Snipers play an important role in the mechanized infantry battalion. They give the commander accurate, discriminatory, long-range, small-arms fire. These tires are best used against key targets that, due to their range, size, location, visibility, security and stealth requirements, collateral damage, intensity of conflict, or rules of engagement, cannot be destroyed by other available weapon systems. Also, the individual techniques snipers use enable them to gather detailed, critical information about the enemy, though this is a secondary role. The effectiveness of a sniper is measured by more than casualties or destroyed targets. Commanders know that snipers also affect enemy activities, morale, and decisions. Knowing snipers are present hinders the enemy's movement, creates confusion and continuous personal fear, disrupts enemy operations and preparations, and compels the enemy to divert forces to deal with the snipers. (See FM 23-14.)
Snipers are employed in two-man teams; each team consists of one sniper and one observer, normally cross-trained. The observer carries an M16-series rifle, the sniper carries the sniper weapon system, and each has a side arm. Snipers should avoid sustained battles. During long periods of observation, team members help each other with range estimation, round adjustment, and security.
a. Sniper teams should be centrally controlled by the commander or designated sniper employment officer. Once they are deployed, snipers must be able to operate independently, as required. Therefore, they must understand the commander's intent, his concept of the operation, and the purpose for their assigned tasks. This allows them to exercise initiative within the framework of the commander's intent and to support the commander's concept and achievement of the unit's mission. To ensure clear fields of fire and observation, the teams must be able to choose their own positions once they are on the ground. Snipers are effective only in areas that offer good fields of fire and observation. The number of sniper teams participating in an operation depends on their availability, the expected duration of the mission, and enemy strength.
b. Sniper teams should move with a security element (squad/platoon) when possible. This allows the teams to reach their areas of operation faster and safer than if they operated alone. The security element also protects the snipers during operations. When moving with a security element, snipers follow these guidelines:
(1) The leader of the security element leads the sniper team.
(2) Snipers must appear to be an integral part of the security element. To do so, each sniper carries his weapon system in line with and close to his body to hide the weapon's outline and barrel length. Sniper-unique equipment (optics, ghillie suit) is also concealed from view.
(3) The uniform must be the same as that of element members, and proper intervals and positions in the element formation are maintained.
c. History has proven that commanders must be educated as to the proper use of a sniper. If commanders know the abilities and limitations of a sniper, the sniper can contribute significantly to the fight. Commanders should consider carefully all the factors of METT-T when conducting their estimate of the situation.
(1) Mission. The sniper's primary mission is to support combat operations by delivering precise rifle fire from concealed positions. The mission assigned to a sniper team for a particular operation consists of the task(s) the commander wants the sniper team to accomplish and the reason (purpose) for it. The commander must decide how he wants his sniper team to affect the battlefield. Then he must assign missions to achieve this effect. The commander should prioritize targets so snipers can avoid involvement in sustained engagements. Regardless of the method used, the sniper team must be free to change targets to support the commander's intent.
(a) The commander may describe the effect or result he expects and allow the sniper team to select key targets.
(b) The commander may assign specific types of targets--for example, if he wants to disrupt the defensive preparations of the enemy, he may task snipers to kill operators of bulldozers and other engineer equipment. He may task them to disable enemy vehicles carrying supplies. Or, he may task them to engage soldiers digging enemy defensive positions.
(c) The commander may also assign specific targets. These can include enemy leaders, command and control operators, ATGM gunners, armored-vehicle commanders, or weapons crews. In cases where large crowds pose a threat to US forces, snipers can single out selected individuals. In populated areas where casualties should be kept low, the snipers can be assigned to kill enemy snipers.
(2) Enemy. The commander must consider the characteristics, capabilities, strengths, weaknesses, and disposition of the enemy. Is the enemy force heavy or light, rested or tired, disciplined or not? Is it motorized infantry or towed artillery? Is it well-supplied or short of supplies? Is it patrolling aggressively or is it lax in security? Is it positioned in assembly areas or dug in? The answers to such questions help the commander determine the enemy's susceptibility and reaction to effective sniper operations. Naturally, a well-rested, well-led, well-supplied, and aggressive enemy with armored protection poses a greater threat to snipers than one who is tired, poorly led, poorly supplied, lax, and unprotected. Also, the commander needs to know if enemy snipers are present and if they are effective; they can pose a significant danger to his own snipers. Also, the enemy's DEW capability should be considered. Snipers use optical devices, so they are particularly vulnerable to this threat.
(3) Terrain. The terrain in the sniper's area of operations and the terrain he must travel to reach it must be evaluated. The commander must consider the time and effort snipers will expend getting into position. He must also consider the effect of weather on the sniper and on his visibility. Snipers need good firing positions. They prefer positions at least 300 meters from their target area. Operating at this distance allows them to avoid effective fire from enemy rifles, yet they retain much of the 800-meter to 1,000-meter effective range of the sniper rifle. To be most effective, snipers need areas of operations with adequate observation and fields of fire.
(4) Troops. The commander must decide how many sniper teams to use. This depends on their availability, on the duration of the operation, on the expected opposition, and on the number and difficulty of tasks, targets, or both assigned to snipers. The snipers' level of training and physical condition must also be considered. Commanders must remember the effect of these human factors on sniper operations.
