Indian Army set for ‘deadly’ makeover with weapons purchases worth Rs 20K cr: Report
Amid heightened tensions with Pakistan and China’s ever-increasing military might, India is now fast-tracking the long-delayed modernisation of the Army’s Special Forces to make them more efficient, lethal and mobile for covert warfare.
Sources in the Defence ministry have said that “restricted” tenders have been issued to select foreign arms companies for acquisition of new assault rifles, sniper rifles, general purpose machine guns, liht-weight rocket launchers, tactical shotguns, pistols, night-vision devices and ammunition, the Times of India reported.
“Seven tenders or RFPs (request for proposals) were issued last week to American, Israeli, Swedish and other companies for acquisition of the specialised weaponry on a fast-track basis. Separately in a different capital acquisition project, trials are in progress to acquire over 120 light strike vehicles, which can be carried by helicopters, for the Special Forces,” the report quoted a Defence ministry source as saying.
The move follows India inking several emergency deals worth around Rs 20,000 crore for ammunition and spares for the Army, Navy and IAF to ensure their battle readiness at short notice and efficient handling of close combat situations or covert operations.
The elite Special Forces in the 1.3-million strong Indian Army constitute just nine Para-Special Forces and five Para (Airborne) battalions, each with 620 soldiers selected after rigorous training.
So, the numbers and costs involved in the new set of procurements are relatively much smaller. The tender for new 9mm pistols, with silencers, for instance, is for just about 500 pieces, while the one for assault rifles is restricted to 1,120 for now.
“If the new weapons prove effective, larger repeat orders will be placed at a later stage,” said a source.
The Special Forces is already equipped with specialised weaponry, which includes Israeli 5.56mm TAR-21 Tavor assault rifles, 7.62mm Galil sniper rifles, American M4A1 carbines and Swedish Carl Gustav rocket launchers.
However, after the surgical strike against the camps run by north-eastern insurgent groups in Myanmar on June 9, 2015, the need for lighter, new-generation weapons was felt.
The Indian soldiers had to quietly cross over 6 km of thickly-forested terrain to reach their targets and hit them with full force while carrying huge weapon loads. They had to then take an alternate route back to evade detection.
“Though the mission achieved its objectives, the Army subsequently conveyed to the country's top political authorities that lighter equipment was required for the Special Forces. Light-weight or disposable rocket launchers, for instance, would help in faster mobility with lesser weapon loads,” said another source.