Snipers: Invisible, precise, dangerous (Part 2)

Snipers: Invisible, precise, dangerous (Part 2)

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Snipers often lie in wait for many hours, sometimes even days. They must remain still and blend into their surroundings so they are not detected. Most of the time, they will take an exhausting and strenuous route to their fighting position.

A soldier lies behind his weapon and looks through the sight.

Five cartridges fit into the magazine of the G22 A2 rifle and must be manually reloaded by the shooter.

Bundeswehr/Maximilian Schulz

The teams are well equipped to ensure their operational effectiveness. Beside weapons, ammunition, optical equipment, and radio sets, the soldiers may also carry spotting scopes, anemometers, barometers and laser range finders. All in all, their equipment weighs between 40 and 50 kilograms. “Considering that we also need water, food and personal equipment, you soon become a minimalist,” Corporal André L.* says with a smile. For almost 15 years he has been a sniper in the Army.

Being invisible

Two camouflaged soldiers lie in a firing position.

The first and foremost goal of snipers is not to be reconnoitred. With their ghillie suits, a type of special camouflage clothing, they are almost invisible.

Bundeswehr/Maximilian Schulz

The first and foremost goal of snipers is not to be detected. Over time, they learn how to blend into their surroundings and remain undetected, almost invisible. To do this, soldiers wear special clothing: the ghillie suit. Ghillie suits are camouflage clothing, similar to capes, consisting of green and brown linen patches. On operations, snipers add natural materials such as grass, branches and leaves. “Soldiers must adapt their clothing to their environment and the terrain. Materials vary according to season and terrain. Preparing ghillie suits is time consuming. The camouflage must look as natural as possible.” Ghillie suits help snipers become invisible – they are life insurance as it were.

They owe their unusual name to a fairy from Scottish mythology, the Ghillie Dhu. According to legends, he was a peaceful mountain spirit, clothed in leaves and moss.

Protection of own forces

The sniper rifle rests on a rope attached to the cargo area of a truck.

Snipers must often be resourceful to fulfil their tasks and to engage the adversary from their positions. A rope can be used as a firing platform.

Bundeswehr/Elisabeth Rabe

As they are both dangerous and difficult to detect, snipers can diminish enemy morale. Even in past centuries, snipers spread fear and terror. In modern warfare, snipers are generally employed by the battalion or company commander for high-value targets. “We can, for example, act as early entry forces in enemy-occupied territory to obtain important knowledge of the area or to engage high-value targets. Another core task is conducting surveillance – snitching and reporting, so to speak”, André L. says. From their concealed positions, snipers not only deliver detailed information but can also thwart enemy movement by firing rounds.

The supreme discipline of snipers is urban combat. Although nature is the sniper’s element, he must act and camouflage himself accordingly in urban environments too. In such environments, snipers are often employed to protect own forces. They provide covering fire for their comrades who are fighting in built-up areas. A special ability of snipers is that they can shoot past own forces at an angle of two degrees. In comparison, specialised forces can fire five degrees away, while combat forces must shoot at an angle of at least 30 degrees.

Combat and morale

A soldier lies behind his weapon and manually reloads it.

The G22 A2 sniper rifle is a repeating rifle with a calibre of 7.62 mm. It weighs nine kilograms and has a sight with a magnification factor between 3 and 12.

Bundeswehr/Maximilian Schulz

With their precision weapons, the G22 A2 rifle and the G82 rifle, snipers are able to accurately place shots far beyond 1,000 metres. Snipers use the G28 marksman rifle mainly in urban environments. The G22 is the standard weapon used by snipers and is a bolt-action repeating rifle. This means that each cartridge is manually loaded from the magazine. This makes the rifle more precise than an autoloading rifle as the moving parts of the latter can affect accuracy. Snipers also use a telescopic sight to place shots. The lance corporal explains that prospective snipers should consider what this means. “Unlike other soldiers, we can clearly see the damage caused by our own fire. In the end, every soldier must be able to justify to himself the actions he has taken. The tough and regular training, the expensive equipment, and the special missions do not make us better soldiers, just different ones”, André L says.

Bundeswehr snipers are part of an elite circle of soldiers who have come a long and tough way. They are physically fit, determined, and team players – they are pushed to their limits in every way. On every operation, they endure deprivation and strain, fighting from concealed positions. It is a special fight, without any spectators or applause, and always anonymous. Snipers and their skills have always been the subjects of myths that will likely never be dispelled.

* Name changed

by Elisabeth Rabe

Part 1

The training of these specialists is tough. Excellent marksmanship is just a small part of the job, a sniper reports.