Few weapons on the 21st century battlefield are as accurate or as effective as a modern, well trained sniper team. A proficient sniper team has the ability to change the tide of a battle, be that through accurate reconnaissance, through the coordination of fire support assets or with a single well placed bullet. The sniper team have proven their worth on the battlefield in countless conflicts, in both conventional and unconventional warfare. The role of the sniper, along with their tactics, technology and training continues to evolve today to allow them to combat an ever widening variety of threats. The modern sniper team is well trained, highly lethal and infinitely adaptable.
Roles of the Sniper TeamEdit
The modern sniper team much be highly adaptable and versatile, able to fulfil a wide variety of roles as required by the commander. This adaptability and versatility is what makes a well trained sniper team one of the commanders biggest assets on the battlefield. Their ability to pass unseen by the enemy, their pinpoint accuracy and their information gathering skills are what make the sniper team so invaluable. Sniper teams are what military strategists refer to as force multipliers. Simply put, a force multiplier is an individual or small team that, through the use of special tactics, can do the damage of a much larger force. What's amazing about sniper teams is that they are capable of force multiplication without ever directly engaging the enemy.
Reconaissance and Information GatheringEdit
Contrary to popular belief, the main role of the sniper team is to observe the enemy rather than kill them, and gather intelligence for the commander. On the battlefield accurate, up to date information is just as important (if not more so) than bullets and bodies. There is little use in a heavily armed infantry battalion that has no idea where the enemy are. Because sniper teams are masters of stealth, they are perfectly suited to sneaking behind enemy lines, acting as the eyes and ears of their commander on the ground, supplying him/ her with detailed and accurate information on enemy locations, strength, disposition and any other relevant information that may be required. This allows the commander to make an educated decision on the best course of action, which may or may not require the sniper team to ever fire a shot during the mission. A good sniper team will know that their greatest assets are their eyes and ears, not their rifles. Advances in radio communication systems on today’s battlefield now allow the sniper team to provide up to the second information to the commander, providing him/ her with a constant stream of reliable information on what can often be a constantly changing battlefield. Also, recent advances in observation equipment and optics such as HuntIR and thermal imaging allow the sniper team to see more than ever before from a single location.
Coordination of Fire Support AssetsEdit
Another common role for the sniper team on the battlefield is the direction and control of fire support assets such as artillery or air support. The sniper team’s excellent skills of observation as well as their ability to remain unseen and undetected make them perfectly suited to this task. Generally the sniper team will be in a position to see more than any other ground unit on the battlefield, allowing them to see enemies that many of their comrades may be unaware of. In the majority of cases if a sniper team is able to see the enemy, the sniper team will also be able to destroy the enemy through the use of fire support. The use of fire support also allows the sniper team to destroy their target without having to compromise their own position and potentially endanger their own lives. A sniper team could potentially remain in the same position for several hours accurately calling in air strikes and artillery bombardments whilst remaining undetected. As a sniper team you will be trained in the use of specialist equipment such as laser designators as well the different munitions types at your disposal in order to allow you to call in accurate and appropriate fire support when needed. For example a sniper team must when it is best to call for a high explosive artillery strike or when a laser guided bomb would be more appropriate. Sniper teams may also be used to coordinate vehicle support such as heavy armour by helping identify and target the enemy.
Long Range Target EliminationEdit
Another skill that makes the sniper team unique is their ability to make pinpoint accurate shots at extreme ranges, beyond the capabilities of the normal infantry soldier. This ability is partly down to the advanced weaponry and optics employed by the sniper team but also relies greatly on the high levels of training and skill that the sniper possesses. The general task of the sniper when engaging the enemy is to reduce the enemy’s fighting ability by striking at high value targets (HVT’s) in particular leadership personnel, communications and other enemy personnel, in the process pinning down and demoralizing the enemy. When the mission calls for it, snipers can dismantle and dishearten the enemy with a few well-placed rifle shots. Knowing that there could be a set of crosshairs resting on your back at any time has a highly demoralising effect on the enemy, leading to combat stress and fatigue and a general reduction in combat functioning.
Snipers are often employed in operations that require a single specific target such as an enemy commander to be eliminated, but where air or artillery strikes are unavailable/ unsuitable. Sniper’s may even be tasked with destroying specific pieces of enemy military equipment such as vehicles. Such tasks would usually be accomplished using heavier calibre weaponry such as the Barrett M107 or the AS50. The sniper team’s ability to make accurate shots from ranges in excess of 1000m means that the team can reach through the enemy’s defensive perimeter to hit their target from the relative safety of a position well outside the enemy’s range or vision.
Furthermore, the high precision of a sniper’s shots greatly reduce the risk of collateral damage that may be incurred through a conventional infantry assault or through the use of heavier firepower assets such as air strikes. As well as being able to successfully eliminate the target, the sniper team must also be able to escape the area of operation unharmed and undetected following the shot. This extreme survivability is another quality that marks out the sniper team for special tasks.
When there is no specific objective, a sniper will look for targets of opportunity. By tracking enemy movements, snipers wait patiently for the unsuspecting soldiers to present the opportunity for a perfect shot. An officer taking a break to smoke a cigarette, a pilot flight-checking his helicopter, an armed guard on patrol -- these are all targets of opportunity.
Snipers have increasingly been demonstrated as being useful by numerous armed forces in various military campaigns in a fire support role to cover the movement of infantry, especially in urban areas. These support roles can be in an over-watch position or a blocking action. When a sniper team is in an over-watch position, they set themselves up in a concealed place that gives them a clear view of the battlefield. There they can support the assault force by taking out enemy forces that are endangering the advancing platoon. In a blocking action, sniper teams set up to help secure a position that is controlled by their platoon. They may set up on a rooftop and help ground forces defend their position.
The sniper team’s excellent skills of observation allow them to identify and eliminate threats that may not be visible or reachable by standard infantry troops. By providing up to date information to the squad leader on the ground, a sniper team can help the infantry element avoid dangers and potential casualties. The high accuracy of the sniper can also allow him/ her to eliminate priority targets that have the potential to cause significant harm to friendly troops, for example enemy machine gun and RPG teams or snipers, before they inflict excessive damage on friendlies. This fire support may be provided from a number of ranges, from over 1000m right down to within 300m. Operating in support of standard infantry units may also involve conducting counter sniper warfare. The skill and expertise of the sniper in their own field makes them ideal hunters of enemy snipers due to their familiarity with sniping techniques and the sniper’s mindset. Sniper teams are both the best trained and best equipped ground units to combat enemy snipers, possessing the ability to first locate the sniper, and then have the necessary tools to eliminate them, something which a conventional infantry element may be unable to do. Overall the sniper is a key element in providing security to infantry units during operations, allowing them to operate freely in the knowledge that a skilled team of operators are constantly watching their back.