Tavor-21 Rifle Headed Into Service With Indian Special Forces
In late 2002, India signed a Rs. 880 million (about $20 million) deal with Israel Military Industries for 3,070 TAR-21 Tavor assault rifles, a new bullpup design developed for use by the Israeli Defense Forces. The Israelis had just selected the compact Tavor over the Colt M4/M16 as its next-generation assault rifle, and the compact new weapons would be issued to India’s special forces personnel, where its ergonomics, reliability in heat and sand, and and fast-point/ fast-shoot design might give them an edge in close-quarters shootouts and employment from inside vehicles.
Then problems began, in India and in Israel. By 2005, IMI had supplied 350-400 TRA-21s without grenade launchers to India’s northern Special Frontier Force (SFF). These were declared to be ‘operationally unsatisfactory,’ however, due to problems with their foldable butt; meanwhile, Israeli units like the Galatz were voicing complaints of their own. The required changes appear to have been made, however, and the Tavor now looks set to enter operational service within a couple of months – even as India gears up for a larger competition that could feature a 9mm Tavor version…
India continued dealing with IMI even as it split in two and Israel Weapon Industries (IWI assumed the small arms portfolio; in 2005, the government claimed damages for the delayed deliveries, further deferring their arrival.
India Defence relays a report from Jane’s Defence Weekly, however, noting that the way has been cleared for fulfillment of the contract. Tests in Israel during 2006 went well, clearing the contracted consignment for delivery. The new TAR-21s will have a ‘modified’ single-piece butt and new sights, as well as Turkish-made M203 40mm under-barrel grenade launchers (UBGLs). Singapore Technologies will supply the 5.56mm ammunition.
In the meantime, IWI sold around 130 Galat’z (Galil 7.62 sniper riles) and around 450,000 rounds of ammunition to the SFF and the army for $1.4 million in 2005. They have also partnered with India’s state-owned Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) to build the Tavor Micro/ MTAR (9mm version) for India’s Special Forces and parachute regiments. The OFB-produced MTAR is now undergoing user trials.
All this would appear to be especially timely, as the Indian Army is reportedly about to release a request for proposal (RFP) to at least 5 local and overseas companies for some 80,000 5.56mm light machine carbines to replace the WW2-era Sten guns still in use by some parts of the army. Technology transfer and licensed production are expected to be part of the requirements.
Variants of the Tavor rifle are currently in use by Israel, Georgia, and the Portuguese Policia Judiciaria.
Additional Readings & Sources
- IWI – Tavor
- IWI – Micro TAVOR M.T.A.R 21 5.56 mm / 9 X 19 mm
- Israeli Weapons – Tavor
- Wikipedia – Tavor TAR-21. A quality entry.
- Guns.RU – IMI Tavor TAR-21 assault rifle (Israel)
- Defense Update – Tavor 2 under development at IMI. Part of Israel’s Future Infantry Warrior program.
- India Defence (Feb 22/07) – Army to Receive Israeli TAR-21 Assault Rifles
- Defense Update (June 23/02) – IDF Selects IMI Tavor Assault Rifle
- Anthony G. Williams (Revised Oct 21/06) – Assault Rifles And Their Ammunition: History And Prospects. Makes useful points re: barrel length trade-off issues with 5.56mm bullets.