NEW DELHI — The Indian Army has issued a global request for information procure 200,000 5.56mm close-quarter battle carbines at a cost of about $400 million under the Buy & Make India category. The total order is estimated to increase to 500,000 if the requirement of the domestic paramilitary forces is also taken into account.
Efforts to acquire the CQB carbines since 2008 have not yielded any result, and the carbines developed by the state-owned Defence Research and Development Organization, or DRDO, and the Ordnance Factory Board, or OFB, have not been accepted by the Indian Army, according to a senior Indian Ministry of Defence.
The formal tender — expected to be issued in the next six months — will seek a transfer of technology for the carbines to be license produced in India under a partnership with domestic defense companies.
Several overseas equipment manufacturers — including Beretta of Italy, FN FAL of Belgium, Heckler & Koch of Germany, Colt's Manufacturing Company of the United States, and Sig Sauer of Switzerland — are likely to tie up with Indian defense companies such as private sector firms Mahindra Defence, Larsen & Toubro, Bharat Forge and Reliance Defence.
After Israel Weapon Industries, or IWI, emerged as the single vendor in the global tender from 2011 for the procurement of 44,618 carbines along with 33.6 million rounds of ammunition, the tender was canceled, paving the way for the fresh RFI. Four contenders — IWI, Beretta ,Colt's and Sig Sauer — were in the race, but only IWI emerged as the winner because the other contenders could not meet the qualitative requirements pertaining to night vision mounting, an Indian Army official said.
Meanwhile, "DRDO and OFB have been trying to develop various small arms, including carbines, but none of them have passed through test and evaluation criteria," said Bhupinder Yadav, a defense analyst and retired Indian Army major general. "Amogh 5.56mm carbine, specially designed and developed for CQB, was rejected by Army on its first trial."
The latest carbine to be developed by DRDO and OFB, the 5.56mm Excalibur, has been rejected by the Army's special forces. "The main obstacle was loud sound and huge muzzle flash, which was undesirable," Yadav noted.
The 5.56mm MINSAS is the homemade carbine to most closely reach acceptance. "The Army has asked to do some improvements in this on two-pin disassembly, quick-fitting suppressor and polymer magazines. Once these things are taken care of, the weapon would be induced," Yadav said.
Meanwhile, domestic private sector defense major Punj Lloyd as well as IWI have jointly set up a manufacturing facility in India to produce small arms, including 5.56x30mm CQB carbines.
Some of the requirements of the carbines listed in the RFI include an effective range of at least 200 meters; a weight less than 3 kilograms; a modular design; and "luminous tipped integrated flip up open sight, reflex sight and visible and invisible laser-spot designator," the Army official noted.
The Indian Army has been without a carbine since 2010 when it removed from service the license-produced 9mm British Sterling 1A1 submachine gun.