India’s Carbine Quest Takes a Step Ahead

Given the numerous deadlines and delays that have prevented defence services from being upgraded and modernised, India's military capability must be developed within the confines of its financial resources

By Girish Linganna

Defence Industry

The purchase of swarm drones, bulletproof clothing, and close-quarter battle (CQB) carbines were among the military modernisation projects given preliminary approval by the defence ministry in a recent statement. The total value of this buy has come up to Rs 28,732 crore.

The Indian Army (IA) has been asking for four lakh modern CQB carbines through a “Make in India” project since 2005 in order to “combat the current complex paradigm of conventional and hybrid warfare and counterterrorism” at the borders with Pakistan and China. This approval was the main takeaway from the meeting.

The Indian Army has made several efforts to acquire CQB carbines. They had also previously requested information for more than 93,895 of these weapons. This request came five months after the Indian Ministry of Defence (MoD) scrapped a tender for an equivalent amount of weapon systems from Caracal International of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The army has been waiting for the 5.5645 mm carbines for almost three decades, too.

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The absence of a close quarter battle carbine has had a considerable negative impact on the Indian Army’s counter-insurgency operations against militants in the north. These shorter barreled weapons can be used efficiently in tight spaces and close-quarter search-and-destroy situations in places like Kashmir.

Units of the army that are stationed along the disputed LAC in eastern Ladakh complain about a lack of close-combat carbines while the ongoing India-China standoff is being taken into consideration. As a replacement, they were using assault rifles, but it should be noted that, when used in confined spaces, carbines have less ricochet than assault rifles do.

According to a recent statement from the MoD, the Acceptance of Necessity (AoN) has been given to this project, to counter the “current complex paradigm of conventional and hybrid warfare and counter-terrorism at the borders.”

The Indian Army has specified that these CQBs must be able to operate in extreme temperatures ranging from minus 20 degrees Celsius to plus 45 degrees Celsius because they are expected to be used in a variety of environments and climates.

What are CQB Carbines and why are they necessary?

Carbines in layman’s terms are nothing but miniature variants of assault rifles that feature an overall shorter barrel and are comparatively lighter in weight. This makes it easier to handle compared to assault rifles. Carbines stand as an effective trade-off between range and weight of a rifle to an effective mobility for allowing a soldier to offset the weight of additional equipment and the body armour that a soldier has to carry. Specifically, Carbines are best suited for indoor operations during CQBs.

The absence of a close quarter battle carbine has had a considerable negative impact on the Indian Army’s counter-insurgency operations against militants in the north. These shorter barreled weapons can be used efficiently in tight spaces and close-quarter search-and-destroy situations in places like Kashmir

Carbines are a perfect fit to be carried by rear-echelon troops in combat or non-combat roles, frontline troopers, or even by mechanised infantry troopers while engaging with the adversary in urban terrains. Carbines are relatively more powerful than a Submachine gun and a tradeoff to an Assault Rifle is effective in not only indoor operations, but also in a situation where one needs to fire a weapon from the cramped spaces inside a Utility Vehicle or Armoured Personnel Carrier.

The name “Carbine” comes from its first users — cavalry troopers called “carabiniers”, from the French carabine, from Old French carabin (soldier armed with a musket).

General consensus is a modern carbine is a semi-automatic rifle with a barrel under 20 inches long that carries up to 30 rounds in a magazine.

How, When, Who?

Despite the defence minister’s silence, sources in the defence and security establishment told the media that the procurement would take place under the “Buy Indian” category rather than the Indigenously Designed, Developed, and Manufactured (IDDM) route.

Additionally, it has been learned that the carbines’ maximum recommended weight is 3.2 kg. According to sources in the defence industry, the Request for Proposal (RFP), or tender, will specify the precise companies that will submit bids for the project.

The specifics are still being worked out, according to sources, and it’s still unclear whether participating companies will be required to display a weapon made in India during the trial.

Contenders in the Carbine Race

The Ordnance Factory Board (OFB), the Jindal Group, which has a partnership with Brazilian company Taurus, the SSS Defence of Bengaluru, PLR of the Adani Group, the Kalyani Group, which has a tie-up with French firm Thales but is also in talks with the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), and Neco Desert Tech, a joint venture between Indian and American firms, are the main companies in contention.

However, more businesses are likely to sign up if the deal is expanded to include carbines made elsewhere, provided that they agree to establish a manufacturing base in India if they win the contract.

The Ordnance Factory Board (OFB), the Jindal Group, which has a partnership with Brazilian company Taurus, the SSS Defence of Bengaluru, PLR of the Adani Group, the Kalyani Group, which has a tie-up with French firm Thales but is also in talks with the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), and Neco Desert Tech, a joint venture between Indian and American firms, are the main companies in contention

According to sources, PLR is likely to present its Galil Ace while SSS Defence will offer its locally made M 72 Carbine. PLR is already producing a variety of small arms in India thanks to a partnership with Israel Weapon Industries (IWI).

According to sources, the Kalyani Group is probably going to partner with the DRDO on the project, while OFB will present its own product.

State-owned company Caracal of the UAE, which was the lowest bidder for a now-cancelled fast-track procurement (FTP), will also enter the race if it becomes open. Although the company initially discussed a partnership with Reliance Defence, the deal fell through.

DRDO’s Version Of Carbines

Earlier media reports stated that the Joint Venture Protective Carbine (JVPC) project was being worked on by DRDO. The semi-automatic 5.5630 Protective Carbine is a gas-operated weapon with a 700 rpm rate of fire.

As was previously reported, one of the DRDO’s labs, the Armament Research and Development Establishment (ARDE), Pune, created the carbine based on the GSQR used by the Indian Army.

The recent Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) decision is anticipated to boost India’s small arms manufacturing sector and help advance the government’s Atmanirbhar Bharat small arms initiative.

The L1A1 Self-Loading Rifle (SLR) served as the primary weapon of the Indian Army until 1987. However, the LTTE was armed with AK series weapons by the Indian government during the operations in Sri Lanka. Due to the LTTE’s high rate of fire and lack of interruptions in the humid jungles of Sri Lanka’s north-eastern provinces, the infantry units were given captured weapons and ammunition in order to keep up with them. These weapons came from countries in East Europe.

Given the numerous deadlines and delays that have prevented defence services from being upgraded and modernised, India’s military capability must be developed within the confines of its financial resources.

– The writer is an Aerospace and Defence Analyst & Director ADD Engineering Components (India) Pvt Ltd (An Indo- German Company). The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Raksha Anirveda