New Delhi: Soldiers guarding our border against infiltrating terrorists will soon get modern rifles for combat. Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman has cleared the long-pending proposal of the Army to procure around 72,400 assault rifles from a US manufacturer under the fast-track mode.

According to reports, SIG716-G2 rifles from Sig Sauer will replace the INSAS rifles. These assault rifles are being used by the US forces as well as several European countries.

Know all about American Sig Sauer rifles

•    The Sig Sauer 716-G2 is the latest and greatest designated marksman rifle designed for SWAT teams, squad level military deployment and civilian hunters and marksmen.
•    The order for 72,400 assault rifles from Sig Sauer will be the single largest contract for assault rifles since the INSAS, developed and built by the state-owned Ordnance Factory Board (OFB), was introduced to the services.
•    The Sig Sauer 716-G2 will be India’s first major contract for an American infantry weapon. The Indian Army has selected the SIG716 G2 Patrol that use 7.62 mm ammunition. They may be more effective than the indigenous INSAS rifles that use 5.56 mm ammunition.
•    The new rifles are likely to be delivered within a year. Buying the new rifles from the US is not going to pinch the exchequer — Rs 700 crore or less is all it is likely to cost. The US firm emerged as the lowest bidder after the Army issued a global request for proposal (RFP) last year.

History of procurement

In October 2017, the Army initiated the process to acquire around 7 lakh rifles, 44,000 light machine guns (LMG) and nearly 44,600 carbines.

Around 18 months ago, the Army had rejected an assault rifle built by the state-run rifle factory, Ishapore, after the guns miserably failed the firing tests.

Following a competitive process, the Indian Army chose the SIG716 in September last year. UAE-based firm Caracal is in a contest to supply 93,895 battle carbines.

The procurement of assault rifles has witnessed significant delays due to a variety of reasons including the Army’s failure to finalise the specifications for it. The Army needs around 7 lakh 7.62x51 mm assault guns to replace its INSAS rifles.

The Indian Army has, over the last decade, procured a few thousand Israeli Tavor TAR-21 5.56mm assault rifles for its Special Forces and Rashtriya Rifles counter-insurgency units. But new-age assault rifles remained elusive. Not any more.