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India to ink ‘repeat order’ deal for 73,000 SiG 716 rifles from the US

In February 2019, 72,400 SiG 716 rifles of 7.62 x 51mm calibre were contracted from SIG Sauer Inc, USA, under government's 'Buy (Global) category', through fast track procedure.

File photo of a defence personnel armed with a SiG 716 rifle near the Line of Control | Photo: Snehesh Alex Philip | ThePrint
File photo of a defence personnel armed with a SiG 716 rifle near the Line of Control | Photo: Snehesh Alex Philip | ThePrint

New Delhi: The defence ministry is in the final stages of approving a repeat order for 73,000 SiG 716 G2 patrol assault or battlefield rifles from the US to meet the requirements of its frontline troops, ThePrint has learnt.

Sources in the defence and security establishment told ThePrint that notwithstanding reports of alleged cancellation of the proposed order of SiG 716, the ‘repeat order’ procurement of 73,000 rifles by defence ministry “is at the final stage of approval”.

In February 2019, 72,400 SiG 716 rifles — 66,400 for the army, 4,000 for the air force and 2,000 for the Navy — of 7.62 x 51mm calibre were contracted from SIG Sauer Inc, USA, under the government ‘Buy (Global) category’ through the fast track procedure (FTP).

The ‘Buy (Global)’ category refers to outright purchase of equipment from foreign vendors.

The consignment was delivered and distributed to the soldiers.

Contrary to initial plans to equip only frontline troops, the Army had then equipped over 400 infantry battalions with the SiG 716, as reported earlier. At least two companies (about 100 soldiers each) in all infantry battalions have been given the SiG 716 — irrespective of whether they are in the field or at peace stations.

The number of rifles distributed across the battalions differed, with some getting more than the others.

Defence sources said that considering the performance of the weapon, and to ensure operational necessity, commonality and associated logistics functionality, the defence ministry is now in the process of approving a repeat order of 73,000 SiG 716 assault rifles.

The fresh order is meant to meet the requirement of the remaining frontline troops, who did not receive these rifles the last time.

The reason for the selection of this particular weapon is because of a revision in the Indian Army’s operational philosophy in 2016, wherein the 7.62 x 51mm calibre was chosen over the 5.56 x 45mm calibre, as having the optimum calibre for operations, said sources.

They added that as a result, the SiG 716 Assault Rifle, being of higher calibre (7.62 x 51mm) has longer effective range, more lethality and higher recoil, as compared to the INSAS Rifle (5.56 x 51mm Calibre) or the AK-47 Rifle (7.62 x 39mm), which are also used.

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Army goes in for beefing up of SiG rifles

Sources explained that since the induction of the SiG 716 Rifle, the Army has been using Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) manufactured ammunition with the weapon and no deviations in the performance of the weapon have been found.

ThePrint had earlier reported that the Army replaced the original American made ammunition with locally manufactured and easily available rounds of the 7.62 medium machine gun (MMG) ammunition because the American bullets were too expensive in the long term.

While sources in the defence establishment have said this does not have an impact on the performance of the rifle, another set of sources on the ground did say that this led to higher recoil — an issue which can be dealt by better production quality ammunition.

Sources explained that the SiG 716 rifles are also fitted with picatinny rails to facilitate mounting of various equipment and accessories, such as optical sights, under barrel grenade launcher (UBGL), forehand grip, bipod and laser pointer, without any modification to the weapon.

Asked why the accessories were not bought with the original rifle in 2019, the sources said these equipment and accessories, like optical sights, are generally procured after the induction of the weapon.

Considering the utility of forehand grip, the Army procured it from an indigenous source.

Explaining why the SiG rifles are better than the INSAS — other than in terms of the range and lethality — the sources said the SiG 716 Rifle also has an ‘automatic’ mode of firing (similar to AK-47), compared to the three-round burst (TRB) mode of an INSAS rifle.

The sources added that to optimally utilise these features of the weapon, a certain number of bipods have been procured, to enable the use of the weapon in multiple roles and increase its effective range to greater distances.

“Hence, post-induction of the SiG 716 Rifle into the inventory, cases for procurement of day telescopic sight and night sight, thermal imaging and image intensifier for the weapons have been processed from indigenous source,” the sources said.

(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)

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