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SOURCE: ET

The army requires a limited number of close-quarter battle rifles on an immediate basis, given current tensions on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) where troops are deployed at close range and have even engaged in hand-to-hand fighting over the past months.

Sources have told ET that a larger order for over 350,000 close quarter battle carbines has been reserved for the Indian industry but an immediate requirement of 93,895 carbines that has been processed since 2018 is vital for a combative edge.

The army has been without a close-quarter battle weapon for years, with officials saying that regular assault rifles are being used for the role, reducing the operational efficiency of troops. While the weapons are particularly useful in anti-terrorist operations, they also have immense utility in border operations where a clash between troops can take place at close quarters.

Sources said that the army supports initiatives by the private and public sector in developing these weapons in-house and has started engaging with companies for a larger order of 350,000 rifles that will be fully made in India, with options for exports too.

However, this process is likely to take at least two to three years before the local industry can offer viable options, with enough capacity to produce the weapons. “The present and immediate necessity cannot be compromised. The weapons are an absolute immediate requirement and only one-fifth of the total numbers needed are being processed through a fast-track procurement,” officials who did not wish to be named said.

As reported by ET, in a meeting held last week, chaired by the defence secretary, it was decided that plans in the works since 2018 to import a limited number of close quarter battle carbines to meet immediate requirements are to be shelved in favour of a Make-in-India plan. The high-powered Defence Acquisition Council, however, still has to ratify the decision.

The fast-track process initiated in 2018 for 93,895 carbines envisaged a shortened delivery period from an active assembly line. Since no Indian company had a viable option, foreign companies had been chosen for the trial and evaluation process.

Sources said that the capacity to make such weapons is being acquired by Indian companies and over the course of the next 2-3 years options will be available.