The Ministry of Defence has launched a global hunt to procure an advanced sniper rifle with thermal imaging night sights and a strike range of 1,200 metres.
A request for information has been sent to international and Indian weapons manufacturers. The new rifle will replace the Indian Army’s ailing Soviet-era Dragunov guns.
“As per the Army’s field requirements, the MoD has decided to procure about 5,500 advanced sniper rifles with night sights. The procurement will be carried out in phases and the desired quantity must be delivered by the supplier within six to 18 months from the day of signing the contract,” a senior official with the MoD told TOI over phone.
Army snipers have been using the obsolete Dragunov since it was first inducted in the Indian Army back in 1990. The weapon’s ammunition has become expensive and there have been reliability, ability problems. “The 7.62 mm-calibre Dragunov has been suffering from several problems,” a senior army officer with an infantry division, currently posted in the North-East sector, told TOI. Army higher-ups and the ministry know about the gun’s problems but procurement has remained pending since 2012, due to various reasons.”
Army sources said these rifles fail to “recognise” targets beyond 300 metres at night. Also, the shoulder-fired Dragunov does not possess adequate stability. Pakistani snipers, meanwhile, have been using advanced Austrian rifles against Indian troops along the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir, the sources said.
Every infantry battalion of the Indian Army has about eight to ten snipers. Commenting on the role of snipers, another senior officer, with extensive experience in the North-East and Jammu and Kashmir, said snipers are an invaluable part of operations. “Snipers are force multipliers. Their expertise often gives that desired advantage to operations,” the officer said.