ITALIAN ASSAULT RIFLE UNDER FIRE IN $1 BILLION INDIAN ARMY TENDER
By Bulbul Singh
29 Nov 12. Even as the Indian Army has carried out the trials of assault rifles in competition for $1 billion Indian Army tender, complaints have been made to the Indian defence ministry that the Request for Proposal (RFP) was tailor made for Beretta of Italy for its assault rifles. The complaints may put the whole process on hold.
The Indian Army has completed the trials of Beretta of Italy, Colt of United States, Israeli Weapons Industries of Israel, SIG Sauer of Switzerland and Ceske of Czech republic.
The new assault rifles will replace the indigenous INSAS 5.56 assault rifle which is not flexible, in addition there have been complaints about its working in cold conditions. At 4.25 kilograms the rifle is considered heavier than those available in the international market and its range is only 450 meters
The Indian Army is looking for a double barrel rifle which will be both 7.62 x39mm and also 5.56 mm assault rifle that can be both in urban, counter insurgency and counter terrorism operations.
However, complaints have now been made to the Indian defence ministry that the entire request for proposal was tailor made to suite the Beretta ARX—160. The deal of the current tender is worth $1 billion with license production of minimum 500,000 weapons costing in excess of $4 billion.
“The complainant says that the ARX-160 multi calibre weapon is not even in use by the Italian Special forces. The Italian Special Forces have requested many changes and upgrades in the single calibre model given to them for evaluation and have even expressed frustration with ARX-160.” says the complainant.
The RFP of the Indian Army requires that the length of the barrel to be not less than 16 inches which the complaint says is exactly according to the technical make of Beretta-160. This condition itself can lead to the rejection of competitors.
The conversion system between 5.56mm and 7.62 x 39, which is one of the requirements of the tender is there in Beretta ARX-160.
One executive of a foreign competing company said the difficulty would be to find a multi-calibre assault rifle according to the tender which is a battle-tested rifle.
Beretta of Italy had last year won a tender to supply MX-4.9mm sub machine gun carbine for the Border Security Force (BSF) but there have been problems with the barrel which corrodes further adds the complaint. Even the MX-4 weapon was specially designed by Beretta for the BSF tender.
Justifying the multi calibre assault rifle an Indian army official said there is need now to balance insurgency with conventional military to military combat. In addition there is some interest in high lethality, accuracy enhancing weapons for close combat operations in urban areas.
The Indian Army switched over to INSAS 5.56 calibre after the mid-90’s when it began fighting the Muslim militants who were equipped with lighter AK-47 guns. Despite being exceptionally accurate, the INSAS was not a great hit with the troops in counter insurgency as the militants would often escape despite being hit. Moreover, the 5.56mm rounds, which were now in mass-scale production were of a much inferior quality.
The Indian Army then bought AK-47s for fighting counterinsurgency and used INSAS for non-counter insurgency use.
The Indian Army has now devised a new plan to equip its infantry troops. The plan, called Future Infantry Soldier and System (FINSAS) is part of a plan copied from foreign infantry concepts including the U.S. Land Warrior program, the U.K. Future Integrated Soldier Technology (FIST) project, Israel’s Future Infantry Warrior and South Africa’s African Warrior.
The latest tender is part of the FINSAS plan which calls for a better 5.56-caliber assault rifle, helmet-mounted sight and observation gear, radio and data communications, load-carrying packs, and protection and sustainability gear.
The Army also will bu