A sniper rifle produced by Steelcore (representational image)
A sniper rifle produced by Steelcore Designs (representational image) | Steelcore Designs
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New Delhi: The Indian Army’s wait for much-needed sniper rifles just got longer, with the procurement process hitting a glitch: 20 firms replied to the Army’s request for information (RFI), floated last year, but none of them manufacture the ammunition.

The absence of ammunition-manufacturing capacity is seen as a major drawback because the Army was looking to secure technology transfer under the final deal for the seamless operation of the rifles in the long run, ThePrint has learnt.

The Army is now looking to scrap the RFI and start afresh its hunt for 5,700 high-precision sniper rifles, at an estimated cost of Rs 982 crore, highly-placed sources in the defence establishment told ThePrint.

The possible options for a new procurement process include floating two separate RFIs — one for procuring sniper rifles and the other for ammunition, the sources said.
“Or the existing RFI could be tweaked to include a clause that the interested firms should manufacture ammunition as well, and also subsequently transfer the technology to India,” a top Army source said, adding that a final decision on the matter is yet to be taken.

Only once this stage is finalised will the Army issue a request for proposal (RFP), the second stage in such transactions, detailing the specifications required.

The transfer of technology question

In February last year, the Defence Acquisition Council approved the purchase of sniper rifles for the Army and the Indian Air Force at an estimated cost of Rs 982 crore.

“While these high-precision weapons will be bought with ‘Buy Global’ categorisation, their ammunition will be initially procured and subsequently manufactured in India,” the Defence Ministry said in a statement issued last year.

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There were 12-13 foreign firms among the 20 that replied to the 2018 RFI, ThePrint has learnt, with the respondents including Sako of Finland, H-S Precision of the US, Steelcore Designs Limited of the UK, PGM Precision of France, and Punj Lloyd Raksha Systems, a joint venture between Indian defence conglomerate Punj Lloyd and Israel Weapons Industries.


Also read: Indian Army deploys US-, Italy-trained snipers with deadly new rifles along LoC


However, after evaluating the firms, the authorities found that none had the capability to manufacture the ammunition.

“Ammunition is a crucial requirement for sniper rifles, because even if the firms procured ammunition from elsewhere later, they would not be able to transfer the technology to India,” another Army source told ThePrint.

‘Much delay unlikely’

The Army is looking to procure sniper rifles amid an increased threat of sniper attacks along the Line of Control as well as to seek a tactical advantage over enemies sighted at a distance.

While procurement of defence equipment is usually a long-drawn process, with multiple steps and thorough evaluations, sources in the defence establishment said that the purchase of high-precision sniper rifles was part of a modernisation plan and unlikely to face much delay.

“The troops are being provided with sniper rifles at the borders. This one is for the entire forces and will take the minimum standard time,” one of the aforementioned Army sources said. “The first batch will be delivered after two years.”

With the larger procurement taking time, the Northern Army Commander made an urgent purchase this March of two new advanced sniper rifles — Barrett M95 .50 BMG and Beretta Scorpio TGT ‘Victrix’, with .338 Lapua Magnum cartridges — through his special financial powers.

However, the numbers procured were a blip compared to those required.

Explaining the significance of sniper rifles, a senior Army officer said the long-range weapon equipped with a telescopic sight can be used to cause substantial damage to the enemy and demoralise them. They can also be used in counter-terror operations to eliminate top terror commanders while staying in stealth, the officer added.

“Sniper attacks are characterised by surprise and provide an element of anonymity,” the official added. “The enemy or an important target can be hit in a single shot, but such firing requires extreme stability and patience for hours together.”

“Sniper rifles can be used to inflict casualties without escalating the conflict,” the official said.

The difference between a standard rifle and a sniper rifle is the precision, with the latter having a small error margin.


Also read: Indian Army’s new sniper rifle paired with old improvisation tactics will turn tables at LoC


Since the 1990s, the Army has been using the Soviet-era Dragunov sniper rifle of 1963 vintage, which uses a 7.62×54 mm rimmed cartridge and has a range of 600 to 800 metres. However, the focus has since shifted to night vision and better accuracy.

