Weapons: An Indian Emergency


January 31, 2019: The Indian army has declared a special emergency on the Pakistani border and placed a rush order for 5,719 modern sniper rifles from the United States and Italy. Troops on the Pakistani border will receive some of these rifles by early 2019 while the rest of the army will receive theirs by 2021. The rifles are needed immediately in the north because Indian snipers up there have found themselves outgunned by their Pakistani counterparts.

India noted that the increased Pakistani violence on the LoC (Line of Control) that serves border between the two halves of Kashmir often featured Pakistani snipers. There were 2,140 ceasefire violations on the LoC in 2018, up from 971 in 2017 and 449 in 2016. The 2018 violations frequently involved Pakistani snipers, who made it clear that Pakistan not only had better weapons (12.7mm and modern 7.62mm rifles) but that their shooters were better trained.

In 2018 the Pakistani snipers took full advantage of their better (longer range) sniper rifles and better training (plus combat experience along the Afghan border) to clearly outperform Indian snipers who are still armed with elderly Russian SVD (Snayperskaya Vintovka Dragunova) "Dragunov" Sniping Rifles The SVD was developed during the early 1960s as one of the first rifles designed and built exclusively for sniping. The SVD was a 4.5 kg (10 pound) 7.62mm rifle that looked like a sniper rifle. It had a ten round magazine, was 1.2 meters (48 inches) long and even with second rate ammo (that Russian snipers often had to put up with) was very accurate out to 600 meters. With better ammo and scopes (like the Indians had) it was accurate up to 800 meters.

To improve their sniper performance the Indian troops will receive some of the American M95/107 bolt-action 12.7mm rifles. These are 11 kg (24 pound) weapons with a five round magazine. The M95 can hit man-size targets at 2,000 meters (and 25 percent further in the hands of an expert sniper). Most of the new sniper rifles will be Italian Scorpio TGT, a 7 kg (15.5 pound), 1.2 meter (47 inch) long bolt action rifle firing the 8.6mm (.338) Lapua Magnum round that is accurate out to 1,500 meters (1,800 for an expert shooter). Most of the Pakistani sniper rifles are modern weapons (often the same models used by NATO snipers) firing 7.62mm rounds out to about a thousand meters.

The immediate challenge for the Indian snipers will be getting used to the new rifles and closing the experience gap the Pakistanis have. The 12.7mm M95 is the same weapon used by American snipers, who actually prefer lighter rifles using the Lapua Magnum round. Most sniper operations involve the sniper and his spotter moving around a lot. The lighter 8.6mm rifles are preferred for this. But on the LoC the snipers don’t move around a lot so the M95 will have an edge in range and hitting power. The M95 is also described as an “anti-material” weapon and with an armor piercing round can do serious damage to distant vehicles with a shot in the right place (like the engine block, or driver.)

The Pakistani received most of their current sniper rifles (and training) via American military aid. That aid has now been halted but when it was available Pakistani infantry were getting a lot of American military equipment and instruction that had proved effective in Afghanistan. For India one of the major problems for the army is the inefficient and chronically late procurement system. You need a genuine emergency to get anything in a timely fashion.


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