New Delhi: The Army is equipping its troops amid a stand-off with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) along the LAC in Ladakh with new assault rifles bought from the US — SIG 716 — under emergency procurement, ThePrint has learnt.
While the initial lot of the modern assault rifles from the US was sent to those guarding the Line of Control with Pakistan and for counter-terrorism operations in Kashmir, troops at the LAC in the northern sector in Ladakh are also being equipped with it.
“It (Sig Sauer Rifles) should have reached them by now,” said a highly-placed source in the government, when asked if the troops at the frontlines in Ladakh are armed with the erstwhile INSAS rifles or the new American ones.
The Army had in February last year ordered 72,400 SIG 716 G2 Patrol assault/battlefield 7.62×51 mm rifles for its frontline troops and the American firm has completed the delivery.
These were meant to replace the obsolete Indian Small Arms System (INSAS) 5.56×45 mm rifles.
The rest of the force is supposed to be equipped with the AK 203, which is to be manufactured jointly by Russia and India under the ‘Make in India’ initiative.
Approval for additional procurement of SIG rifles
Meanwhile, the Defence Acquisition Council Tuesday accorded approval for the procurement of additional 72,400 SIG 716 rifles for approximately Rs 780 crore.
This has been done again under a fast-tracked procurement process and is part of the option clause of the original deal signed last year.
This would mean that over 1.4 lakh 7.62×51 mm rifles in total will be bought off the shelf from the US without the ‘Make in India’ initiative.
“The rifles are modern and give the desired fire power needed for our infantry soldiers, be it in any sector,” a second source said.
As reported by ThePrint, there have been at least four instances of opening of fire at the LAC. In all the instances, the shots were fired in the air as warning shots.
However, the Chinese have been told that Indian forces have the permission to open fire to defend themselves, and Chinese tactics of “using mass” — or seeking to outnumber Indian soldiers, like in the 15 June Galwan Valley clash — will not be tolerated.
India has pumped in over 40,000 additional troops backed by artillery, tanks, missile systems and air defence into Ladakh following the tensions that first began in May this year.
There are multiple specialised units of the Indian Army in action in Ladakh carrying a host of modern weapons.
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