The Indian Army is currently set to purchase a batch of 7.62 x 51 mm FN Scar rifles, made by a US sector of Belgium’s FN Herstal. These purchases are to be driven through the army’s own funding and are expected to cost around 200 to 300 crores. This purchase is aimed at equipping the Indian Army’s elite Para Special Forces with better firepower in order to allow them to better adapt to terrains in Northeast and Myanmar, where they are prone to seeing a fair amount of combat.  Along with this, the Indian Army is also planning to purchase their wishlist of equipment from their respective producers. These include:

  • 715 Mk 48 Light Machine Guns (LMGs)
  • 1,050 FN Scar (H) 7.62×51 assault rifles
  • 1,400 FN Scar (L) or HK-416 assault rifles
  • 110 .50 Cal Browning heavy machine guns (HMG),
  • 400 helmet-mounted night vision systems
  • 600 combat freefall parachutes
  • 100 Barrett M107A1 heavy sniping rifles
  • 20 million rounds of small arms ammunition

Specifications of the SCAR-H

  • Producer: Fabrique Nationale Herstal
  • Production: U.S./Belgium
  • Mass: 3.63 kg
  • Length: 969mm stock extended, 721mm stock folded
  • Barrel Length: 16 in
  • Cartridge: 7.62 x 51m NATO/ .308 Winchester
  • Action: Gas-operated short-stroke piston, rotating bolt
  • Rate of fire: 550-650 rpm
  • Effective firing range: 600m

Specifications of the SCAR-L

  • Producer: Fabrique Nationale Herstal
  • Production: U.S./Belgium
  • Mass: 3.5 kg
  • Length: 903mm stock extended, 655mm stock folded
  • Barrel Length: 14in
  • Cartridge: 5.56 x 45mm NATO / .223 Remington
  • Action: Gas-operated short-stroke piston, rotating bolt
  • Rate of fire: 550-650 rpm
  • Effective firing range: 500m

Specifications of the HK416

  • Producer: Heckler & Koch
  • Production: Germany
  • Mass: 3.49 kg
  • Length: 797mm stock collapsed, 893 mm stock extended
  • Barrel Length: 14.5in
  • Cartridge: 5.56 x 45mm NATO
  • Action: Gas-operated short-stroke piston, rotating bolt
  • Rate of fire: 850 rpm
  • Effective firing range: 500m

In an earlier article: Great Indian Gun Hunt – Alpha Defense  published by Alpha Defense, there was a discussion about the new rifles that Indian Army is planning to procure. These were primarily meant for the Indian Army’s Infantry units and the units that are on constant deployment cycles to Kashmir, Ladakh and other areas of conflict. These rifles include:

  1. SIG 716 Tread-I, of which 144,000 units have been ordered and are already under induction
  2. Caracal CAR816 of which 360,000 rifles are planned to be inducted upon their complete production in India
  3. AK203 of which 650,000 units are enroute to being procured and built in Amthi by the OFB.

Out of these, it goes without saying that the SIG716 and the Caracal 816 resemble the SCAR-H and SCAR-L rifles in terms of their functionality and some parts of their design.

SIG716 Tread I

The SIG 716 Tread I uses a 7.62 x 51mm round that the Indian Army has plans of reintroducing into the Indian Army. This round was first used during the time of the Ishapore SLR 1A1. It uses an AR-10 platform that can also be chambered in .308 Winchester rounds. This rifle is a critical factor for the frontline units because it has proven to have an extremely reliable direct impingement system.

