Seeking to further enhance the firepower of infantry troops, the defence ministry would soon be deciding on an Army proposal to procure 44,500 light machine guns (LMGs) for soldiers under the fast-track procurement procedure as the earlier project had to be scrapped due to a single vendor situation.
“In a high-level meeting scheduled to be held soon under defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman, the government would decide on an Army proposal to buy around 18,000 of the 44,500 LMGs under the fast-track procedure, while the remaining would be acquired under the normal acquisition process,” a top source in the Army told Mail Today.
LMGs provide heavy firepower to infantry troops in both counter-insurgency and conventional war operations, sources said.
To be fast-tracked, the Army will have the option of going in for government-to-government contract to fulfill the requirement in the earliest possible timeframe.
The existing LMGs with the infantry units are quite heavy, which is why the force is looking at lighter versions of the gun that can be easily shifted from one position to another in case of an ongoing encounter.
The need for fast-tracking the procurement was felt as an earlier attempt by the Army to acquire the weapons had failed due to emergence of the Israeli Weapons Industry (IWI) as the single vendor in the global tender and a lot of time was wasted in the process, the sources said.
In the recent past, several cases of small arm procurement had to be cancelled by the defence ministry due to single vendor issue.
The procurement of close-quarter carbines had to be scrapped as IWI had again emerged as the single vendor in the case.
The reason for excluding the rival vendor during the trial process was also not very convincing after which the then defence minister scrapped the case.
Recently, the defence ministry had also cleared the procurement of 72,400 assault rifles and 93,895 close quarter battle (CQB) carbines for the Army on a fast-track basis. Both the deals had been repeatedly cancelled in the past.
“The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) also cleared procurement of 72,400 assault rifles and 93,895 carbines on fast-track basis for Rs 3,547 crore to enable the defence forces to meet their immediate requirement for troops deployed on the borders,” the ministry had said a statement.
The assault rifles will be of 7.62mm calibre, while the carbines will be of 5.56mm calibre. The requirement of the Indian Army in small arms is huge but the force is going in for limited procurement only through the fast-track procedure as the process has to be completed within a specified timeframe.
Like in the assault rifles category, the Army earlier had plans of acquiring around eight lakh such weapons from foreign vendors but the requirement was curtailed to 2.5 lakh due to the high cost of acquisition.
It was also decided that the remaining guns would be procured from local sources. The guns of higher quality would be utilised by the frontline infantry troops and other units involved in action while the remaining units would be provided the low cost guns.