NEW DELHI — After canceling a $1 billion 2011 global tender in June , worth $1 billion in June this year, to buy assault rifles, the Indian Army will hold trials of the prototypes of the homemade Indian-made Excalibur assault rifle — but analysts and Army officials said they doubt say, it is unlikely that the homemade rifle will go into be given the go ahead for production soon.

Defense analyst Rahul Bhonsle, a retired Indian Army brigadier general and defense analyst, said the Ministry of Defence may finally eventually have to float a fresh tender in the Buy and Make (India) category for the assault rifles.

"At present, indigenous design capability for a next-generation assault rifle has not been demonstrated by the Defence Research and Development Organisation [DRDO]; what is in the pipeline is an improved homegrown Indian Small Arms System [INSAS] systems," Bhonsle said. "At the same time, the Army's inability to derive a viable qualitative requirements [QRs] for the same is also one of the challenges faced by the DRDO. After evolving viable QRs, a Buy and Make in India [weapon] may be a good option."

In 2011, the Indian Army floated a global billion tender for the purchase of 66,000 assault rifles, which included transfer of technology to the state-owned Ordnance Factory Board (OFB). The tender was canceled in June this year because none of the competitors could meet the QRs, an MoD official said.

The competitors included the Italian-made Beretta ARX-160 company Beretta, US-made Colt assault rifle company Cold Defense, Israel's Israel Weapon Industries, Switzerland's SIG Sauer and the Czech Republic's Ceska Zbrojovka.

The Indian Army proposes to buy 66,000 5.56mm assault rifle would to replace the homegrown INSAS 5.56mm assault rifles, which the Army has not found satisfactory. have not come up to the satisfaction of the Indian Army. The INSAS has been 5.56 assault rifle is being used since the 1990s, though there have been Army complaints of technical failures. faltering. One complaint by the Indian Army was that the inferior quality 5.56 mm rounds were of inferior quality, leading to had caused a number of stoppages guns to jam.

Arun Sahgal, retired Indian Army brigadier general and director of The Forum for Strategic Initiative and a retired Army brigadier, said the Excalibur rifle could be pushed on the Indian Army. "As per inputs, this rifle does not meet critical standards but is being pushed by the Infantry Directorate and the hierarchy to cover up the mess they created in producing shoddy QR and an over-ambitious request for proposals."

On the testing of the homemade rifle, Sahgal said, " It appears that Army and OFB are on the same page as far as Excalibur is concerned, but testing agencies such as the Directorate General of Quality Assurance (DGQA) and other certifying agencies are resisting introduction of a sub-standard rifle. There is every likelihood of re-tendering with improved and more down-to-earth QRs, which I am told isare being finalized."

But Anil Chait, a retired Indian Army lieutenant general, however is optimistic about the Excalibur rifle.

"The Excalibur is a 5.56mm rifle designed by the DRDO, and the prototype produced by the OFB, as reported, is presently undergoing testing," Chait said. "If found suitable in all respects, it has every prospect of becoming the next rifle for the Indian armed forces."

An Army official said silently that the the Excalibur is only a retrofitted version of the INSAS assault rifle. which has proven technical snags

Bhonsle says "Assault rifles are to be used mainly in the counterterrorism role and requirements entail short barrel, short range, rapid automatic-burst fire with high reliability," Bhonsle said. "On the other hand, for conventional battles a long-range, accurate, semi-automatic or automatic weapon to ensure fire discipline with a higher lethality over ranges of 400 to 500 meters is necessary. Optical or night sights are also envisaged. Post-2011 tender, there appears to be a view in the Army after trials that the concept of having a single weapon for both roles is not feasible." he added.


Vivek Raghuvanshi is the India correspondent for Defense News.

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