Defence ministry junks machine guns order for foot soldiers.
In yet another major blow to the Army's modernisation plans, the procurement plan for over 44,000 light machine guns (LMGs) for its humble foot soldiers in the infantry has been scrapped by the defence ministry.
This is the third such project, after the cases for new assault rifles and close-quarter battle carbines, to be junked over the last two years. This once again shows that often in race to acquire big weapon systems like tanks and howitzers, desperate need to equip soldiers with basic infantry weapons, bullet-proof jackets, webbing and ballistic helmets often fall by the wayside.
Sources said the defence ministry had "retracted" the tender or RFP (request for proposal) for the 7.62mm calibre LMGs on the ground that it had become a "single-vendor situation" with only the Israeli Weapon Industries (IWI) left in the fray after protracted field trials from December 2015 to February 2017.
The mega "Buy and Make" procurement plan involved an initial direct purchase of around 4,400 LMGs from a foreign armament company, followed by a tie-up with the Ordnance factory Board with transfer of technology for large-scale indigenous production. The entire project would have cost an estimated Rs 13,000 crore.
The dumping of the project comes after MoD late last year also scrapped tender issued in 2010 for 44,618 close-quarter battle carbines, in which too IWI had emerged as "resultant single-vendor" over Italian firm Beretta, amid allegations of irregularities and political intrigue.
Last September, the Army was also forced to re-launch its global hunt for around two lakh new-generation 7.62mm x 51mm assault rifles after similar bids over last decade were scrapped due to corruption scandals, unrealistic technical requirements and change in calibre of the desired guns, as was first reported by TOI.
The last RFP for the assault rifles was scrapped in May 2015 because of the Army's overambitious experiment to induct rifles with interchangeable barrels, with a 5.56x45mm primary barrel for conventional warfare and a 7.62x39mm secondary one for counter-terrorism. "The three cases spell big trouble for the Infantry, which has been grappling with outdated basic weapons and lack of proper bullet-proof jackets for long. Given the long-winded defence procurement procedure, it will years for the new guns to be inducted," said a source.