The force’s requirement is for a 7.62 x 51 mm bolt action rifle with a killing range of 800 meters and above

To beef up its operational capability, the Indo-Tibetan Border Police Force (ITBP) has sought over 450 high-powered sniper rifles for use by its field units deployed in high altitude areas.

The force’s requirement is for a 7.62 x 51 mm bolt action rifle with a killing range of 800 meters and above. These should be equipped with an integrated telescopic sight for daylight as well as low light conditions, a detachable sound suppressor and be able to function effectively in temperatures up to minus 30 degree Celsius.

In August 2020, amidst that prolonged stand-off with China along the Line of Actual Control in eastern Ladakh, ITBP had projected a requirement for 358 sniper rifles. Some of the rifles being sought are replacements for old weapons as well as additional authorisations for units, ITBP officers said.

The central government had placed 7.62 mm sniper rifles on the negative import list, but the ITBP has issued an open tender for procurement of these rifles which does not bar foreign original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) except foreign agents, distributors or resellers of OEMs.

The tender however, states that public procurement orders requiring preference to make in India equipment would be taken into account. Indian systems aggregators and distributors having the requisite technical expertise and after sales support capability can also bid.

At present, different sniper rifles in use by the Indian Armed Forces and Central Armed Police Forces such as the Dragunov SVD, IMI Galil, PSG-1, Steyr SSG-69, Mauser SP-66 Sniper and Barrett M-95 are direct imports from various countries.

A Bengaluru-based private entity has recently developed two sniper rifles, the Viper 7.62 x 51 mm and the more powerful Saber.338 Lapua Magnum, which are being offered to the Indian forces. Different variants of the heavy-calibre Vidhwansak anti-materiel rifle designed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation, which can be used for long range sniping, is also under production.

According to experts, single-shot bolt action rifles are preferred over semi-automatic guns for sniping operations as they tend to be more accurate and reliable. Bolt action rifles are lighter, simpler and have fewer moving parts and internal mechanisms than gas-operated semi-automatics.

Also, snipers do not require a high rate of fire for which semi-automatic and automatic weapons are designed, as one or two shots are sufficient for a trained marksman to meet his objective.

A single well-placed sniper can neutralize a high-value target or pin down a body of enemy troops for a considerable length of time. Much of a sniper’s work involves observation, surveillance and intelligence gathering.

Snipers are considered to be force multipliers and many armies attach a great deal of importance to the role of snipers in the field. They require a very high degree of training, enormous levels of patience and ultra-fast reactions.