|The Author is Former Director General of Information Systems and A Special Forces Veteran, Indian Army|
India has signed a contract with Israel Weapon Industries (IWI) for importing 16,479 Negev light machine guns (LMGs) to meet a long-standing requirement. MoD signed the capital acquisition contract at a cost of 880 crore ($188 million) and issued a statement saying, “The modern, state-of-the-art Negev 7.62 x 51 mm Light Machine Gun (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 front line troops and provide much needed combat power to the armed forces”.
The Negev was originally developed as a 5.56 x 45mm NATO LMG by Israeli Military Industries Ltd (IMI) which was the predecessor of IWI. The IWI introduced the Negev NG7 7.62 x 51mm NATO general purpose machine gun in 2012, which is presently in use by Israeli Defence Forces. NG stands for Next Generation and all infantry units, combat engineers and Special Forces of Israel are using this weapon.The Negev is a gas operated selective fire LMG that uses propellant gasses from the barrel to cycle a short-stroke gas piston operating system under the barrel and a rotary bolt locking mechanism. The bolt features four radial locking lugs that engage the barrel extension and its rotation is controlled by a pin on the bolt body, which rides inside a cam guide machined into the bolt carrier. A lever-type fire control selector switch is provided for fully automatic fire, semi-automatic fire, and safe position, latter disabling the sear mechanism. The weapon can be secured safe regardless of the position of the bolt carrier group. The cocking handle is equipped with a ratcheting mechanism that immobilises the partially cocked bolt carrier.
Negev's adjustable gas regulator has three settings catering for all type of contingencies including when operating in adverse environmental conditions like dust, dirt or heavy fouling. Negev's closed-type sights consist of a front post (adjustable for both windage and elevation) and a rear aperture sight with an elevation adjustment drum, with 300 to 1,000 m range settings in 100 m increments. The sight line radius is 440 millimeters (17.3 in). For night-time operation the weapon is equipped with gaseous tritium-illuminated vials. A rail is integrated into the receiver top cover that allows optical day and night-time sights to be mounted to the weapon. The barrel can also be optionally fitted with mounting hardware that would allow the Negev to mount a laser pointer or reflex sight. The LMG has a metal side-folding stock and a removable bipod installed to the forward end of the hand-guard and folded under the hand-guard when stowed. The receiver also has slots and hooks used to secure the weapon to vehicle mounting hardware. The 5.56x45mm cartridge optimising the SS109 bullet is fed from an M27 disintegrating, open-link ammunition belt, carried in a 150-round fabric container that clips into the magazine well. 200-round ammunition belt containers are also available. Belted ammunition is introduced into the feed tray port from the left side, while the magazine is inserted vertically into the magazine well at the base of the receiver. Variants of the Negev include: regular Negev or newer NG-5 -460mm long barrel and two operation modes (semi-automatic for accurate and fast controlled fire, and fully automatic for maximum firepower); Negev SF or newer Negev SF NG-5 - 330mm long barrel and fitted with a side grip for assault; Negev NG7 – chambered with 7.62x51mm NATO cartridge with 508mm long barrel firing in semi-automatic or fully automatic mode. It is fed by a 100- or 125-round assault drum magazine containing disintegrating M13 NATO standard ammunition belts or NATO standard ammunition belts and has two gas regulator settings.
The IWI eLog weapon-embedded sensor module was added to collect and store data on the actual use of the weapons for more efficient maintenance management and servicing by armourers, and: Negev NG7 SF –a compact variant with barrel length of 420mm and fitted with assault grip. It may be recalled that news reports of March 2018 had intimated some forward movement after delays in acquisition of small number of new assault rifles, LMGs and close quarter battle (CQB) carbines that had been promised to troops deployed on borders with China and Pakistan under the fast-track procedure (FTP). Request for Proposal (RFP) were floated for 72,400 assault rifles, 93,895 CQB carbines and 16,479 LMGs that would cumulatively cost estimated at 5,366 crore. Under the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP), timelines for the FTP catering to urgent operational requirements mandate the RFP to be issued within 10 days of the DAC approving the requirement the actual contract after technical and commercial evaluation is inked within one year. The delivery of the weapons is supposed to thereafter take place in three to 12 month. These RFPs were delayed after DAC approved acquisition of assault rifles and CQB carbines on January 16, 2018, and LMGs on February 13, 2018. In the instant case of signing the Negev LMGs deal, it has actually taken two years from the issue of RFP instead of one stipulated in the DPP, which reinforces the lackadaisical bureaucratic way of dealing and the red tape. It is not known whether there are any plans to produce the Negev LMG under ‘Make in India’ akin to the AK-203 assault rifles since the cumulative requirements of the security sector is huge, but the question remains when India will stop looking abroad at least for small arms weapon requirements? The timeframe for acquisitioned Negev LMGs too may be long now since government announced on April 23 putting all military acquisitions on hold because of downturn in economy hit by COVID-19.