Faced with an enemy that has no compunctions about committing war crimes by using human shields, allied armies are discovering that snipers are a critical battlefield asset. Afghanistan is an excellent sniper spot for other reasons as well, including its long stretches of rocky, dusty terrain with very little cover. It’s no coincidence that US Soldiers from Task Force Fury in Afghanistan became the first unit in a combat zone to receive the USA’s new XM110 7.62mm semi-automatic sniper rifle. Larger ‘Big Mac’ .50 cal/ 12.7mm sniper rifles have also been used to considerable effect by Canadian Forces, including the longest deliberate sniper kill in history (2473 meters/ 2705 yards), during the battle of Tora Bora (Operation Anaconda).
Now Britain’s broader GBP 11 million (about $22.6 million) Sniper System Improvement program aims to give UK snipers more power, precision and stealth than ever before. It will include all-weather new advanced day and night sights for all-hours, all-conditions effectiveness; laser technology for accurate range finding and location to distant targets, and a new gun…
Contracts & Key Events
March 31/14: 6 in 1 blow. The UK’s Telegraph newspaper learns that a Coldstream Guards sniper using the L115A3 hit the trigger switch on a suicide bomber’s vest from 850 m, detonating it and killing 6 of the 15-20 Taliban facing his unit in Kakaran, Afghanistan. After the battle, a second suicide vest packed with 20 kg (44 lbs) of explosives was found nearby. The same sniper also killed a Taliban machine-gunner from 1,340 m, over 4/5ths of a mile away.
In fairness, the sharpshooter wasn’t aiming for the trigger switch. Still, nice shot. Sources: The Telegraph, “British sniper in Afghanistan kills six Taliban with one bullet”.
Nov 12/08: The last of the L115A3 rifles produced under the GBP 3.7 million contract with Portsmouth-based company Accuracy International Limited are handed over to Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S). UK MoD release.
March 11/08: The Uk MoD formally unveils the new sniper system in a public release, and announces that snipers from 16 Air Assault Brigade, who are due to deploy on operations later in March, have put the new L115A3 rifle through its paces, firing at targets with pinpoint accuracy from 900 yards (823 metres) away. Training is in high demand at Support Weapons School in Warminster.
The 580 weapons have been produced by British firm Accuracy International Ltd based in Portsmouth; the day sights, with twice the magnifying power of the old version, are manufactured by Schmidt & Bender. The rifles are also equipped with brand new all-weather day and night sights, which will give British snipers a round-the-clock capability they haven’t had before.
Nov 14/07: The British firm Accuracy International Ltd. already makes the 7.62mm L96 sniper rifle, designed to achieve first-round hits at 600m and harassing fire out to 1100m/ 1200 yards. It has been upgraded with a new 3-12 x 50 sight and spotting scope. The L115A3 Long Range Rifle is a whole new weapon, however, whose heavier 8.59mm (.338 Lapua Magnum) bullet creates much less deflection at 1100+ meters. It’s an upgrade over the L115A1 that has served in limited numbers with the Army and Royal Marines. Snipers in the British Army, Royal Marines and RAF Regiment will be receiving 580 new L115A3s with day telescopic sights, under a GBP 4 million ($8.2 million) sub-program.