US delivers 500 M16A2 rifles to RNA

Rekha Shrestha

Kathmandu, April 20:

After days of waiting, the United States has finally delivered a fresh consignment of M16A2 rifles to the Royal Nepalese Army (RNA). The special cargo plane carrying the sophisticated weapons landed at the Tribhuvan International Airport on Sunday. Confirming the arrival of American C-130 Hercules aircraft, the airport source said, "Forty mini-trucks were used to transport the weapons, ammunition and other military equipment from the airport to the concerned place."

The number of weapons could not be confirmed but the source said the consignment could consist of about 500 M16A2 rifles, its ammunition and other military equipment. The delivery is a part of a bilateral deal hammered out between the then government of Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba and the US government in 2002. It is the third consignment of M16A2 rifles that the US has delivered to Nepal.

The US had delivered 3,000 similar rifles in January last year and again another few hundred were delivered later. As part of the deal, the US had agreed to provide 5,000 M16 rifles in military aid to fight the Maoists. "The newly delivered consignment is a regular military assistance the US is providing the RNA," said Brigadier General Rajendra Bahadur Thapa, chief spokesperson of RNA. But he did not divulge details of the consignment. The army, which is currently engaged

in controlling the Maoists, plans to fully equip its 78,000 strong forces with modern M16 rifles and Infantry Small Arms System (INSAS). The RNA already has more than 17,000 M16 rifles and 10,000 INSAS rifles. According to the source at RNA headquarters, the sophisticated weapons are being distributed to soldiers posted in Maoist heartland like mid-western the region. Few M16A2s are being used at the Birendra Peace Keeping Operation Centre in Panchkhal to train forces going on UN peace keeping missions. Currently the soldiers in other places are using Self-Loading Rifles (SLRs), Light Machine Guns (LMGs) and other outdated arms which have started creating problems like stoppage and over-hitting. Unlike SLRs, the 5.56 mm M16 rifles, which are generally attached to ammunition belts, can fire 30 rounds with little or no stoppage.

"With M16s we can easily fire within the range of 300 to 350 metres," said an army official.

First developed during Vietnam war, M16s have been known for their lightness and accuracy. The US forces and many other elite forces in the world use them.