The Army on Thursday initiated the process to procure 4.25 lakh 5.56X45mm close-quarter battle (CQB) carbines and over 47,000 bulletproof jackets (BPJs) for soldiers after the defence ministry in July approved their purchase.
The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) headed by defence minister Rajnath Singh had accorded the Acceptance of Necessity (AoN) to buy the CQB carbines and the BPJs among other military equipment and weapons totalling Rs 28,000 crore to boost atmanirbharta (self-reliance) in defence and the combat capability of the Army troops at the northern and western borders.
AoN is the first step in the long and complex defence procurement process.
In two separate Requests for Information (RFIs) published by the Army, it sought to buy the CQB carbines and the BPJs. While the first would be bought completely from Indian vendors, the latter would be procured through the Indigenously Designed, Developed and Manufactured (IDDM) route and should have 60 per cent indigenous content.
As per the defence ministry, the procurements will be significant as they will provide enhanced protection to the troops deployed along the Line of Control from enemy snipers, and sharpen their fighting edge in close combat operations in counterterrorism scenarios.
The CQB carbines
The new CQB carbines would replace the ageing 9mm British Sterling 1A1 submachine guns currently in use with the Army.
The force said the new weapons should have a range of at least 200 metre and go with the in-service Indian 5.56X45 mm ammunition. Other technical parameters suggested include them having a service life of 15 years or 15,000 rounds, a weight of around 3 kg, and a removable vertical forehand grip.
This is the Army’s third attempt to buy CQB carbines. The force has been looking to purchase them since 2008 and had initiated the process to procure these twice in the past. However, both times the processes had to be scrapped—once due to a lack of adequate vendors and the second time due to complaints about another firm that had emerged as the lowest bidder.
Bulletproof jackets for soldiers
The Defence Acquisition Council had accorded AoN to buy bulletproof jackets with Indian Standard BIS VI level of protection.
The Army has sought information from vendors on buying 47,627 BPJs that would provide protection against 7.62X54R API bullets from 10 m for the front panel and 7.62X39 mm mild steel core and 7.62X51mm from 10 m for the remaining panels.
It said that the weight of the medium-sized BPJs should be around 11 kg, should be comfortable to wear especially during prolonged operations, should not hinder movement, should be water and flame resistant, have the Army camouflage pattern, and should provide 360-degree protection to soldiers.
The Army’s RFI added that they should be able to operate in temperatures ranging from minus 20 degrees Celsius and 45 degrees Celsius and have a service life of at least five years.
Last year, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) had developed a lightweight BPJ weighing just 9 kg.
In August, defence minister Rajnath Singh handed over the indigenously-developed Future Infantry Soldier as a System (F-INSAS), among other equipment and systems, to the Army, which is equipped with three primary subsystems—one of which is the protection system that has a specially designed helmet and a BPJ.
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