(5) Time available. The commander must consider how long the snipers will have to achieve the result he expects. He must allocate time for snipers to plan, coordinate, prepare, rehearse, move, and then to establish positions. The commander must understand how the snipers' risk increases when they lack adequate time to plan or to do things such as move to the area of operations. The amount of time a sniper team can remain in a position without loss of effectiveness due to eye fatigue, muscle strain, or cramps, depends mostly on the type of position he is occupying. Generally, snipers can remain in an expedient position for 6 hours before they must be relieved. They can remain in belly positions or semipermanent hides for up to 48 hours before they must be relieved. Mission duration times average 24 hours. (FM 23-10 provides guidance on sniper position considerations, construction, and preparation and occupation times.) Movement factors for snipers moving with a security element are the same as for any infantry force. When snipers are moving alone in the area of operations, they move slowly; their movement can be measured in feet and inches. The sniper team is best qualified to determine how much time is required for a particular movement.
Offensive operations carry the fight to the enemy to destroy his capability and will to fight. By killing enemy targets that threaten the success of the attack, the sniper can play a major role in offensive operations.
a. During offensive operations, snipers--
(1) Conduct countersniper operations.
(2) Overwatch movement of friendly forces and suppress enemy targets that threaten the moving forces.
(3) Place precision fire on enemy crew-served weapons teams and into exposed apertures of bunkers.
(4) Place precision fire on enemy leaders, armored-vehicle drivers or commanders, FOs, or other designated personnel.
(5) Place precision fire on small, isolated, bypassed forces.
(6) Place precision fire on targets threatening a counterattack or fleeing.
(7) Assist in screening a flank using supplemental fires.
(8) Dominate key terrain by controlling access with fires.
b. During a movement to contact, snipers move with the lead element, or they can be employed 24 to 48 hours before the unit's movement--
(1) To select positions.
(2) To gather information about the enemy.
(3) To dominate key terrain, preventing enemy surprise attacks.
c. During a mounted attack, the sniper's role is limited by fast movement. However, snipers can provide effective support during a dismounted assault.
(1) Contact may force the mounted element to dismount and continue moving dismounted. Snipers placed with lead elements move to positions that allow them to overwatch the dismounted movement of the element and to provide long-range small arms fire. Sniper teams are most effective where BFVs are ineffective--that is, where BFVs cannot provide overwatching fires for any reason. For example, in certain areas, the terrain may limit BFV mobility. In other areas, the enemy situation may present an unacceptable risk to BFVs occupying hull defilade positions. BFV movement could compromise the stealth of the dismounted force. Multiple avenues must be overwatched.
(2) Snipers may also be placed with a mounted support element assigned to suppress, fix, or isolate the enemy on the objective. The sniper rifle's precision fire and lack of blast effect allow the sniper to provide closer supporting fires for assaulting soldiers than the mounted support element can provide. This difference in their weapons' effective ranges requires the snipers and the mounted support element to seek support-by-fire positions at different ranges, when terrain allows. Long after BFVs and tanks are forced to shift or lift their supporting fires, snipers can selectively fire on close-in targets that are threatening the assault. These targets may be gunners of enemy crew-sewed weapons or enemy soldiers in fortified positions. Snipers always aim carefully to avoid possible fratricide due to ricochets.
(3) If time permits, snipers may be deployed as soon as the element reaches the dismount point. The snipers' weapons have better optics and longer ranges than other types of small arms. This is why snipers are assigned to provide additional long-range observation and precision fire on any enemy targets that may appear. To increase security, snipers may cover different sectors than the mounted elements.
(4) Snipers may move with the dismounted element toward the objective. The snipers may then occupy a close-in support-by-fire position, where they can help suppress or destroy targets threatening the assault of the dismounted element. Or they may move along with the dismounted element onto the objective to provide close-in precision fire against enemy fortified positions, bunkers, and trenchlines. Selection of the sniper support-by-fire position is dependent on METT-T. Obviously, the closer snipers are to the objective area, the greater the chance they will be discovered and lose their effectiveness.
(5) To increase security and surprise, snipers may move covertly into position in an objective area, well before the main attack and mounted forces arrive. If mounted elements appear on the battlefield at the same time the snipers arrive, the snipers' security and potential for surprise are both degraded. Ideally, a sniper team going in early moves with infiltrating dismounted infantry. This is faster and more secure than moving alone. After the snipers are in position, the dismounted infantry may remain nearby as additional security, but they are more likely to have other supporting tasks to perform. However, even the proximity of dismounted infantry enhances security.
(6) After their fires are masked, snipers must reposition as soon possible. The speed of mechanized assaults may prevent snipers from firing from more than one support position. For this reason, the commander must carefully evaluate where the snipers will be most useful. If he wants to use snipers in several different places, or if he wants them to contribute throughout the attack, he should provide transportation to enable them to move quickly, stealthily, and safely about the battlefield.
