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The Sniper – Past, Present, and Future Missions

Sniper: noun
A person who shoots from a hiding place, especially accurately and at long range.
“The terrorist was killed by a Marine sniper’s bullet in Iraq.”

The sniper is one of the most effective and accurate tools on the battlefield.

By using a sniper you don’t accidentally kill civilians which is quite common to the drone warfare of today.

The first time I was exposed to the world of snipers was when reading Carlos Hathcock’s book, Marine Sniper. From that moment, I was hooked but the sniper of Vietnam is very different from that of WWII, Korea, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

 

The Sniper of the Past

Snipers of 30 years ago would still do reconnaissance like snipers today but the methods and tools used were much more primitive than what’s available now.

Back then, they would hand-sketch target packages. Now, they shoot with an SLR camera, embedded in a digital package with a small ruggedized laptop, and send the data back to base via satellite.

Shots beyond 1,000 yards were very rare. The reasons were bullet and technology limitations, and a general lack of teaching and understanding of how longer shots require more data inputs than just distance, angle, and wind. We have to account for the spin of the earth on any shots past 1,000 yards which has become common for today’s snipers.

The sniper of tomorrow will have even more tools available.

 

The Top Sniper Missions of Today

Overwatch

A special ops team is conducting a direct action mission to take down a bad guy on target and a sniper (or pair of) is positioned to watch over the team from a vantage point. The sniper’s mission would be to protect the team, report on the situation (via radio) to the commander, and eliminate threats as needed. You see this in rural settings and in urban settings like Chris Kyle described in his famous book American Sniper.

I also did a lot of overwatch missions from a helicopter as my platoon boarded ships at night. Same mission but in the open ocean. I remember it felt like I was lurking in the distance like a cat in the African bush waiting to pounce, and the prey has no idea what is beyond the tree line. As a sniper in the back of a FLIR-equipped helicopter and with high-powered night vision goggles and rifle scope (with a laser) you have a big advantage. Taking shots from 200-300 yards in a hovering helicopter is like spearfishing in the Monterey Bay aquarium.

 

Long-Distance Reconnaissance

I personally did a lot of this type of work in Afghanistan. Watching targets with long-range glass, tracking, recording, and reporting on them, and often calling in for air bomber support to eliminate them.

 

Hunt and Kill

I also got an opportunity to do this (well, the hunt part at least) in Afghanistan but the only target we identified and planned an actual sniper mission against was canceled because my platoon had been recalled to Kabul.

Bradley Cooper American Sniper Chris Kyle
Bradley Cooper portraying Navy SEAL sniper, Chris Kyle, in American Sniper, the movie. Notice the Night Force 15x scope and the bolt action .300 Win Mag

 

Future Sniper Missions?

I’ve got some thoughts on that:

Setting up remote camera-operated guns within a building (or rural) hide site and controlling multiple zones aided by an AI sniper assistant who calculates angles, ranges, and shot solutions.

Utilizing Predator-like (the movie) camo, Radio Frequency and WiFi disrupters to wreak havoc on the enemy.

If you’ve seen the crazy series Squid Game, on Netflix you can imagine what smart guns on the battlefield could look like from the show’s first game of Red Light Green Light.

I also imagine snipers having AI drones to control, robot-controlled guns, and an AI spotter, with smart target tracking bullets.

I can see the sniper’s mission of the future. He sneaks into an urban setting in a big African city to track several terrorists. He uses a smart scope to push a button (side of scope) on an enemy target’s face. The embedded facial recognition software locks in the ID of the target, and the smart bullet (with camera) can track the facial recognition of the bad guy like a heat-seeking missile tracking on jet fire.

future sniper gun
Sniper gun of the future. (Art Station)

Doom on you bad guys of the future.

the future sniper
Sniper of the future. (Created by Fabio Paulesu/Art Station)

I have no doubt that the sniper will continue to serve in future wars. His mission will stay the same but the technology and capabilities will be extremely different — even in the next decade.

I would love to hear from you guys in the comments below on what your thoughts are on the future of snipers.

Also! Did you know that SOFREP’s editors wrote a book called Modern American Snipers? You can buy it here. Below is an excerpt of the book:

“Most people think of snipers as shooters perched in urban hides, dealing out death unseen from a considerable distance. But this description barely scratches the surface. Special operations snipers are men with stacked skill sets who have the ability to turn the tide of battles, even when they aren’t pulling the trigger. Snipers have played an outsized role in the War on Terror that has earned them the Medal of Honor, Navy Cross, and countless other honors. These are the most experienced warriors on the battlefield, oftentimes the units’ best assaulters with years of door-kicking under their belt. These are the men who run ops in small teams across borders, or dress like locals and pull off high-risk vehicle reconnaissance and singleton missions in non-permissive environments.”

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