns at an estimated cost of Rs 5,366 crore to selected foreign armament companies under Fast Track Procurement (FTP)

Of these the Assault rifle procurement has proceeded as planned with the American Sig Sauer rifle making the grade while the carbine and the Light Machine Gun procurement appears to be in a proverbial “jam”.

While the FTP for carbines was proceeding as planned with down selection of Caracal which is part of the Emirates Defense Industrial Company (EDIC) conglomerate as per a report in the Financial Express online, some pricing issues has delayed a final decision.

MoD’s technical oversight committee has sought clarifications on the higher cost of the 5.56×45 mm carbine compared to the larger 7.62×51 mm calibre SiG Sauer rifle.  The TOC feels that given the calibre difference the carbine should be cheaper.

A SiG rifle is believed to cost only $990 while the Caracal 816 costs $1,150 a piece.

There were complaints by competing firms in the carbine FTP procurement by rivals, South Korea’s S&T Motiv and Thales Australia which were settled by the Ministry of Defence.

Now the latest observation by the TOC has led to a hold on the Caracal deal, which could also be related to the general election campaign in India where the French Rafale deal had become controversial with the opposition Congress alleging corruption at the highest level.

Apart from the FTP the acquisition for 3,60,000 carbines is being progressed separately by the Ministry of Defence and the Indian Army under the ‘Buy and Make (Indian)’ with ‘Buy’ component as ‘Nil’ implying that these were to be indigenously manufactured with possible transfer of technology.

The broad parameters of the Carbine as per the RFI document are

(a) Effective Range. Minimum 200 metres.

(b) Accuracy. The CQB Carbine should be capable of achieving accuracy better than five Minutes of Angle. 2

(c) Reliability. The CQB Carbine should withstand sustained fire and be reliable in its operation as per international standards for reliability.

(d) Weight. The CQB Carbine should be as light as possible.

(e) The CQB Carbine should be capable of providing the desired performance across all spectrums of employment in the Indian terrain and climatic conditions. (f) The CQB Carbine shall comply with the laid down MIL Standards and other International Standards in vogue.