Army renews hunt for bunker-bursting rifles 8 years after bribery scandal SOURCE: TNN The Army is launching a fresh hunt for anti-material rifles, meant for â€œbunker-burstingâ€ as well as â€œpenetratingâ€ light-armoured vehicles, eight years after its earlier project with South African company Denel got derailed mid-way due to kickback allegations and political mudslinging. The Army is now ready with the technical parameters, or GSQRs (general staff qualitative requirements), for the fresh global tender for the anti-material rifles. The force wants the rifle â€” weighing not over 15 kg to ensure two soldiers can carry it â€” with an effective range of over 1,000-metre to take on enemy bunkers and other field fortifications, â€œsoft-skinnedâ€ armoured vehicles and low-flying helicopters, say sources. The new anti-material rifle project will be a major one, with the first lot being imported directly and the rest indigenously manufactured after transfer of technology (ToT). The Army, apart from its other arms, wants each of its 355 infantry battalions to have at least four such specialized rifles that can fire special calibre high-explosive incendiary/armour-piercing ammunition. The long-delayed quest for these rifles is just one of the several military modernization projects that have gone for a toss due to corruption scams and consequent blacklisting of armament majors. â€œThe guilty should be hungâ€¦the entire procurement system needs to be overhauled to ensure national security requirements are not hit time and again,â€ said a senior officer. For instance, Armyâ€™s failure to induct even a single advanced 155mm artillery gun since the Bofors scandal of the mid-1980s. â€œBlacklisting has proven counter-productive. Most major artillery manufacturers, like Denel, Rheinmetall, Singapore Technologies and Soltam, are blacklisted by Indiaâ€¦Itâ€™s only now the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) and private players like the Tatas are developing 155mm howitzers,â€ said a MoD official. The anti-material riflesâ€™ story is similar. The UPA-I government in April 2005 had put on hold all dealings with Denel after it came to light that 12.75% commission was allegedly paid to a firm, Varas Associates, to swing the five contracts signed between July 1999 and March 2005. The contracts were for 700 anti-material rifles and 398,000 rounds of ammunition, followed by ToT to OFB along with â€œknocked down kitsâ€ for another 300 rifles. The Army had inducted just around 300 rifles when the CBI registered the case in June 2005. At that time, the Congress was using the case â€” along with the emergency purchases for the 1999 Kargil conflict and the Tehelka tapes â€” to go after George Fernandes, who was the defence minister in the NDA regime when the initial rifle contracts were inked. The CBI, however, is yet to make any major headway in the case. Now, Army wants to induct light-weight anti-material rifles that are â€œman-portableâ€ with a two-jawan crew. â€œThe Denel rifles, while they have performed well, are quite heavy at 28-29 kg apiece. There are also major problems in importing its specialized bullets and ammunition,â€ said an officer.