The Army has finalised one of its biggest arms procurement plans, involving expenditure of a total Rs40,000 crore, as part of a modernisation programme for the infantry.
Under the government-mandated procurement plan the infantry will acquire small arms, including 7 lakh rifles, 44,000 light machine guns (LMGs) and nearly 44,600 carbines, worth over Rs40,000 crore, sources said on Sunday.
The weapons are critical for counter-terror operations and combating cross-border raids at the Line of Control and the government had decided that the Army should have the powers to buy the crucial equipment whenever it feels the need.
The Indian Army, the world's second largest standing army, has failed to keep optimum weapons to see it through protracted wars and has been pressing for the fast-track procurement of the weapons keeping in mind the security threats along the Pakistan and China border.
"The infantry modernisation plan is a major initiative of the Army and it will significantly bolster the overall capability of the foot soldiers," said a senior army official.
In addition to launching the procurement process, the government has also asked the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) to expedite the work on developing small arms, especially LMGs.
According to reports, a fresh Request For Information (RFI) to procure the LMGs will be issued in the next few days, with an initial plan to procure 10,000 LMGs.
The announcement follows a recent brainstorming session at the recent Army Commanders' conference to prepare a blueprint for expediting the force's modernisation.
Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman had also said modernisation of the force was a priority for the government and all its "deficiencies" will be addressed to strengthen its combat capability.
The Army has also finalised the specifications for a new 7.62mm assault rifle, which the defence ministry's highest decision making body on procurement, the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), is expected to approve the much-needed procurement soon.
"The General Service Quality Requirements (GSQR) for the new assault rifle has been finalised. The procurement plan will soon be placed before the DAC for approval," said a senior official.
According to an assessment done by the Army earlier, 46 types of ammunition for tanks and artillery guns, spares for 10 types of weapons, besides armaments and mines will be purchased at a cost of approximately Rs40,000 crore.
The Army wants to fill up strategic deficiencies and enhance its capabilities to fight a "short, intense war" lasting 15-20 days, to counter terrorist infiltrations.
The decision was taken amid the military standoff with China on the Sikkim border near the Indian-Bhutan-China tri-junction, and Indian troops combating regular shelling and border raids from Pakistan.