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

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Indian Army Begins Process to Replace Excalibur Assault Rifle

Better than nothing

(Photo : Ordnance Factory Board ) Excalibur assault rifle.

The Indian Army intends to acquire 200,000 "close-quarter battle" (CQB) carbines with a caliber of 5.56 mm to replace the interim "Excalibur" assault rifle currently in service.

The army has issued a global request for information for this new rifle and expects to issue the formal tender within the next six months. It's set aside some $400 million to acquire these new assault rifles under the Buy & Make India category.

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The total order might be increased to 500,000 rifles with the addition of rifles for the five Central Armed Police Forces.

The formal tender will also seek a transfer of technology so the carbines can be license produced in India under a partnership with domestic defense companies.

Indian media said some of the leading arms makers in the world are expected to vie for this massive contract. Included in this number are Heckler & Koch of Germany; Beretta of Italy; FN FAL of Belgium; Colt's Manufacturing Company of the United States and Sig Sauer of Switzerland.

Previous efforts to acquire CQB carbines since 2008 have failed. Carbines developed by the state-owned Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) and the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) have proven unsuitable, according to army standards.

In the meantime, the lighter and more lethal Excalibur (whose official designation is INSAS Excalibur Mark-I) will have to do. This weapon being chambered for a 5.56 x 45 mm NATO round.

Excalibur was derived from INSAS and should have replaced the latter as the army's standard assault rifle in 2016. 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.

On Sept. 27, 2016, the Indian Ministry of Defense (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.

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