On 28 September 2020, India’s Defence Acquisitions Council (DAC) led by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh cleared the purchase of 72,000 SIG-716 Assault Rifles from US firm SIG Sauer at the cost of Rs 780 crore. These 72,000 SIG-716 Assault Rifles will be in addition to already delivered 72,000 rifles, taking the total numbers of SIG-716 Assault Rifles ordered by the Indian Army to 1.5 Lakh (1,44,000 to be precise).
The SIG-716 is the first new assault rifle inducted by the Indian Army since the 1990s which is now extremely popular with troops in counter-insurgency operations in Kashmir. The reports coming from Ladakh also suggest that soon Indian Army soldiers deployed in Ladakh will be getting new SIG-716 Assault Rifles. Thus, Team Guarding India unearths why SIG-716 is so important and what will be its impact on the battlefield.
SIG-716 Assault Rifles are manufactured by US firearm company “SIG Sauer” which manufactures some of the best rifles on the planet. The SIG-716 is their latest product which is a new standard-issue assault rifle for Indian Army troops operating in terrorism hit Kashmir region and those deployed on LoC where it replaced Russian AK-47 and AK -56 series rifles. So why did the Indian Army choose an American rifle over sturdy, reliable, and near-indestructible AK-47s?
The answer lies in problems faced by Indian Army troops in Kashmir who had only two options either to use problematic OFB manufactured 5.56 mm INSAS Rifle or use AK-47s. Presently, Pakistan-sponsored terrorists in Kashmir are using AK-47s with a 300 meters range that is the same as Indian Army AK-47s. Using weapons of the same range exposes troops to danger as they must get closer to terrorists for eliminating them which often results in unnecessary causalities. On the other hand, INSAS is an accurate rifle with a greater range (400 meters) but it remains an unreliable weapon.
INSAS uses 5.56 mm bullets which are designed to injure enemy soldiers, the desired quality in conventional battles as it requires four soldiers to evacuate one wounded soldier. However, 5.56 mm caliber of INSAS has proved useless against terrorists who are willing to die fighting and often continue fighting despite receiving multiple hits from 5.56 mm bullets. It was a similar experience of the US Army in Afghanistan against the Taliban (another Pakistani proxy) which resulted in the development of the Sig 716 Assault Rifle.
SIG-716 Assault Rifle has been designed to fire 7.62 x 51mm rounds that can kill any terrorist 600 meters away, which is just double the range of AK-47s carried by terrorists. The SIG-716 has a similar layout as M4A1 assault rifles used by Indian Para Commandos and has a similar internal layout as the Vietnam War fame AR-15 rifles.
SIG-716 has a short-stroke piston-driven operating system which gives a lesser shock to firer, resulting in vastly improved accuracy. SIG-716 also comes equipped with M1913 military standard rails for mounting accessories like night vision devices, torches, or any other attachment-based on mission requirements.
The first batch of 72,000 SIG-716 was delivered to the Indian Army in 2019 and the entire order was fulfilled by the middle of 2020. The SIG-716 assault rifle has been an instant hit with Indian Army soldiers who praised its sturdiness and reliability. The repeat order of an additional 72,000 SIG-716 assault rifle is a testament to how much please Indian Army troops are with this new rifle. The SIG-716 has not only increased the effectiveness of Indian Infantry soldiers by enabling them to shoot farther but also has reduced chances of causalities.
Coming on to the situation in Ladakh, where Indian Army troops are forced to use unreliable OFB manufactured 5.56 mm INSAS Rifle which has a range of 400 meters while Chinese soldiers are brandishing next-generation QBZ-95 bullpup assault rifle which has a range of 600 meters.
This situation places Indian Troops at a disadvantage as Chinese troops have a range advantage of full 200 meters before Indian troops can open fire. However, the induction of the SIG-716 assault rifle in Ladakh will change the dynamic and will establish parity between rifle ranges of Indian and Chinese Soldiers. Team Guarding India hopes that within six months SIG-716 assault rifles will be delivered to Indian Army troops in Ladakh.
Just for our followers, the SIG-716 assault rifle is part of the Indian Infantry modernization plan that was stalled for a long but is now moving at a rapid pace. In the future, a slew of rifles and machine guns are to be introduced in the Indian Army which includes UAE made CAR816 carbines, Russian AK-203s, and Israeli Negev Light Machine Guns which will increase the effectiveness of Indian Infantry soldiers.
However, a gloomy fact about this story is India remains the only nation on Earth that produces ballistic missile-like Agni V missiles that are capable of carrying nuclear weapons to 5000 kilometers but has repeatedly failed to manufacture basic infantry weapons like assault rifles and carbines.
Team Guarding India hopes that someday in the future DRDO or any other Indian private company will produce rifles that will meet the standards of the Indian Army and which our Jawans can love and trust with their lives during intense battles.