New Delhi: Rearming the Indian Armed Forces with modern infantry small arms that inspire fear instead of ridicule is a process that might take over a decade and exceed the $870 million (Rs 6,000 crore) initially budgeted for this purpose.
But any overrun in time and money will be worth it if the Indian Army, the Indian Navy, the Indian Air Force and the Border Security Force (BSF) get the weapons on time, especially with deadly clashes against the Pakistan Army occurring almost daily along the Line of Control (LoC).
Delhi believes the three armed services and the BSF will need two million small arms, a classification that includes assault rifles such as the hated INSAS, which is being replaced. It estimates this project will cost some $870 million (Rs 6,000 crore) and take 10 years to complete, that is, without bureaucratic bungling.
Delhi reckons 80 percent of this two million total (or 1.6 million small arms) will consist of assault rifles and assault carbines. The rest will consist of machine guns, pistols and other infantry weapons.
Most of these small arms are expected to be bought from Indian companies to support the Make in India campaign.
The much maligned licensing committee of the Ministry of Home Affairs will grant licenses for small arms and ammunition to private sector companies. The licensing process could take well over six months to complete at its most optimistic.
The move to upgun the armed services and the BSF is part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s $250 billion push to modernize the armed forces. The downtrodden jawan, as usual, is bleeding from combat deaths to keep the Pakistan Army and its Muslim militant Kashmiri allies from destabilizing and conquering Indian-administered Kashmir while armed with weapons he really doesn’t like.
One of companies vying to supply these small arms is Reliance Defense and Engineering Ltd (RDEL), India’s largest shipbuilding and heavy industry company headquartered in Mumbai, but which is now into small arms production.
Media reports say RDEL and Israeli company Kalashnikov Israel will soon establish a joint venture company to produce the “AK Alpha,” a sleek and evil-looking 7.62×39 assault rifle that began being marketed in the United States early this year.
One of the reasons why Kalashnikovs remain popular is its low cost of production that translates into a low unit cost per weapon. That edge might be to RDEL’s advantage.
AK Alpha (AK Alfa in Russian) is a project begun by Kalashnikov Israel, which says the rifle was produced with inputs from snipers of the Israel Defense Force.
It features an AK-style action, but upgrades the weapon to provide a rifle with more modern features and utility than the standard AK-74 used by the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation.
Two models will be available: the AKL with a 16.338 inch barrel and the AKS with a 12.362 inch barrel. AK Alpha is chambered in the iconic AK cartridge: the 7.62×39 and fed by standard 30-round AK magazines. It features a Picatinny rail for mounting optics and other accessories.