The defence acquisition council (DAC) approved the procurement of assault rifles under the defence procurement policy. The council headed by the defence minister approved the procurement of 72,000 assault rifles and 93,895, odd carbines worth Rs 3,547 crore.
The army had been struggling under the UPA to replace aging indigenous INSAS rifles that had been inducted into the army in 1998. The parliamentary standing committee under UPA had admitted the shortage of key ammunitions as late as 2012. Paramilitary forces like BSF were also facing a shortage of arms at that time. The push for modernisation of forces has gathered moment after the 26/11 incident under the UPA.
The push for localising small arms received attention under the NDA government. The DRDO produced two varieties of rifles as per requirements of the army. 7.62×51 mm guns were rejected in June 2017. Another 5.56 mm rifle called ‘Excalibur’ designed indigenously was also rejected due to poor performance in 2016. The army complained that “excessive flash and sound signature” were observed in the rifles during the trials. However, time seems to be running out for the current government to wait till these defects are rectified.
The fast-track process can be used by the army only under two circumstances
- to ensure expeditious procurement of urgent requirements of the regular and special forces, “foreseen as imminent during war and peace”.
- Undue delay in procurement which affects preparedness of forces.
Reports suggest that the process for procurement will soon be initiated. The requirement can be fulfilled through government to government agreements as well. It appears that the bureaucratic hurdles for replacing the aging rifles and ammunition stock has been cleared.
Had the UPA regime meticulously acted on the requirement, the needs of armed forces could have been met through indigenous design and manufacturing. Nevertheless, the minister deserves credit for taking swift decision to meet the needs of armed forces.