Indian Army’s Dragunov Upgrade: Why “SSS Defence” should have this opportunity

By Admin

The main designated Marksman Rifle of the Indian Army, for now, is the legendary Russian Dragunov SVD, made in the 50s and purchased in the 90s by the Indian Army.
The Army operates around 5000-7000 of these reliable rifles, which are capable of easily firing 7000 rounds, but most of them have not even completed 3000 rounds. This shows that they still have a lot of life left in them, but over time requirements have changed, and it's hard for a Rifle that was designed in the 50s to catch up.
Now, there were two options, one was to get a new sniper rifle and replace these DSR (Dragunov Sniper Rifle), and the second one was to upgrade them to match the requirement, which was a very cost-effective solution for these DSR and for an Army which is already struggling with the modernization and budget.
So, the second option which is the smart one was picked by the Army.
Meanwhile, as we all know, our Indian Govt. is pushing for Atmanirbhar Bharat (Self-Reliant India) Initiative. Under which there are plans on making things India needs in India itself.
India has been the largest arms importer in the world, due to which this initiative needed to be pushed seriously on the defence procurement of our country, which was followed. The Ministry of Defence introduced a negative import list, which included a list of equipment that can’t be imported and should be procured locally.
The First list came in August 2020, in which the import embargo on Dragunov upgrade was mentioned on 58th number which was supposed to be enforced by December 2020.
Before we understand the Dragunov Rifle, we need to understand for which role it is used.
The Designated Marksman
A Marksman is a person who is skilled in precision shooting, but the same goes with the Sniper. So the question is, what is the difference between a Marksman and a Sniper?
The answer to that is, a Marksman is a part of a fireteam of soldiers. They never operate alone, and provide support to the team. They are skilled enough to take down high-value targets, whereas Snipers can operate independently away from the main force, with or without a small team, with a different objective.
So, a Sniper’s engagement range is usually more than that of a Marksman.
Now, since this is clear, lets understand Dragunov.
The Dragunov SVD
The Dragunov SVD was designed in the 50s, a semi-automatic designated marksman rifle, chambered in 7.62 X 54mmR, a unique and a deadly round, used by the Soviet Union from late 1800s till now.
Initially, the 7N1 cartridge (1966) was used which was effective but as the armor started becoming better a new cartridge was introduced and 7N1 was replaced in 1999 by the 7N14 special load developed for the SVD. The 7N14 round is loaded with a 9.8 g projectile containing a sharp hardened steel penetrator to improve penetration which is fired with an average muzzle velocity of 830 m/s for a muzzle energy of 3,375 J.
So, the mass of the gun is around 4.3 kg (without Magazine). It can carry a 10-round magazine, has a barrel length of 620mm, a muzzle velocity of 830m/s as discussed, and can hit targets at an effective range of 800 m.

