Old Gun, New Target

  • Shabir Ibn Yusuf
  • Publish Date: May 19 2017 8:41PM
  • |
  • Updated Date: May 19 2017 8:41PM
Old Gun, New Target

                                                      Illustration by Suhail Naqshbandi/KI

The military is updating its weapons stock in Kashmir by bringing a modern variant of a WWI rifle

One would imagine the Indian military fighting the insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir trying to get their hands on the most modern weaponry. But its new weapon of choice is an updated version of the Special Application Scoped Rifle, or SASR, which was used in the First World War. 

SASR can be used against “stationary enemy aircraft, missile launchers, radar and communications equipment, crew served weapons, and similar targets,” an official of the army’s Udhampur-based Northern Command told Kashmir Ink. 

The rifle, which weighs less than 15 kg and has a minimum range of 1.8 km, will start arriving in Kashmir soon. It is expected to replace the South African-made anti-material rifle that the military currently uses, and which is much heavier at over 21 kg.

“This rifle will help soldiers to precisely target and disable enemy assets from long range,” the officer said, adding that a column from every unit based in Kashmir will be trained in the use of the rifle at the Khrew military school. “These columns will then impart training to their colleagues.”

The officer said the origin of SASR dates to the First World War. “During that war, it was the first anti-tank rifle to appear,” he said, adding that while modern tanks and armoured vehicles are protected too well to be countered by SARS, the gun is still effective against unarmored or lightly armoured vehicles.

The rifle can also be used against militants “firing from behind a wall or something like that”. “It is a typical infantry weapon that has the ability to penetrate not too thick material. Currently, the rifle is not in adequate quantity with the infantry because India isn’t manufacturing it yet,” the officer said.

The army had long been asking for SARS, the officer said. “The process of procuring the rifles has already started and hopefully they will issued to our units around June, starting with south Kashmir.”

The officer said the offensive use of SASR will mostly be in high militancy affected areas. “This for sure will help the army in reducing the causalities.”

“We will now be utilising real-time data generated from drones to hunt down militants holed up in residential areas. The chase of the target with SARS will bear more positive results,” the officer said, adding that the use of drones, or Unmanned Arial Vehicles, will be monitored by control rooms manned by the army. “The soldiers on the ground will be guided from the control rooms only.”

Not only in counter-militant action, the drones will also help manage law and order when soldiers are targeted by people throwing stones to disrupt anti-militancy operations. “This will minimise the use of choppers during such operations,” the officer said.

The army has been using the Rudra helicopter for anti-militancy operations in Kashmir. The helicopter, defence experts say, provides the military cover and real-time intelligence while they search and destroy targets. The chopper carried a mix of weapons, not least a 20-mm automatic cannon that fires 750 rounds per minute with an effective range of 2,000 meters.

It also comes equipped with an Integrated Defensive Aids Suite, a radar warning receiver, IR jammer, and flare and chaff dispenser. “The helicopter has proved effective in locating militants even in snow-clad mountains or dense forests, which they use as cover to infiltrate into Kashmir, or during search operations,” said a defence affairs expert who did not want to be named.

For regular operations, the army officer said, the most effective rifles for the military in Kashmir are AK-47, INSAS and SLR rifles. INSAS, which has a light machine gun variant as well, is the mostly used assault rifle by the army. “But there were issues of jamming, cracking of the magazine and semi-automatic mode with it,” said the officer, adding that newer variants have “eradicated these drawbacks”.

The army also uses the AKM assault rifle, which is essentially a modernised version of the famous AK-47. It can fire 600 rounds per minute and comes with semi-automatic and fully automatic modes.

AK-103 is mostly used by the army’s elite force MARCOS, based in Watlab and at the Gulmarg Warfare School. It is a variant of AK-47 as well. Other special forces in Kashmir use, among other weapons, T-91 assault rifle, MI-16 and M-4 carbines, IMI Tavor TAR-21, FN F2000. These weapons, the officer said, are not available to regular army units engaged in countering militancy.