Excalibur to hold the fort now
Army plans to induct the assault rifle as stopgap till a better model is procured
Faced with a huge delay in acquiring world-class rifles for its soldiers, the Army is now reluctantly planning to induct the indigenously developed Excalibur, an assault rifle it had initially rejected, though in limited numbers.
The fully automatic rifle, which fires 5.56mm ammunition built by the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB), is an upgraded version of the trouble-prone INSAS (Indian National Small Arms System) inducted in the mid-1990s.
Army sources said that with the procurement delays in mind, the force is looking to induct the Excalibur to replace the INSAS till the time a new rifle joins the force.
“The Army has shown interest in a modified form of Excalibur. The exact number and time frame has not yet been intimated by the Army,” the Public Relations Officer of the OFB told The Hindu in response to a query.
The Army has been trying to replace the INSAS and had launched an ambitious global tender for interchangeable barrels capable of firing both 5.56mm and 7.62mm calibre bullets. After extensive trials, the tender was cancelled early this year as none of the contenders could meet the requirements.
The Army has now decided to go for 7.62mm calibre and fresh General Staff Quality Requirements (GSQR) have just been issued.
The Excalibur was comprehensively evaluated at Infantry School, Mhow, in November 2005 and recommended for induction in the Army in due course of time, the PRO said. But the Army later did not show interest in its induction, which has changed in light of the procurement delays.
However before induction, the Army wants to carry out extensive user exploitation trails to validate the rifle.
Sources said that to save time and shorten the process, the Army intended to procure large volume of the guns to carry out simultaneous trials in various locations.
The Rifle Factory, Ishapore, had produced 15 prototypes for user and quality evaluation, and additional features sought by the user are to be incorporated. However, the OFB is yet to receive any communication for large volumes for exploitation trails, sources said.