Specifications of the SIG716 Tread I

  • Producer: SIG Sauer
  • Production: Germany
  • Mass: 3.7 kg
  • Length: 940mm
  • Barrel Length: 16in
  • Cartridge: 7.62 x 51m NATO/ .308 Winchester
  • Action: Direct impingement system – reliability is in question
  • Rate of fire: [TBC]
  • Effective firing range: 600m

In comparison with the SCAR-H rifles, it is evident that there is a reasonable difference between the rifles. For starters, the SIG716i is slightly heavier (0.1kg) than the SCAR-H. However, it makes up for this by having a shorter overall length, which allows for better mobility, which is essential in special forces units. It also has a free-floating M-LOK handguard that provides for much smoother handling as compared to the SCAR’s picatinny rail system. One of the main differences between the 2 rifles is the action. The SCAR-H uses a gas piston system while the SIG716i uses a direct impingement system. This means that the SCAR runs cleaner than the SIG as there is less dirty gas going through the rifle. This is where the SCAR rifle has an edge over the SIG, since it requires less maintenance to operate. The problem of having a gas buildup would not have much of an effect on the PARA SF units because they are units that have a high optempo and their operations usually last less than a day, providing them with time to clean the rifle should the need arise. These strike-fast, strike-hard units would be better off with a rifle that has a higher emphasis on accuracy, which the SIG716i offers with its direct impingement system. Another key factor of discussion is the fact that the SIG716i rifles have already started induction into the Indian Army. This means that by issuing PARA SF units with the same rifle for their DMR purposes, there can be better interoperability between the SF units and conventional army. During operations where PARAs work alongside other army units such as Rashtriya Rifles, especially in regions like Kashmir, it allows them to make use of the conventional units’ supply chains for their purposes should the need arise. The one key factor that the SCAR rifles have that gives them an edge over the SIG rifles is the reciprocating charging handle. The SIG716 follows the AR-10 platform and this means its charging handle is at the back of the rifle, near to where the firer’s face will be. In comparison, the SCAR rifles happen to have an easier time when there is a malfunction as it can be clearly seen and removed easily without having to open the ejection port like in the SIG rifles. On the other end, the SCAR-H has a considerable amount of reliability issues on its side, which are discussed below.

CAR816

CAR816 is another rifle that the Indian Army is introducing into their arsenal. This carbine rifle designed by Caracal is to be distributed to units that see constant combat, usually in urban environments. It is also planned that this rifle will replace the 9mm Sterling rifles issued to Officers. It uses a 5.56 x 45mm NATO round and is based on the AR-15 platform, heavily resembling the HK416 and the M4 Carbines currently being used by the PARA SF.

Specifications of the CAR816

  • Producer: Caracal International
  • Production: Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
  • Mass: 3.3 kg
  • Length: 887mm extended, 802mm collapsed
  • Barrel Length: 14.5in
  • Cartridge: 5.56 x 45mm NATO
  • Action: Gas operated, piston
  • Rate of fire: 750
  • Effective firing range: 500m

In comparison with the SCAR-L rifles, it is evident that there are some key differences with the CAR816. Again, the issue of weight arises here as we can see that the CAR816 weighs 0.2kg lighter than the SCAR-L, which weighs about the same as a HK416. At the extended length, the CAR816 comes in much shorter than the SCAR-L despite having a 14.5 inch barrel length. This evidently makes the CAR816 a much more maneuverable rifle in terms of both weight and length. Even compared to the HK416, the CAR816 comes in shorter and lighter when fully extended. When collapsed however, it does seem to be longer but in high risk operations taken on by Special Forces units, stability of the rifle is key and it goes to say that most if not all operators will choose to use the rifle at least slightly extended. The CAR816 triumphs over the SCAR-L in terms of rate of fire but loses to the HK416. Although a minor factor, it could come in handy when there is a need for full automatic fire. All 3 rifles; HK416, SCAR-L and CAR816 share the same effective firing range and are generally all rounder rifles. However, it is noteworthy that the SCAR-L has inherent issues as discussed below, which makes it not the perfect rifle for operators to use in combat operations. The HK416 is a much better rifle that is loved by many special operators around the world but overall, the CAR816 is a newer, more modernised rifle that shares its abilities with the HK416 but defeats it in terms of mobility which the PARA SF operators would need in their day to day operations.

