Hunt on for new generation assault rifles; Excalibur not a replacement
When it comes to the Army, a modern, reliable assault rifle is the very basic - the primary weapon of an infantry soldier posted either on the border or deployed for counter militancy missions in the hinterland.
However, despite a four year process to select a new generation rifle to replace the glitch prone Indian made INSAS, the Army is still not close to a viable option, with a new desi weapon being pushed by DRDO getting mixed reviews during ongoing user trials.
With the INSAS rifle - developed by DRDO and introduced in service in 1996 - not adequately meeting its requirements, the Army started the search for a new basic weapon in 2011. The contract was cancelled earlier this year - contenders failed to meet the stringent requirements - and a new variant of the INSAS, called the Excalibur, was fielded by DRDO.
The new rifle is being tested presently by the Army at two locations, with trials now at the final stage and results expected by February. However, several officials that ET spoke with say that the results till now have been mixed, with one team finding the rifle inadequate and the other seeing it as an improvement over the INSAS.
While the final results will take a few more weeks to come in, Army officials say that while the Excalibur would be an improvement over the INSAS, it would at best be a replacement rifle. "The Excalibur is an upgraded version of the INSAS, it is not a new rifle but the older weapon has been given additional features," a senior Army officer said.
But on the Army's parameters for a futuristic assault rifle, the Excalibur fails to make the cut. "It is at best a replacement for the INSAS rifles in service but for a future weapon, the rifle simply does not have the technical qualities," another officer told ET.
The Army is in urgent need to get a replacement for the INSAS but is also keen to get a world class product. Army officials have told ET that the ideal process would involve a fair competition in which the Excalibur also takes part to determine the best weapon systems suited for the Indian combat environment.
Article first published in Economic Times