A large part of the 1.3 million-strong Indian Army has started receiving American-made SIG Sauer’s SIG716 7.62×51 mm rifle for operation in disputed Kashmir and on the Line of Control along the Pakistani border.
An army official requesting anonymity said the first lot of 10,000 rifles has reached India and “has been sent to the Northern Command”.
The Northern Command looks after the operational area of Jammu and Kashmir and the border with Pakistan.
The Indian Defence Ministry had signed the contract with the American manufacturer for the supply of 72,400 assault rifles in February this year under a Fast Track Procedure (FTP). The American company won the tender against competitors like Israel, and the UAE. The American firm had quoted the price of $990 per rifle for the Indian procurement plan.
Industry sources said that the entire order of SIG Sauers, which will replace locally-made Indian Small Arms System (INSAS) 5.56 mm assault rifles, will be delivered to the Indian army by March 2020.
On 25 October, Indian Army Chief General Bipin Rawat had said that the Sig Sauer rifle will be made available to the infantry by this year-end. He also assured the infantry that the first set of AK-203 rifles, an India-Russia joint venture, is expected to be available to them by the year-end.
"To ensure there is no slippage in production, for the first time, the ordnance factory in Amethi is being headed by a serving Major General of the Army, who will be its CEO. We are confident the first set of rifles coming in dismantled state and assembled here will be available by the end of the year," Gen. Rawat said.
The Indian Army has been trying to replace 5.56x45 mm assault rifle since long but has failed, as Israel Weapon Industries' ACE 1, the Beretta ARX160, the Ceská Zbrojovka CZ 805 BREN, and Colt's Colt Combat Rifle did not meet its requirements during trials.
The Indian Army had asked manufacturers to supply rifles that weighed 3.6 kilograms and could easily be converted from a 5.56x45 mm to a 7.62x39 mm.