The inspiration for acquiring the SCAR rifles seems to have come from seeing many top tier Special Forces units worldwide using the SCAR rifles as one of their primary small arms. On the contrary however, not all of them tend to like the rifle. This especially goes for the US Navy SEALs, who are renowned for being one of the most efficient special operations units in the world and having experience in a wide range of terrains. Generally, across the Naval Special Warfare community, they happen to share a distaste towards the SCAR rifles, both SCAR – H and SCAR-L. Their bad experience with the SCAR rifles could be the reason why the U.S. Special Operations Command decided to completely remove the SCAR-L rifle from their inventory by 2013.  In a video published by Vigilance Elite, the SCAR-H or MK17 as it is called, was put through some rounds of shooting. During this, they had 3 malfunctions; (2 failure to feed and 1 double feed). All of this took place in a set of only 40 rounds. This goes to show the unreliability of the weapon and this proves to be a major problem for SF units, who especially need reliable rifles as they take on extreme high-risk operations behind enemy lines. SF units have the need to put many rounds through their rifles during operations and training. Having a malfunction rate of 3 rounds in 2 magazines is a substantial amount and may affect their operational capability. In order to make up for this problem, the SCAR rifles have a reciprocating charging handle, which can easily show when there is a malfunction without looking at the ejection port like in an AR model rifle. It also allows for more force to be used to chamber or extract stubborn or ruptured cartridges. This allows it to sort of make up for the issue of the high rate of malfunctions, although that is an issue that should not even arise with modern rifles. The SCAR-H and SCAR-L rifles do match up to their comparable counterparts in some ways and can even prove to be better at a few aspects. However, they are new rifles that would have to be freshly inducted into the army and tested with the soldiers. As for their counterparts, the SIG716i and the CAR816, they are both already under induction and have concrete plans of being introduced into the conventional army. Thus, by issuing the special forces units these weapons, they would have a much better commonality and synchronization with the conventional army, which is key when operating simultaneously in conflict regions. As of recent, PARA SF units operating in conjunction with other army units such as Rashtriya Rifles, has become a common operating procedure. Taking this into account, issuing them with the rifles already in the army would be a much more effective option than opting for new model rifles.

The cost of the new SCAR-H rifles would amount to around 200 to 300 crores. Inclusive of all the equipment in the PARA SF’s wishlist, this number would reach nearly 800 crores. By choosing to issue previously ordered rifles to the PARA SF, the Indian Army could save a fortune on the purchase costs, let alone the training required for the operators to get used to the new rifles. The maintenance cost could also skyrocket if the rifles keep up their bad reputation of being unreliable. The cost that the Indian Army spends on the SCAR rifles could be used to equip the PARA Special Forces units with much needed equipment to enhance their warfighting capabilities. Examples of such equipment would include:

  • High cut helmets – lighter, better mobility
  • Specialized communication sets – lighter, more secure communications
  • Advanced NVDs/Thermal Vision – enhance nighttime operations, which are a norm for SF units
  • Bulletproof jackets/plate carriers – enhanced protection with better mobility
  • Rifle optics/ accessories – instead of issuing new rifles, spending money on rifle optics and accessories would allow SF units to modify and customize their rifles to their preference and the operations they are faced with, allowing them to undertake these operations more efficiently.

Conclusion

Overall, despite being better in some aspects, the SCAR rifles still tend to lose to their currently-in-operation counterparts (CAR816 and SIG716i). The rifles that have already been inducted into the conventional army are already being tried and tested by soldiers and as of recent, there have been no inherent issues at all. Taking into account the customizability of the SIG716i and CAR816 rifles, they would be able to do the job just as well, if not better than the SCAR-L and SCAR-H rifles. Therefore, it would be in the Army’s keen interest to spend money on accessories and tools that would allow the Parachute Regiment’s Special Forces operators to tap onto the customizability of the rifles and tweak them to effectively serve their purpose in operations while at the same time maintaining a level of commonality and synchronization with the rest of the army to allow for smoother maintenance and interoperability within units. 

Sunith Sunil Mani

God gave his archangels weapons because even he knows you can’t fight evil with tolerance and understanding.

By Alpha Defense

Alpha Defense initially a solo venture but now a defense group by people from various demographics of India covering defense news and updates. We believe in unbiased analysis of every subject in hand. Our mission is to provide simplfiied defense information to the public.

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