It uses a standard PSO-1 scope, mounted on a Warsaw Pact Rail, which does not block the iron sight. It gives 4x the magnification and 6 degrees of field of view.
A wooden thumbhole butt stock, with detachable cheek rest, that can be removed when using iron sights.
The barrel is Semi free-floating, so it's accurate but not quite as accurate as the bolt-action sniper rifles, with the free-floating barrel.
So, it’s a decent gun for squad support, as it is semi-automatic, and has a decent range.
Why Army Needs Upgrade? 
Now, with changing times, enemies are changing too. They have changed their tactics, their weapons, and operational behavior. Their operational tactics are now hard to counter. With modernization, they can operate at night and in adverse conditions effectively. To counter them, we need to upgrade our weapons with add-on kits and equipment, which makes our weapons effective against them.
But unfortunately, the Dragunov was designed so early, that the upgrade factor was not kept in mind, at best it has a Warsaw pact rail that mounts a PSO sight.
The gun requires a deep modification so that it becomes far more versatile, and a bit more accurate with some improvements in ergonomics so that operating it becomes comfortable for a soldier, and the weapon becomes more effective in almost all operating conditions.
The Kalashnikov’s offer for the Upgrade
“The Kalashnikov SAG SVD Dragunov Free-float Chassis is a one-pack upgrade set that will give it Optics, Bipods, mounting platform, and a long free-float fore-end at the same time,” Valentin Vlasenko, Civilian Small Arms R&D Head of Kalashnikov informed ET. Russian officers stated that for the price of buying one new sniper rifle of the category, India can simply improve 4 of its Dragunov for future service. “The upgrade drastically improves the adjustability of the shooter to the target and makes it comfortable even for troops that are not highly trained,” Vlasenko stated, including that buying new sniper rifles would even have the extra burden of coaching troops from scratch. The Russian firm stated that solely it has the right to certify upgrades to the Indian Dragunov and its provision consists of coaching troops and workshop personnel to perform work on the unit degree itself. “The upgrade can be done at field-level workshops and only simple tools are needed for it. A trained person can undertake the entire upgrade in about an hour,” he stated.
Presentation to the Indian Army have been made in May after it expressed curiosity about the upgrade, with the primary on-subject demonstration set to happen in July. Officials stated that in case of a settlement, the improvement might even have a Make in India element, and manufacturing strains may very well be arranged at present factories in India to manufacture the improved kits.
(Source: The Economic Times)
SSS Defence’s offer for the Upgrade
Why SSS Defence should be the choice?
As we have discussed previously, that the Indian Govt. is pushing for Atmanirbhar Bharat, under which negative import lists are being issued for defence procurement, and in the first list which came in August 2020, Dragunov’s upgrade was clearly mentioned on 58th number.
So, the list was enforced from December 2020, hence the upgrade of the gun is something that cannot be imported. So, in this regard, the upgrade offered by SSS defence should have an advantage over Kalashnikov’s upgrade as SSS defence is an Indian Company.
Second thing is, as we know recently the corporatization of OFB was announced and efforts are being made to make OFB more efficient, at the same time, there is a need to make homegrown private defence industries more efficient so that the rapid requirements of our armed forces can be completed within the country with more efficiency, for that, the private sector needs support from the military itself, where they have to work with them to complete their requirement, also give them orders so their confidence increases, which gives them the motivation to work on better systems for future military needs, suiting our Indian military.
Now, this is something, the Army should do to support local development and production, but that doesn’t mean, they should make big compromises for that.
Mr. Vivek Krishnan, who is CEO of SSS Defence.
1)    The Dragunov's were used in DMR roles, but since we have purchased the Sig 716, that rifle can also be used for that purpose, so that clearly shows, army needs more from the Dragunov, which has more to do with its range, which they want to be equal to or more than 1-1.2 km, so how your gun is addressing that?
The Dragunov in the Indian army is clearly intended for a squad Designated Marksman Rifle role. The ammunition - 7.62x54 is a ballistically superior round as far as marksmanship is concerned. The SIG716 on the contrary is an assault rifle that can also double up as a DMR. Also, the Dragunov was outfitted with a PSO 1 scope far earlier while the SIG716 still lacks a fixed magnification scope for marksman roles. Also, note that many more users have earned their stripes on the Dragunov than on the SIG. In effect, the Dragunov may be an older weapon but is in the Indian context still superior to a squad semi-automatic DMR. Yes, the army would like to expect more from the Dragunov but not in the form of range enhancement. The weapon is optimal for 700-800 m and nothing can improve that range. However, accuracy isn’t about range. When target interdiction is still at 500-800 m (that’s the lions’s share of mission needs), being consistent, user-friendly & adaptable to modern-day mission criteria is more important. For example, by allowing for the fitment of a new adapter & stock, the SSS Defence upgrade significantly reduced recoil. The lower recoil allows a user to get back to the firing position on the next round. By allowing a full-length rail that can accommodate a modern-day 1-10x Mil-Dot scope & a clip-on thermal night vision optic together in an in-line configuration, the weapon can be used for night operations. These advantages allow the Dragunov to be relevant for a further decade or so without incurring significant expenditure on new weapons and training. Some day of course the army will have to think of a new indigenous DMR weapon since we don’t believe the SIG is that weapon that can go head-to-head with even a Dragunov. 
It is to be noted that the SSS Defence doesn’t aim to increase the range of the Dragunov. It aims to make the soldier behind the weapon more lethal & consistent.
2)    There is no comparison between the actual Dragunov replacement which is, SVCh sniper rifle and Dragunov sniper rifle, definitely the one which was designed later will be better than retrofitting an old rifle, but how you are bridging that gap, especially in performance? And particularly I wanted to know about the Magazine capacity, is it 10 rounds or can be 20?
The answer to query 1 sheds light on what we aim to achieve with a Dragunov upgrade. We believe that India needs an indigenous DMR and one that fits our mission criteria. Not one that is handed down by a foreign OEM. This has nothing to do with the OEM’s capability. Rather, it has everything to do with knowing the kind of roles that our squad marksmen (not snipers) will have to perform and building an efficient system around it. It could even entail the use of a different round altogether. 
Our intention is that the SSS Defence upgrade will bridge the gap in performance at a very affordable price. After all, it’s well known that our stock of Dragunov’s hasn’t reached a stage where barrel degradation is rampant. On the contrary, the lack of training and rationing of ammunition has meant that the barrels & operating systems have more to offer.
3)    And finally, the most important question is, how will you compete in the scale and the price of the upgrade with Kalashnikov, as we know, around 7000 rifles are in service and your competition is a much bigger company and can afford to keep the price low and production fast, what's your argument there?
The price competition is not a problem for us. We have already invested in R&D and can offer a product that’s price competitive “with or without large volumes”. An important point from our end “We’re not fearing the Russian upgrades. We’re the rank outsiders while they’re the OEM. Rationally speaking, “they should think more of us than we of them”. I would also want our own users to ask a simple query - do we expect the Russian OEMs to offer upgrades in small quantities while also providing the MRO in India? Foreign OEMs with all due respect are in India for big volumes & big contracts. Back in their own country, they’d do everything that their forces want even if the gains aren’t superlative. In essence, we’re their trump card. SSS Defence offers an R&D intensive, custom-built mass manufacturing alternative across the product spectrum be they legacy upgrades or de nuovo weapons.  We don’t shy away from experimentation if it gives our forces an edge. This is what the OFB was meant to do but did not. As long as that parameter is understood, the decision on who to approach for an upgrade is a rather simple one.
Finally, we can say that the answers we got were satisfactory and shows that this company is not depending upon the favors from the Atmanirbhar Bharat initiative, instead going head-on against the bigger competition and offering world-class products with proper services to sustain them. So, it makes complete sense to seriously consider the offer by SSS defence for the Dragunov Upgrade.