Over the past couple of years, India’s military has embarked on its most serious attempt to modernise its small arms to date. One of the key early successes in this effort was the selection and procurement of over 72,000 SIG Sauer 716i 7.62x51mm rifles in February 2019.
Following reports in several Indian media outlets, SIG Sauer have now confirmed to TFB that a second batch of 716i rifles has been ordered by the Indian Army. The initial 2019 order was for 72,400 rifles, an order worth a reported $72 million, the fresh order is reportedly for a similar number of rifles. SIG Sauer has confirmed that delivery of the first order has been completed and according to Indian media sources, the SIG Sauer rifles are destined for troops with the Indian Army’s Northern Command, which coordinates Indian Army operations in the border regions with Pakistan and China.
An Indian defense source has reportedly told Asian News International that “we are going to place an order for 72,000 more of these rifles under the financial powers granted to the armed forces.” This indicates that as tensions between India and China continue, the Indian Army has moved to streamline the procurement of much needed small arms like the SIG Sauer 716i outside of the Indian government’s ‘Made In India’ initiative which is guiding the negotiation and procurement of India’s AK-203, set to be built by a joint concern – Indo-Russia Rifles in Amethi, India.
The first batch of SIG Sauer rifles purchased by India was acquired under a ‘fast-track procurement’ (FTP) program. The latest order will also be made under a similar FTP. SIG Sauer could not yet comment on the exact configuration of the Indian 716i but noted that while they are very similar to the commercial 716i Tread they are capable of fully automatic fire and have an additional 6 o’clock Picatinny rail on the handguard to meet Indian requirements. An MLOK bayonet mount is also rumoured to have been procured for the rifles, although not seen in any of the images released by the Indian Army.
SIG Sauer confirmed that the Indian Army has procured the 7.62x51mm direct impingement 716i Tread, not the short-stroke piston-driven SIG716 G2. They also noted that the Indian Army carried out extensive trials of the 716i and its competitors with testing continuing after selection.
The news of SIG Sauer’s second contract award comes as we reported last week that the Indian Army was moving to purchase a large package of various weapons, equipment and ammunition (said to include FN SCARs, M2 Brownings and NVGs) for India’s elite Para (Special Forces) unit. The procurement of this package is also said to be organised under a ‘fast-track procurement’ (FTP) program.