A home-made assault rifle rejected by the army last month “functioned flawlessly without any stoppages,” says its indignant manufacturer, the government-run Ordnance Factory Board or OFB.
NDTV broke the news a few weeks ago that the army had, after trials of the new 7.62mm x 51mm Assault Rifle, concluded that it failed basic tests including being too noisy and indiscreet for combat. A report from the army to the Defence Ministry seen by NDTV said that the indigenous rifle “requires comprehensive design analysis and improvement.”
In response, in a letter to NDTV, Dr U Mukherjee, the spokesperson of the gun manufacturer, said that a top Army General fired the rifle during trials and it delivered like a dream.
The Indian Army has a requirement for 1,85,000 Assault Rifles. With each rifle with associated equipment (such as sights) likely to cost approximately a lakh, the total value of the mega-contract could be worth approximately Rs.1850 crores.
Ordinance Factory Board manufactured 7.62mm rifle that reportedly failed army trials
The Ordnance Factory Board, which is an arms-making unit of the Defence Ministry, also says that senior army officials reviewed the rifle at its factory in Ishapore, outside Kolkata in Bengal earlier this year. “The prototypes were physically tested and more than 300 rounds of ammunition were fired without any stoppage,” the manufacturer claimed, contradicting the army which had called for a “complete redesigning of the magazine to make loading the rifle easier. Safety mechanisms were also problematic with the rifle which had an “excessive number of faults and stoppages (during trials) to the extent of more than twenty times the maximum permissible standards,” the army had complained.
The OFB also says it has been “successful in reducing the recoil (of the Assault Rifle) to a comfortable level” and that the Ishapore factory is now manufacturing 10 more rifles for trial.
With the Army not in a position to presently accept the OFB’s Assault Rifle, the most basic weapon carried by infantry soldiers, key stake holders of the armed forces have met to lay out the precise specifications of the assault rifles that the forces need. NDTV has learned that 21 gun manufacturers from around the world have signalled their intention to bid for this contract.
Indian soldiers currently use AK-47s and INSAS or Indian Small Arms System rifles, which are made in India, and were inducted in the Army in 1988 and were meant to be replaced this year with deadlier assault rifles of higher calibre, especially for use along borders and in counter-insurgency operations.