Beretta's Victrix Armaments .338 Lapua Magnum Scorpio-TGT sniper rifle, Elite units deployed along the LoC have been given the new rifle

Emergency purchase of Barrett M95.50 BMG and Beretta Scorpio TGT Victoria .338 Lapua Magnum, with kill range of 1.5 km to 1.8 km, negates Pak advantage on LoC

India now has superior sniper power than Pakistan. The Army has made an emergency purchase of latest sniper rifles with a better range, firepower and telescopic sights than the adversary. The move comes after six soldiers died in sniper attacks by Pakistan on the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu & Kashmir last year and an identical number fell to the enemy’s bullets in 2017.

The new rifles, namely Barrett M95.50 BMG and Beretta Scorpio TGT Victoria .338 Lapua Magnum, were recently inducted into some units on the LoC to negate the advantage enjoyed by Pakistan there. Till now, they had better sniper rifles, Remington, with a range of more than 1.5 km while the Indian Army gun’s range was far short. The new rifles have a kill range of 1.5 km to 1.8 km.

Realising the seriousness of the situation, the Northern Command went in for immediate procurement of at least 30 new rifles which are now in use by snipers trained abroad, officials said here on Saturday. They also said the new rifles were bought under the provision of special powers given to the Northern Command chief for such emergency and critical requirements.

The US-made Barrett has a range of nearly 1,800 metres while the Italian made Beretta has a kill range of more than 1,500 metres. Both these rifles are extensively used by Special Forces of several countries and the induction of these high precision weapons “will definitely give us the advantage over the enemy which till now had the upper hand at various places on the LoC,” sources said.

At present, the Indian Army is using 1963 vintage Russian-made Dragunov sniper rifles inducted into service in 1990. This semi-automatic rifle has a kill range of less than 1 km thereby giving critical operational upper hand to Pakistani snipers whose Remingtons have a range of 1.5 km. Moreover, the Russian rifles do not have Picatinny rails making the weapon incompatible with several modern essential accessories like magnification and sight systems. The new rifles have the rails, and telescopic sights of any magnification and sight can be mounted thereby giving the required flexibility to the commander, they said.

In all, the Indian Army needs nearly 5,800 sniper rifles with a range of more than 1,200 metres and the request for information (RFI) or global tender was floated way back in 2016. While the process of zeroing in on the ultimate vendor is still on, the Northern Command went in for emergency purchase given the ground situation on the LoC, they said.

Officials also said procurement of the 5,800 rifles will be for all the 382 infantry battalions, each of which is sanctioned 10 sniper rifles given the specialised training and nature of the weapon, they said. The Special Forces units, however, are equipped with advanced sniper rifles like Israeli Galil rifles, and are now in the process of inducting Finnish Sako sniper rifles having a range of 2,20O metres.

Explaining the significance of the deployment of these sniper guns at vulnerable points at the LoC, they said it comes at a time when Pakistan will now try to push in terrorists into Kashmir after snow has melted thereby opening up all the ingress routes in South and North of Pir Panjal. Though no infiltration bids have come to notice so far, the operational commanders are not taking any chances and have further strengthened the counter-infiltration grid all along the LoC, they said.

Elaborating upon the importance of modern sniper and highly trained snipers, officials said, “They are force multipliers to any infantry battalion. The high standard of sniper training and their imaginative employment leads to decisive and out-of-proportion results.”

Reports indicated that in an effort to dominate the LoC and counter the Indian Army’s measures to check infiltration, the Pakistan Army has rushed more snipers to all its forward posts to target Indian Jawans. Since the sniper is always elusive and picks up a target with meticulous care, any kill has a demoralising impact. The Indian Army wants to avoid casualties due to such attacks, they said.

The Pakistani snipers take positions at odd locations close to the forward posts to target Indian Jawans proceeding on long patrols and forward locations.

When border skirmishes peaked in the aftermath of surgical strikes by the elite Indian commandos 2016, the infantry soldiers were even directed to use trenches to move between bunkers across all the forward posts.

These instructions were given to the post commanders to minimise the risk factor. These instructions were issued after closely observing a pattern of sniper attacks by the Pakistan army and such precautions are the normal practice even now, they said.