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Indian Army on mysterious shopping spree
Former Generals suspect commission-based deals | Two Major Generals heading separete purchase teams | Jane’s Defense Weekly smells rat in surprise shopping

From Christina Palmer

NEW DELHI - The Indian Army’s Special Forces are on a weapons importing spree with specialist teams of officers travelling abroad to evaluate competing systems for sniper rifles and carbines ahead of placing orders under the defence ministry’s fast-track procedure The Daily Mail learnt through highly credible sources.

It is learnt that led by a two-star infantry officer, a six-member military delegation is currently visiting Brugger & Thomet AG at Thun in Switzerland, Heckler & Koch in Oberndorf, Germany, and Israel Weapon Industries in Tel Aviv to assess their MP9, MP5 and Uzi carbines respectively. India plans on importing 5,800 pieces for its Special Forces. Estimated at around euro 7 million, this procurement is expected to augment the firepower of the seven existing Special Forces units as well as equip two additional SF battalions the Army plans to raise.

Some senior officers have, however, privately questioned the “operational prudence” of acquiring any of the three rival 9mm carbines which have been in service for over three decades and are sparsely, if at all, employed militarily by the manufacturing nations.“The Army’s qualitative requirements (QRs) for carbines seem to have been drawn up on subjective assessments with little knowledge of existing weapon systems which are far superior in lethality, range and firepower a fact that proves that it is all about kick backs,” a retired three-star Special Forces officer said, declining to be identified. The officer lamented that a wider perspective and awareness, essential whilst framing QRs for weapons which will remain in service for a decade or more, appears to have been missing. “Adhocism is simply not good enough when the Army is spoilt for choice,” he said. Meanwhile, the Army’s plan to also import approximately 1,000 sniper rifles under the FTP to augment the SF’s insurgency fighting capability and deployment on clandestine missions, seem plagued by delays.

Sources revealed further to The Daily Mail that the team from Army Headquarters here at New Delhi, led by another Major-General, that was slated to visit Finland, Israel and the US to appraise three rival weapons for outright purchase (estimated between $10 and $12 million), postponed its trip three times since September and is now expected to travel abroad some time in late November.

Bound to overshoot its December procurement deadline despite the fact that the sniper rifles were to be bought under the FTP route, the team is to evaluate the Finnish bolt-action SAKO TRG-22/24, Israel’s semi-automatic Galil 7.62x54mm sniper model and the SSG 3000 bolt-action, magazine-fed rifle manufactured by the US’ Sig Sauer.

According to the UK’s Jane’s Defence Weekly, Indian Army officers have expressed surprise over the QRs drawn up for the sniper rifle as these do not mandate an accuracy standard at a minimum strike range of 800 meters, which is essential for such a precision weapon. Instead the QRs stipulate that the weapon must be fitted with a bayonet. “If it comes down to a sniper using a bayonet then all is lost,” a senior officer said. “The idea that such a scenario is being considered has become something of a joke,” he added.

JDW further reports that the August 2009 sniper rifles tender also does not differentiate between a bolt action or semi-automatic sniper model. Instead, it demands an undefined capability requiring the rifle to fire either one or five rounds, a facility open to interpretation by vendors producing either of the two models to suit their commercial interests.

Senior SF officers concede the “absurdity” of the QR’, but point out that any change at this stage would only further delay the sniper rifle purchase since as all tender modification require the defence minister‘s intervention.
The Daily Mail’s investigations indicate that in a related procurement the Indian Army recently completed field trials of two competing single barrel, pump-action 12-gauge shotguns of which the SF are acquiring around 800 for around US$ 4.4 million. Two subsidiaries of Italy’s Baretta-Beneli and Stoeger in Turkey are competing in the shootout and official sources reported the deal is likely to be inked before the end of the current financial year.

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