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Review of Indian Army Small Arms Modernisation Programme

Published Jun 08, 2019
Updated Apr 14, 2020

In the small arms category essentially used as personal weapon by individuals and small squad or section guns, the Indian Army is progressing two simultaneous programmes for acquiring assault rifles, light machine guns (LMGs) and carbines through Fast Track and normal tendering process.

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

Request for Information (RFI)has been issued separately for the assault rifles, LMGs and carbine in larger quantities through normal tendering process. 

A review of these is as per succeeding paragraphs.

Assault Rifles

The procurement of assault rifles has progressed with selection of manufacturer The choice made is of that of 72,400 from US firm Sig Sauer under the Fast Track Programme

The RFI for procuring 650,000 quantity of 7.62 x 39mm Assault Rifles with lethality to achieve the objective of ‘Shoot to Kill’ saw considerable dilution of the requirement based on the survey carried out and the criteria laid down were a range of minimum 300 meters.

The Inter Government Agreement (IGA) with Russia was an option that is seen to be practical as well as reliable.

Also Read – Indian Army Assault Rifles – Decadal Dilemma Now Over

Thus the Kalashnikov Concern AK 203 is being procured under the Buy and Make (India) programme which implies part purchase off the shelf/factory from Russia, [40,000] and the rest to be manufactured by a joint venture at the Ordnance Factory in Korwa, Amethi Uttar Pradesh.

This has also given the Russian firm  Kalashnikov Concern, a strong foothold in the Indian small arms market which has almost 2 million potential in the long run if the requirement of central and state police is also taken into consideration.


For FTP of the LMGs, Economic Times reported that a team from the Ministry of Defence had visited Bulgaria, “where it will meet representatives from Arsenal, a gun and ammunition manufacturer. It will then go to Israel for the Israel Weapon Industries (IWI) and then to South Korea for S&T Motiv.”

Further progress on the same is awaited.

Also Read – Wither Light Machine Gun for the Indian Army?

In a separate RFI the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) headed by the Defence Minister has accorded approval for procurement of Light Machine Gun (LMG) as per details given below :- (a) Quantity. 40,000 (Approx). (b) Category. ‘Buy and Make (Indian)’ with ‘Buy’ component as ‘Nil’.

These LMGs will be of  7.62x51mm as against the in service INSAS LMG that has a calibre of 5.56x45mm. Higher calibre is in line with the Indian Army’s current thinking of shoot to kill rather than shoot to injure.

The procurement process is ongoing.


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.

Also Read A Carbine for the Indian Army: A Perpetual Jam?

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

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.

Progress of the procurement is awaited