The existing inventory of small arms clearly reflects our inability to develop and produce an indigenous next generation of small arms. We need to adapt PPP model with our Small Arms manufacturing Factories for current technology and to cater for the alarming deficiencies.

The Indian inventories of Small Arms (SA) are estimated to contain approximately 5-6 million small arms, approximately 1.6 million for Defence, 1.3 million for Paramilitary and 1.5 - 2 million for Police Forces. Indian defence services are lacking in small Arms of current design, which are the basic weapons systems for the military. Currently, Army is using INSAS - 5.56mm assault rifles, which repeatedly faces technical snags. In addition, the Army uses Russian Kalashnikov-designed 7.62mm AK-47 and the IWI-made 5.56mm Tavor assault rifles besides other, thus making a hybrid inventory and complicating logistics.

Capability Gap

The capability gap is in four counts, Vintage Design, Design Capability, Production Capability and Heterogeneous Inventory. The inventory of small arms clearly reflects our inability to develop an indigenous next generation of small arms successor. This puts enormous pressure on Logistics. The OFB/DPSUs do not have the technology for delivering the next generation of SA and also do not have the capability to produce the huge quantities required for replacement or to make up the deficiencies. Despite in house requirement and assured orders, the design and production agencies have not been able to meet the force's huge requirement, which has resulted in India spending billions of dollars on SA import.

With an annual production capacity, of approximately 1.0 lakh small arms of all types against the required quantity for replacement, is not adequate. The Ordnance Factories (OF) will be unable to meet even the annual replacement requirement of the military, not counting requirements of Para Military Forces/Police forces. With the existing production capacity of OFs it will require approx more than 3 decades to productionise the state of the art weapon and the required quantities to meet the modern day challenges.

Past Attempts

In view of the existing gap in design development and production capability, some of major imports unsuccessful attempts in recent past is given in Table.

Fresh Attempt

As the Indian defence service requires SA (Rifles, Carbines, SMC etc) replacement urgently, there is some   move, though at preliminary stage, to adapt PPP model with Small Arms manufacturing Factories. The variant designed by DRDO and OFB are under trial, but seeing the past performance and the culture of DRDO/OFB the Defence Services are skeptical.

Recent Move by DAC

Recently, the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) has accorded approval to Capital Acquisition Proposals of the Services valued at around Rs 15,935 crore. These includes:-

  • 41000 Light Machine Guns for the three Services, for cost of over Rs 1,819 crore.
  • 4 lakh Assault Rifles for the three Services, at an estimated cost of Rs 12,280 crore.
  • 5,719 Sniper Rifles for the Indian Army and Indian Air Force at an estimated cost of Rs 982 crore.
  • 5 lakh Close Quarter Carbines

Citing the government's slow procurement track record, the above procurements will follow Fast Track Procedure. Additionally ministry wants to procure these small arms on off-the-shelf from foreign players.

Some of the Light Machine Guns requirement would go through the fast track procedure and a concurrent proposal is being processed for the balance quantity to be procured under the Buy and Make (Indian) categorization.

While procurement of 740,000 Assault Rifles would be under the Buy & Make (Indian) category, to be manufactured by state-owned Ordnance Factory Board, along with private defense companies.

Operational Characteristics

The MoD earlier also has issued the request for information seeking the availability of small arms and this time also the operational parameters and technical requirements would be almost similar. These are:-

Assault Rifle

Assault Rifle would have following broad operational characteristics:-

  • Calibre: 62x39 mm
  • Ammunition: SA 7.62 x 39mm Ball Ammunition
  • Type of Fire: Automatic/ semi-automatic
  • Cyclic Rate of Fire: 600 rds per minute (minimum)
  • Overall Length Buttretracted Folded/Fixed: 750 mm Maximum in foldable butt, 950 mm Max in Extended Butt
  • Locking: Rotating Bolt
  • Bayonet: Should be multi-purpose
  • Weight of Rifle with empty magazine (Including Muzzle attachment, Excluding Bayonet & optical sight) : 3.5 Kg Maximum
  • Barrel Chromium Plated
  • Life of Barrel: 15,000 rds minimum
  • Capacity of Magazine: 30 Rounds (Minimum)
  • Effective Range: Not less than 300m
  • Muzzle Velocity: 700+ 10m/s. Ammn. to be provided by the OEM.
  • Provision for mounting 40mm UBGL: Essential
  • Picatiny Rail for Reflex and PNV Sight: Essential
  • Tactical Light and Laser Designator: Provision for attachment.
  • Operating/Storage temperature
    1. Operating Temperature -40°c to +50°c
    2. Storage Temperature -40°c to +50°c
    3. Humidity 95 % at 25°c

