In a major setback to 'Atmanirbhar Bharat' in defence, the Indian Army has decided to equip its more than 400 infantry battalions with US-made Sig Sauer assault rifles. The military top brass is going ahead with the decision due to multiple delays in the manufacturing of homegrown AK-203 that will be made with the assistance of India's long term defence partner Russia.
Notably, the Army purchased the Sig 716 G2 Patrol assault rifles, chambered for 7.6251 mm ammunition, under the Fast-Tracked Process (FTP) in 2019 for frontline soldiers stationed at borders and engaged in counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency operations. All infantry battalions, on the other hand, are now receiving American rifles.
The rifles will replace Indian Small Arms System (INSAS) 5.56×45 mm rifles that have been in service for more than two decades now. The rifle has been in news for all bad reasons including getting jammed and its plastic magazine showing cracks in low temperatures. These issues have severely affected the operational capability of the armed forces in Kashmir and the North East. Earlier, the plan was to replace INSAS rifles with indigenously manufactured AK-203 rifle but the multiple delays have prompted the defence establishment to opt for Sig 716 G2 Patrol assault.
India's long haul for an assault rifle
Under its modernization programme, the Army wants to replace, its highly controversial INSAS rifles. The Army has been driven to the wall by constant jamming, cracking of its plastic magazine and its lacklustre results. The Army was swift to replace the INSAS rifle with a much lighter and deadlier AK-47 in operational areas such as Jammu and Kashmir.
The Army discarded an indigenous assault rifle named 5.56 mm Excalibur Guns in 2016 because it did not live up to its standards. When the Army rejected the 7.62x51 mm assault rifle produced by Rifle Factory Ishapore after it miserably failed the firing tests, local production faced another setback. Finally, a decision was taken by Indo-Russia Rifles Private Limited (IRRPL) to produce 6.7 lakh assault rifles (AK-203) locally in Amethi.
SiG Sauer Assault rifles: Features
The SIG516 is a semi-automatic multi-calibre rifle that was initially manufactured for civilian use and law enforcement agencies. In the later stages, the assault rifle has been developed into selective-fired modes including single shot, 3 shot burst, full automatic modes. Further, the other variants were also developed including SIG 716 G2 which has also been ordered by India.
One of the major upgrades that the SIG 716 G2 has from its earlier variants is that the latest rifle is loaded with a more powerful 7.62x51mm round in comparison to smaller, 5.56×45mm and 7.62×39mm rounds. Moreover, it is also equipped with a short-stroke pushrod gas system which helps reducing carbon fouling, excessive heat and unburned powder in the action ensures further improved reliability and function.