India on Tuesday signed the much-awaited contract for the purchase of 72,400 new assualt rifles for the armed forces, government sources said.

US firm Sig Sauer will supply these 7.62×51 mm guns which are urgently required to replace the INSAS 5.56×45 mm rifles, the mainstay of Indian infantry troops.

The purchase is being made under the Fast Track Procurement (FTP) route because of the urgency in getting the guns. Though Indian Army alone requires around 8.16 lakh rifles, only restricted numbers can be procured under FTP.

The replacement for INSAS rifles had been pending for many years. INSAS, short form for Indian Small Arms Systems, are produced by the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB). There were many complaints about the INSAS rifles by the troops.

Out of 72,400 assault rifles, Indian Army will get 66,400 while 2000 will be given to the Navy and another 4,000 are meant for the Indian Air Force. All the rifles are expected to be delivered within a year.

The new rifles are said to be compact, robust, modern in technology and simple to maintain in field conditions.