Sniper Rifle

Broad operational characteristics:-

  • Calibre: 8.6mm (0.338 inches).
  • Effective Range: Not less than 1200 meters.
  • Accuracy: Less than equal to one MoA.
  • Muzzle Velocity: Not more than 800 m/s.
  • Operating Mechanism: Bolt Action.
  • Safety: Inbuilt and Applied Safety mechanism.
  • Picatinny Rails: MIL-STD 1913 compliant picatinny rails.
  • Reliability: In firing of 100 rounds, it should not suffer from more than one 'Class-I' or 'Class-II' and NO 'Class-III' stoppages as per ITOP 3-2-045 specifications.
  • Sighting System: The Sniper Rifle must be provided with an Open Sight as well as Telescopic Sight. The Telescopic sight shall have variable magnification suited for maximum effective range, illuminated cross hair reticule pattern for aiming and range estimation not less than 1300m.
  • Weight with Bipod and Empty Magazine: Man portable and as light as possible for easy carriage and use in varied Indian terrain.
  • Overall Length: Convenient to carry and operate by average built Indian soldier.
  • Environmental Conditions: It must be possible to operate & store the Sniper Rifle under varied terrain & climatic conditions in India.
  • Service Life: The life of the Sniper Rifle must not be less than 15 years.


Army has projected the requirement of about 200000 Carbine. The cumulative requirement is in the ranges of 4, 00,000 carbines for IAF, IN, CPF and State Police forces. The Army issued a RFP in Nov 2011 for the procurement of 44,618 carbines along with 33.6 million rounds of ammunition. Four contenders Israel Weapon Industries (IWI), Italy's Beretta,USA's Colt  and Sig Sauer were in the race. Israeli Weapon Industry (IWI) was in the reckoning after the Night Sight mounting issue on Bretta platform leading to single vendor situation.

The repeated failure to procure close quarter battle (CQB) carbines, as Army has been holding the WW-II Vintage variant, there is business case for additional capacity Licence production even in Private sector. DRDO and OFB have been trying to  develop the various Small Arms and none of them have passed through test and evaluation criteria. The Carbine development is as under:-

  • AMOGH 5.56 mm Carbine - Specially designed and developed for close quarter battle (CQB) role  by OFB,   was rejected by Army on its first trial
  • Excalibur 5.56 mm carbine Select fire between automatic and semi- automatic modes, after extensive user trial Army decided to decline for inception of excalibur, the main obstacle was loud sound and huge muzzle flash which was undesirable, reason was said to be the regular round was too powerful for this short barreled gun. The Special Forces which use the Excalibur have the fully auto and semi auto modes.
  • MINSAS 5.56 mm personal carbine - Short barrel commando version, 5.56x30 mm ammunition, for close quarter battle use yet to be commisioned in forces.
  • The Modern Sub Machine Carbine (MSMC) also known as Joint Venture Protective Carbine (JVPC) designed by the Armament Research and Development Establishment and manufactured by Ordnance Factory Tiruchirappalli. The Uzi-like design 50 MSMCs were issued for user trials in 2016. Army asked to do some improvements in the weapon on two pin disassembly, Quick fitting suppressor and polymer magazines etc. Once these things are taken care of, the weapon would be introduced in appropriate slot.

Light Machine Gun

The MoD earlier also has issued the request for information seeking the availability of small arms and this time also the operational parameters and technical requirements would be almost similar. These are:-

  • Calibre: 62mm x 51mm
  • Effective Range. Not less than 800 metres.
  • Lethality: Lethality at ranges up to minimum 800 metres in terms of wound profile, energy transferred and penetration.
  • Accuracy: The Light Machine Gun should be capable of achieving accuracy better than three Minutes of Angle up to a range of minimum 800 metres.
  • Reliability: The Light Machine Gun should be reliable in its operation as per TOP 3-2-045 for reliability and withstand sustained fire.
  • Weight: The Light Machine Gun should be as light as possible in weight.
  • Sight: The Light Machine Gun should have integrated open sight.
  • The Light Machine Gun should have compatibility with all modern sights and accessories and provision for mounting the same.
  • In terms of design, metallurgy and performance parameters, the Light Machine Gun should remain relevant for its envisaged service life.
  • The Light Machine Gun should be capable of providing the desired performance across all spectrums of employment in the Indian terrain and climatic conditions.
  • The Light Machine Gun should comply with the laid down MIL Standards and other International Standards in vogue.

Opportunities for Private Sector

The inability to develop an indigenous next generation of small arms weapon, successor to the old designs in the 5.56mm or 7.62mm calibers, offers an opportunity for the global small arms industry. Our defence indigenous industry is likely to take another 5-10 years to develop the required capability and thus offers vast potential for technological partnership and overseas investment. With the existing  market potential, collaboration Opportunities to set-up manufacturing base of Small Arms in India in partnership with Indian companies exist, more so in view of 'Make-in India' initiatives and on-going reforms in the defense procurement system in India. A number of OEMs such as Beretta's, US Colt, Beretta of Italy; CzeskaZbrojovka of the Czech Republic; Rosoboronexport of Russia; FN Belgium, Heckler & Koch, ARSENA, Sig Sauer and IWI of Israel etc are likely to be looking for partnership with Indian companies such as Mahendra, Reliance, L&T, Bharat Forge etc,  who also intend to enter in the market segment. Recently, Indian private company Punj Lloyd has set up a manufacturing facility in India to produce small arms in partnership with IWI. The OFB capacity will be utilized to manufacture the variants on a nomination basis to build assault rifles in partnership with overseas original equipment manufacturers.

Article published in Magazine issue “Mar-Apr 2018 “


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