NEW DELHI: Old weapons and a lack of access to ammunition from training are hampering the Indian Army’s ability to combat the increasing sniper attacks by Pakistan on the International Line of Control (LoC), senior Army officers said on Friday. The attacks have taken the lives of several Indian soldiers and jawans over the past two years. The latest of these attacks took place on December 21 when sniper fire from the Pakistan side took the lives of two Junior Commissioned Officers (JCOs). In November alone, two soldiers were killed and another was injured along with a porter because of sniper fire from across the border.
“The Pakistani snipers have inflicted high casualties upon us in the last two years,” said an Army officer.
The problem is compounded as Pakistan uses the latest precision sniper rifles which include the US-made Remington modular models with an effective range of 1,500 meters. India uses the Russian-made Dragunov sniper rifles and have an effective range of 800 meters.
The Army has taken several steps to alleviate the problem. But, improvement in the scenario will take some time to reflect. The duration of the specialised sniper training has been increased from four weeks to seven weeks. An officer who is a part of the training team said, “The training has been revamped in the last one year. Earlier, the focus was only on the tactical and technical part, but now, the training includes focus on the mental skills and endurance also.” While initial sniper training is carried out at the unit level, about four specialised courses are held every year at Mhow, Indore in Madhya Pradesh.
“It takes dedicated training of two to three years to train a good sniper.” added the officer. A shortage of ammunition is another problem that forces are dealing with. There is an acute shortage of bullets for practice as every unit has been asked to spare only 5 percent for practice. The government has signed a contract with Russia to import 31 lakh rounds which have not arrived yet.
The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) in February 2018 had approved the procurement of 5,719 sniper rifles for the Army and the Indian Air Force at an estimated cost of `982 crore. The Request For Proposal (RFP) for the procurement was floated in September. However, the process will take 3-4 years to complete. Under the plan, 50,000 rounds of ammunition will be bought upfront and 52,000 more will be made domestically.
India is using the 1963-made Russian sniper rifle Dragunov which has a range of 800m. Training slow as only 5 per cent ammunition is available for practice and new weapons are 3-4 years away.