An OFB officer with the indigenous Excalibur 5.56mm assault rifle.
The Indian Army has decided to go for an indigenous assault rifle to replace the problematic INSAS rifles. The decision that could save thousands of crores in foreign exchange and boost local manufacture was taken recently by Army Chief General Dalbir Singh. The Army then cancelled a problematic Rs 4,848 crore order for importing Multi Caliber Assault Rifles on June 15-first reported by Mail Today on July 1.
“We are going in for a designed and Made in India rifle in keeping with the government’s indigenisation thrusts,” senior Army sources told Mail Today.
The performance of the DRDO-designed ‘Excalibur’ assault rifle in trials last month at the Armament Research and Development Establishment (ARDE) in Pune has further enthused the Army. The Excalibur had only two stoppages (where the bullet gets stuck in the breech) after 24,000 rounds were fired, close to the Army’s specifications of only one stoppage.
The Excalibur is an improved version of the INSAS rifle and fires 5.56×45 mm ammunition. It has full-automatic capability over the INSAS which can only fire a three-round burst. The Excalibur barrel is shorter by 4 mm, has a side folding butt stock and features a Picatinny rail, a universal mount that allows a range of weapon sights and sensors to be fitted on the rifle.
DRDO officials say it will take the OFB’s Rifle Factory Ishapore at least eight months to incorporate design changes suggested by the ARDE and field the first prototypes of what they are calling the ‘Modified INSAS Rifle’ (MIR). Changes suggested after trials include a smaller handguard and improved polycarbonate magazine.
If the Excalibur/MIR clears trials, it could be in the hands of infantry soldiers within two years, DRDO officials say. The DRDO is designing a second version of the Excalibur, the AR-2 that fires 7.62×39 mm rounds used by AK-47. The AR-2 will be offered as an alternative to the Russianorigin assault rifle.
The Army’s 2011 tender was for a Multi Caliber Assault Rifle or for a weapon that could fire INSAS and AK-47 ammunition with a barrel change.
Five international firms – Beretta of Italy, Israeli Weapons Industries (IWI), Colt Defense of the US, Ceska Zbplojovka of Czech Republic and SiG Sauer of Switzerland-were shortlisted for the trials.
However, Army officials now admit the specifications were poorly drafted and unrealistic.