The Indian Army has rejected 'Made in India' assault rifles, for the second year in a row, in a blow to the Narendra Modi government's `Make In India' initiative. With no domestic manufacturers ready to bid for the rifles as per Army's specifications, the government is expected to procure the weapon from vendors abroad.
The rifles made by government's Ordnance Factory Board, were intended to replace the AK-47s and INSAS rifles, being used by the forces over past two decades. The assault rifles reportedly failed the quality check conducted by the forces in the past week.
The government will now announce a formal Request for Proposal (RFP), and, according to reports, nearly 21 global weapon manufacturers are interested in supplying the rifles as per the Army's requirement.
However, procurement would follow the ''Buy and Make Global'' route adopted by the defence ministry for overseas procurement of weapons. International bidders will have to go through trial checks for getting approval from the defence ministry, to get their bids approved, after which the companies are required to tie up with a domestic firm to manufacture the rifles in bulk, a rather lengthy process.
The OFB assault rifle is reported to have failed to perform efficiently during the trial run. An NDTV report said the rifle had excessive recoil, flash and sound signature.
Also, the report claimed that the rifle stopped functioning on multiple occasions during the trial run, raising safety concerns.
Demonstration firing of the 7.62 x 51 mm rifle, made by the Rifle Factory Ichapore, Kolkata, took place on 13 and 14 June. Following this, the Army's project management team said the gun was ''only a prototype that requires comprehensive design analysis and improvement''.
In September 2016, the defence ministry had issued a request for information (RFI) seeking to procure 1,85,000 assault rifles with telescopic sights for the army, of which 65,000 guns would be purchased immediately.
The 5.56 mm rifle, which was meant to replace the INSAS, reportedly failed to meet the firepower requirement as demanded by the ground forces, which compelled the forces to reject it.
The AK-47s and INSAS or Indian Small Arms System rifles, are being used by the Army since 1988. The rifles were scheduled to be replaced this year with advanced weapons. Both the rifles are being currently used in cross-border firing as well as counter-insurgency operations in Kashmir and the northeastern states.
The rejection of rifles manufactured by Ordnance Factory Board comes as a major setback to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's 'Make in India' campaign, which seeks to boost manufacturing and end the country's dependence on imports. India, the world's largest arms importer, is expected to spend $250 billion on modernisation of its weaponry over the next 10 years.
In the past year, the Army had similarly rejected the indigenous rifle 'Excalibur'.