Updated 8:44 AM EDT, Wed, Aug 18, 2021

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Indian Army Adopts ‘Excalibur’ as Interim Assault Rifle Replacing INSAS

Better than nothing

(Photo : Ordnance Factory Board ) Excalibur assault rifle.

The Indian Army will issue the less than satisfactory "Excalibur" assault rifle to its jawans as an "interim weapon" while it begins the tedious process of again trying to replace the unpopular INSAS assault rifle.

The process to shortlist a new 7.62 x 51 mm rifle could take a few years, said army sources, or might lead to a cancellation of the tender. In the meantime, the lighter and more lethal Excalibur (whose official designation is INSAS Excalibur Mark-I) will have to do despite this weapon being chambered for a 5.56 x 45 mm NATO round.

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Excalibur was derived from INSAS and should have replaced the latter as the army's standard assault rifle this year. But the army leadership changed its mind when it agreed a weapon firing the deadlier 7.62 mm round was a better fit for the army than another weapon firing a light 5.56 mm bullet.

Media reports said the army has asked the state-run Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) to supply a "large number" of prototype Excalibur rifles for simultaneous tests at locations around the country to speed-up Excalibur's induction as a provisional weapon.

"Keeping procurement delays in mind, the army has opted to provisionally employ Excalibur for its infantry and specialized counter-insurgency units, which desperately need an assault rifle," said Lt. Gen. Vijay Kapoor (Ret).

On Sept. 27, the Indian Ministry of Defence (MoD ) re-issued a request for information (RFI) for a 7.62 x 51 mm assault rifle that can shoot-to-kill "to replace problematic INSAS."

The RFI is the latest attempt after a slew of failed attempts over the last decade to acquire a new standard rifle. MoD now wants the new rifle to be lightweight; have a minimum effective range of 500 meters and have accuracy better than 3 minutes of arc (MoA) up to 500 meters.

The new rifle should also be capable of firing the in-service under barrel grenade launcher (UBGL). It should have an integrated open sight and a multi-option telescopic sight. It also has to be compatible with all modern sights and accessories and have a provision for mounting these accessories.

The Army wants 185,000 of the new rifles with 60,000 to be delivered within 28 months from contract signing.

This new RFI follows the Indian Army's rejection of the Excalibur rifle from the Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) and Ordnance Factory Board.

The reason: the Army has now decided it wants a new weapon firing rounds that kill (7.62 x 51 mm) instead of rounds that wound (5.56 × 45 mm NATO). The latter round arms INSAS.

Last April, an Army commanders' conference decided to go for the 7.62 x 51 mm rifle "with a higher kill probability and accuracy at an enhanced effective range of 500 meters."

The recently rejected Excalibur is a better weapon than INSAS (for Indian Small Arms System) but fell by the wayside because it was chambered for a 5.56 mm round.

INSAS has never gained popularity among jawans fearful of its unreliability. Soldiers also aren't happy INSAS can only fire either single shots or three round bursts.

Excalibur is an upgraded version of INSAS. It's lighter and shorter than INSAS and has an effective range of 400 meters, the same as INSAS. Unlike INSAS, Excalibur can fire fully automatic.

Excalibur can also be fitted with an MIL-STD-1913 Picatinny rail system to mount a wide range of combat sights and sensors. It also has a foldable buttstock but looks every bit as ugly as INSAS.

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