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[DS and SG] Snipers... was other stuff....

From: Thomas Barclay <Thomas.Barclay@s...>
Date: Sun, 25 Oct 1998 23:15:17 -0500
Subject: [DS and SG] Snipers... was other stuff....

Glover, spake thusly upon matters weighty: 

> As far as strengths go, in Britain and Oz you look at no more than 4
or 5
> snipers (usually just two teams) in an infantry battalion. People
> the fact that snipers are so very valuable at procuring information as
> as being able to slot an enemy commander or disable artillery sights
and the
> like.

>From what I've read, Australia has not made as systematic of use of 
snipers (and this dates from Vietnam) as the American forces. And the 
US has seemed to be very schizoid about the whole thing. They had 
snipers in the ACW, in WWI, in WWII, and in Korea, and in Vietnam. 
After every war, there is a lingering discomfort about the 
cold-blooded nature of sniping that seems to make army brass and 
civilian pols discontinue their service/training (hence any peacetime 
force could expect to see little use of them). But once a shooting 
war starts, they tend to reappear and the longer the conflict, or the 
more intense, the more of an appearance they make. This might be 
something that is reflected by an increased presence for forces that 
fight a lot and little or no presence for forces which do not or are 
ideologically opposed (ie the UN). It does not suprise me that the 
Australian army currently does not have many. CF have actively 
thwarted attempts to increase the number of sniper-trained people. It 
isn't like the training costs as much as Air Defence or Anti Armour 
(a state of the art sniper rifle (Remington M700, Harris Bipod, 
Leupold Ultra Sight, match Ammo) can be purchased for under $2500 Cdn 
... barring recent fluctuations... so about $2K US). It's just range 
time, practice with hide, scoot and shoot, and the like. Sure, you 
add in gizmos like Starlight scopes, night vision, etc. and you get a 
little more costly. But still not that bad. 

Also note, snipers have missions (I just read about them) that I 
NEVER imagined....

For example. Both team members take a sniper rifle. One sits in each 
door of a VTOL and flies over an AO. They use starlight scopes and 
their eyes to spot targets. Fire tracer at the target. Accompanying 
gunship nails it with cannonfire. 

For Example. Base defense - sniper uses rifle or HMG firing single 
shots to reduce enemies ability to snipe, mortar or just generally 
move within 2000m of a firebase. 

For Example. Sniper team carries radios (always) and has extraction 
ready and infantry support if needed. They go out and operate in the 
bush on their own but not far (via RF and other methods) from backup. 
They encounter targets they can't engage, but that are worthile. Then 
they become Arty FOs or FACs to call in gunships. 

A sniper is dangerous because he can penetrate quietly areas where 
enemy may be operating, and set up ambushes. Those ambushes can use 
sniper weapons, but a lot of the time used mines, arty, or gunships. 
Sometimes they even coordinated infantry actions - a lot of their job 
is observation. And as Owen points out, intel gathering. And picking 
off guys when they have the chance (usually without warning and 
without the targets buddies knowing where the shot came from). 

My old infantry CO was a proud sponsor of our Rifle Team. That's why 
we won several Reserve Infantry Competitions (3 or 4 years running!) 
in our district and why some of our shooters went to Bisley and won 
Queen's medals. We were trained by an Vietnam veteran sniper. People 
may not be sold on their value, or on the ease of their creation, but 
I think many folk have bought into the hype and media in this regard. 

I think the sniper myths most commonly held
1) They operate independently (apparently some do, but most had 
infantry backup, evac, and arty or gunships at an RTO call). They 
also were attached (as were other specialist) to infantry forces.
2) Snipers got killed a lot. (I'm looking up the figures for John A - 
I think there were few if any Sniper casualties in Vietnam). 
3) They are hard to create - in a way yes - you need expert marksmen 
and people with a hunters attitude. I don't know how many people out 
of any 100 shoot Expert in modern basic training. But this is the 
pool they drew from in Vietnam. They got between 3 and 21 days 
training. The graduated 80% of the people that were sent to sniper 
school. (Now those were selected by COs and DIs. So that is a little 
misleading). I think it would be reasonable to say that you could get 
1 sniper team out of every 100 normal recruits who graduate from a 
training program. Or maybe 1 team of 2 out of every 130-150 who try 
to join the forces (infantry). But the main impediment seems to be a 
psychological one (and it is hard to justify any kind of war-only 
expense during peacetime....). 

Thomas Barclay		     
Voice: (613) 831-2018 x 4009
Fax: (613) 831-8255

 "C makes it easy to shoot yourself in the foot.  C++ makes
 it harder, but when you do, it blows away your whole leg."
 -Bjarne Stroustrup

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