New Delhi: The special forces of the three services — Para SF of the Army, Garud of the IAF, and Marcos of the Navy — are the most well-equipped units of the Indian armed forces. Some of the systems they use are in public knowledge, while others remain a secret.
A photograph from Defence Minister Rajnath Singh’s visit to Ladakh Friday revealed two of the latest acquisitions made by the Para SF — Finnish sniper rifles and American ballistic helmets — that were not widely known.
The photograph shows the .338 SAKO sniper rifle. Made in Finland, it is considered to be one of the best snipers in the world. Sources told ThePrint that around 40-50 of the long-range sniper rifles were procured last year.
It is a manually-operated, bolt-action weapon. This sniper rifle is available in two versions — chambered for .300 Winchester Magnum (7.62×67 mm) and for .338 Lapua Magnum (8.6×70 mm) cartridges — and has a kill range of 1,500 metres.
This acquisition was in tandem with the purchase of two other sniper rifles by the Army last year — the Italian-made Beretta .338 Lapua Magnum Scorpio TGT and the American .50 Calibre M95 manufactured by Barrett.
While the Italian and American rifles are also used by regular soldiers posted in critical locations like the Line of Control (LoC), the Finnish sniper is meant exclusively for the Para SF, sources said.
Another item that sticks out in the picture is the helmet worn by an Army officer.
The helmet is the American-made Exfil High Cut Ballistic Helmet, which features a hybrid composite shell for increased strength with a unique geometry for optimal fit.
Sources said these helmets were also acquired in limited numbers for specialised units. The Army last month also began the process to acquire one lakh ‘AK-47 protected’ helmets — one of the largest procurements of these specialised ballistic helmets in the world.
According to the specifications laid down by the Army, the helmet should offer protection against the AK-47 7.62×39 mm Mild Steel Core and Hard Steel Core bullets from 10 metres.
A show for defence minister
During his visit, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh also witnessed a show of operational capability in Ladakh with integrated operations by the Para commandos, Apache attack choppers, C-130 J Super Hercules special operations aircraft, and armoured elements like the T-90 tanks.
The display also involved a ‘Pathfinder Combat Free Fall’ from a C-130J aircraft at 17,000 feet. A pathfinder drop is a freefall from an aircraft by a limited number of soldiers who recce the drop site and find a spot for others to land.
Soldiers also slithered down from Mi-17 V-5 choppers with combat air patrol provided by the Apache attack helicopter. This was part of a simulated raid, and involved linking up of the commandos with mechanised columns.