The RFI issued by the Army’s Infantry Directorate in 2018 took into account these factors, seeking 8.6X70 mm sniper rifles with a range of at least 1,200 metres, and 10.2 million rounds of ammunition.

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13 Comments Share Your Views

13 COMMENTS

  1. 2 points:
    1. Shouldn’t this news related to defence procurement be confidential ?
    2. If DRDO cannot design this rifle why can’t we get private sector firms with precision manufacturing experience to develop prototypes ?

  2. Those people got guts to do say so being questioned. Take case of Rafael. Ambani’s shown guts but people asked so many questions. Now who will come forward and take initiative.For building development we require land. Who will know this.

  3. Sniper Grade precision Ammunition is manufactured by very few Companies. Most have decades of experience. Immediately ammunition for Sniper Rifles on order can be imported, to serve the Army Sniper team needs. To develop indiginous Ammo maker for Sniper Ammo will take long and of course OFB simply does not have capability.

  4. This story by print is laughable. No small arms weapons manufacturer in the world
    makes ammunition. These are to be procured separately. Ammunition could be of generic vote. Sniper ammunition could be of specific needs and only specialised ammunition makers can fulfil them. Yes the army should know it hence reasons like the one given sound stupid.

  5. Indian Army’s sniper rifles back in limbo due to lack of ammunition sources. Indian Ordinance Factory Board is trule representative of India’s Constitution, laws and Quota (Reservations-License) – Corruption (Extortion – Scam) Raj.

  6. I can’t believe this! Even a novice shooter knows that ammunition is made by specialist companies and and weapons by DIFFERENT specialist companies. They work very closely together to develop the perfect round for the weapon, but production is always with the specialist ammunition manufacturer. There are several European and American specialist manufacturers who will make the perfect round for any weapon. There has never been a more stupid and inane reason to drop a very good weapon for this reason.

  7. With this failure mentality the army can keep on going round en round in circles. Why the hell can’t they first select the best rifle and get a jv for the ammo later. My God what a waste of time. In 1978 I installed a cold pilger mill at nuclear fuels complex. It had capacity to manufacture 20,000 metric tonnes of precision tubes per annum. The tubes were good enough for being used in gun barrels of different caliber. Nobody has used this facility as it can meet India’s 10 years requirements for gun barrels in one month. The machine is idle for 40 years. It’s backed with a horizontal press of 1930 vintage of Krupp make which helped arm Nazi Germany. The gun barrels technology has not changed for last 100 years. Only there is slight difference in mettalurgy.

  8. I dont know how the press is getting exact figures in number and cost. National security threat. Media can sell anything to adversary nations..what babus doing in defence procurement department. God save India…

  9. How silly ! The people who were making the RFI could not clarify that they wanted the bullets and tech transfer for both bullets and guns together or go for separate deals for both the first time ? Isn’t this common sense ? It makes you wonder if this was deliberately done to make sure the contract can not be completed and goes into the same chaotic loop for the next twenty years, something every defence contract in India suffers from. Thirty years, the govt can’t finalize a deal for fighters…Every defence deal is the same delay after delay. Who needs external enemies when you have corrupt bureaucrats and fauzis who design our procurements for failure instead of getting the troops quality equipment quickly. This is shameful. The delays cause irreparable damage to our operational readiness and to my eye acts of treason.

  10. India has mastered rocket technology,so making these sniper rifle shouldn’t be difficult. China,Israel have indigenous technology to bypass all restrictions,India too should manufacture indigenously.

  11. Precision is the all important factor of a sniper rifles. Nowadays, Indian firms can manufacture rifled barrels with button rifling Technology. I wonder then why indigenously such sophisticated Rifles cannot be manufactured, it seems that after procuring foreign Rifles the the weapons will take about 2 years time to arrive in India and some more time to be accepted by the armed forces .
    Two years is a long enough time to build indigenous Sniper rifles which will not only be a boost to the “make in India” initiative but will also make us self-reliant. As far as the ammunitions are concerned we have ammunition factories which make small arms ammo, a already a little bit of tweaking up of these factories is needed to produce Precision rifle ammunitions indigenously. When such being the situation I wonder why import is essential at all.

    • See my reply. There is a very good lobby who only wants to import. Manufacture of small arms today is no big deal.

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