In the latest in a slew of infantry firearms purchases for the Indian Army, the Indian MoD today signed a $118 million deal with Israel Weapon Industries (IWI) for 16,479 NEGEV NG7 7.62mm light machineguns (LMG). The order is a little less than half of a total requirement for 40,000 LMGs. Today’s order is the single largest order for LMGs, and adds to smaller numbers of Negev 7.62x45mm LMGs already in service. The NG7 was introduced in 2012.
While it isn’t clear just yet, some of the Negevs could potentially be manufactured in Madhya Pradesh, India by a joint venture of the Adani Group and Israel’s IWI, though the MoD contract awarded today is to IWI alone.
In a statement today, the Indian MoD said, “The Indian Armed Forces’ long-standing requirement of a modern state-of-the-art Light Machine Gun (LMG) has finally fructified. The Acquisition Wing of Ministry of Defence has signed the capital acquisition contract with Israel Weapons Industries for procurement of 16,479 LMGs at a cost of Rs 880 crore with the approval of Raksha Mantri Shri Rajnath Singh. “
Today’s LMG contract comes a year after the Indian government contracted for over 72,000 SIG716 assault rifles (first pictures from deliveries here) from U.S. firm Sig Sauer Inc., and ahead of an expected contract for over 90,000 CAR816 battle carbines from UAE firm Caracal, and 650,000 AK-203 assault rifles from an Indo-Russian Make in India joint venture. The two latter contracts are expected to be signed this year. The LMG deal today is part of a concerted drive since 2016 to end piecemeal procurements of firearms, and give infantry units the basic weaponry they need. The LMG requirement has meandered for years. Deliveries of the new Negevs are expected from the end of this year.
Indian private firm Punj Lloyd, which forged a joint venture with IWI a few years ago, had intended to manufacture firearms like the X95, Ace, TAR-21 assault rifle and Negev LMG in country, though that never took off. In January this year, India’s Adani Group bought out Punj Lloyd’s 51% stake from a third party. While IWI will produce all or most of the weapons, the facility in Malanpur near Gwalior could potentially produce some of the LMGs for the Indian Army, with deliveries likely by late this year or early next.
The MoD’s statement said, “The contracted Negev 7.62X51 mm LMG is a combat proven weapon and currently used by several countries around the globe. This LMG will greatly enhance the lethality and range of a soldier vis-a-vis the presently used weapon. The provisioning of this operationally urgent and very critically needed weapon will boost the confidence of the frontline troops and provide much needed combat power to the Armed Forces.“
IWI describes the Negev NG7 selected by India as the only LMG with a semi-automatic mode. In a 2015 interview to IsraelDefence, an engineer involved in the NG7’s development says, “The need arose from the field, from the scenarios of Afghanistan, where US troops were involved in fighting at ranges of hundreds of meters opposite enemy forces hiding behind rocks and boulders in mountainous terrain, and equally importantly – from the needs of the IDF and the scenarios in which Israeli troopers were involved over the last decades.”
“The need arose from the field,” recounts Shay of IWI, the weapon engineer who was responsible for the development of the new machine gun, “from the scenarios of Afghanistan, where US troops were involved in fighting at ranges of hundreds of meters opposite enemy forces hiding behind rocks and boulders in mountainous terrain, and equally importantly – from the needs of the IDF and the scenarios in which Israeli troopers were involved over the last decades.”