The Indian Army is in the process of spending major dough, to the tune of USD $503 million, on a new service rifle for its frontline infantry troops.

And a pair of AR-style carbines have emerged as the top choices for the highly lucrative contract.

In a bid to partially replace the problematic and incredibly controversial 1B1 INSAS, the Indian Army's current standard-issue assault rifle, the Indian Ministry of Defence will soon enter a three-month negotiation period with US-based arms giant SIG Sauer Inc. to procure over 72,000 SIG 716 battle rifles.

Marking a shift from 5.56 NATO with the 1B1 to the larger-caliber 7.62 NATO with the 716, the Indian Army hopes to give its troops a more reliable weapon which it currently sorely lacks. Complaints of untimely stoppages and mechanism failures have marred what the Indian MoD had originally hoped would be a long and storied career for its (at-the-time) next-generation gun.

SIG's 716 uses a short stroke piston-driven operating system with a heavier pushrod than its smaller brother, the 516 (chambered for 5.56 NATO), and a 16 inch hammer-forged free floating barrel. An ambidextrous mag release, tons of rail space for electronics and optics, plus a telescoping Magpul stock round out the features on the rifle.

The Sig Sauer 716. (Photo from Sig Sauer)
The Sig Sauer 716. (Photo from Sig Sauer)

The second part of the multi-million dollar contract will ultimately go towards Caracal International LLC, a UAE-based defense contractor offering their CAR816, a carbine analogous to the M4, firing the 5.56 NATO round. Similar to the SIG 516 and the 716, the CAR816 uses a short-stroke pushrod gas piston design, and comes with a 16 inch barrel.

The CAR816 will be used as a close quarters battle (CQB) weapon, replacing the substantially smaller caliber 9 mm Sterling... a side-loaded submachine gun which traces its origins back to the 1940s.

(The Caracal CAR816. Photo from Caracal)
(The Caracal CAR816. Photo from Caracal)

Both the 716 and the CAR816 are manufactured in the United States.

Indian soldiers will also be armed, in the not-so-distant future, with newer homegrown indigenously-manufactured gun, and a license-built derivative of the Russian AK-103 assault rifle.