After nearly 20 years, the indigenously manufactured INSAS rifles will be finally 'retiring' from the army and replaced by an imported assault rifle to be manufactured in the country later.
The Indian Small Arms System (INSAS), which was inducted in the army 1988, is likely to be replaced with deadlier assault rifles of higher caliber (7.62x51), official sources said.
The sources said that as many as 18 vendors, including some Indian companies having a tie-up with foreign arms manufacturing firms, have sent in their consent to replace nearly two lakh such rifles used by the army along the borders and in counter-insurgency operations.
The reason for phasing out of INSAS, as cited by experts, was that it was not effective at long range and at best, could only maim the enemy. The sources said that 7.62x51 assault rifles have already been introduced in the Pakistani army which purchased them from Heckler and Koch, one of the world's leading small arms manufacturers based in Germany.
The proposal for procuring the new assault rifles was in pre-Acceptance of Necessity (AoN) stage and expected to be completed by the year-end after putting the process of purchase of these weapons on a fast track.
The sources said that emphasis was being laid on arming the Special Forces of the army in the Northeast as of now and the proposal will come up before the Defence Acquisition Committee (DAC) soon. After the new weaponry for the Special Forces aimed at helping them in close-combat situations, the focus will shift to procurement of the assault rifles and replace the INSAS, the sources said.
The foreign vendor would also be required to participate in Transfer of Technology (ToT) so that there is no dearth of ammunition and maintenance of the assault rifles in the country. These weapons can kill the enemy up to an effective range (rpt) range of 500 metres.
The conceptualisation of the INSAS began in early 1980's before it was finally handed over for production to Ichapur Ordnance Factory in West Bengal. In 1993, the design of the rifle was changed before being introduced in the army in 1996. The rifle was put to use during the 1999 Kargil war.