(7) Upon consolidation, snipers may displace forward to new positions. These positions may not necessarily be on the objective. From these positions, the snipers provide precision fire against bypassed enemy positions, enemy counterattack forces, or other enemy positions that could degrade the unit's ability to exploit the success of the attack.
d. During a raid, sniper teams can be employed with either the security element or the support element--
(1) To cover avenues of approach and escape that lead in and out of the objective.
(2) To cover friendly routes of withdrawal to the rally point.
(3) To provide long-range fires on the objective.
e. After consolidation, snipers may displace forward to new positions, not necessarily on the objective, where they can place precision fire on bypassed enemy positions, enemy counterattack forces, or other enemy positions that could degrade the unit's ability to exploit the success of the attack.
Assaulting forces invariably encounter some type of fortified positions prepared by the defending force. These can range from field-expedient, hasty positions produced with locally available materials, to elaborate steel and concrete emplacements complete with turrets, underground tunnels, and crew quarters. Field-expedient positions are those most often encountered. However, elaborate positions should be expected when the enemy has had significant time to prepare his defense. He may have fortified weapons emplacements or bunkers, protected shelters, reinforced natural or constructed caves, entrenchments, and other obstacles.
a. The enemy will try to locate these positions so they are mutually supporting and are arrayed in depth across the width of his sector. He will also try to increase his advantages by covering and concealing positions and by preparing fire plans and counterattack contingencies. Because of this, fortified areas should be bypassed and contained by a small force.
b. The sniper's precision-fire and observation capabilities are invaluable in the assault of a fortified area. Pinpoint targets invisible to the naked eye are readily detected and are destroyed by precision rifle fire. The snipers' role during the assault of a fortified position is to deliver precision fire against the embrasures, air vents, and doorways of key enemy positions; observation posts; and exposed personnel. The commander must plan the order in which sniper targets should be destroyed. Their destruction should systematically reduce the enemy's defense by destroying the ability of enemy positions to support each other. Once these positions are isolated, they can be more easily reduced. Therefore, the commander must decide where he will try to penetrate the enemy's fortified positions, then he must employ his snipers against those locations. Snipers can provide continuous tire support for both assaulting units and other nearby units when operating from positions near the breach point on the flanks. Sniper fires add to the effectiveness of the entire unit; the commander can employ snipers in situations where other resources cannot be used for various reasons.
c. The sniper team bases their plan on information available. The enemy information they need includes the following:
(1) Extent of and exact locations of individual and underground fortifications.
(2) Fields of fire, directions of fire, locations and number of embrasures, and types of weapons systems in the fortifications.
(3) Locations of entrances, exits, and air vents in each emplacement.
(4) Locations and types of existing and reinforcing obstacles.
(5) Locations of weak spots in the enemy's defense.
Snipers may effectively enhance or augment any unit's defensive fire plan. After analyzing the terrain, the sniper team should recommend options to the commander.
a. The sniper team can perform the following tasks during defensive operations:
- Cover obstacles, minefields, roadblocks, and demolitions.
- Perform counterreconnaissance (kill enemy reconnaissance elements).
- Engage enemy OPs, armored-vehicle commanders exposed in turrets, and ATGM teams.
- Damage enemy vehicles' optics to degrade his movement.
- Suppress enemy crew-served weapons.
- Disrupt follow-on units with long-range small-arms fire.
b. Snipers are generally positioned to observe or control one or more avenues of approach into the defensive position. Due to the types of weapons systems available, snipers may be used against secondary avenues of approach. Snipers can be used to increase all-round security and to allow the commander to concentrate his combat power against the most likely enemy avenue of approach. Snipers may support the battalion by providing extra optics for target-acquisition and precise long-range fires to complement those of the M249, M60, and M2 machine guns. This arrangement seeks to maximize the effectiveness of all the unit's weapon systems. Snipers may be used in an economy-of-force role to cover a dismounted enemy avenue of approach into positions the battalion cannot cover.
c. Snipers establish alternate and supplementary positions for all-round security. Positions near the FEBA are vulnerable to concentrated attacks, enemy artillery, and obscurants. Multiple teams, if used, can be positioned for surveillance and mutual fire support. If possible, they should establish positions in depth for continuous support during the fight. The sniper's rate of fire neither increases nor decreases as the enemy approaches. Specific targets are systematically and deliberately shot; accuracy is not sacrificed for speed.
d. Snipers can be placed to overwatch key obstacles or terrain such as river-crossing sites, bridges, minefields that canalize the enemy directly into engagement areas, and so on. Snipers are mainly used where weapons systems are less effective due to security requirements or terrain. Even though weapons systems with greater range and optics capability than the snipers' weapons are available to the commander, he may be unable to use them for any of several reasons. They might present too large a firing signature, be difficult to conceal well, create too much noise, or be needed more in other areas. Sniper team members provide the commander with better observation and greater killing ranges than do other soldiers.
e. Snipers can be used as an integral part of the counterreconnaissance effort. They can help acquire or destroy targets, or both. They can augment the counterreconnaissance element by occupying concealed positions for long periods. They can also observe, direct indirect fires (to maintain their security), and engage targets. Selective long-range sniper fires are difficult for the enemy to detect. A few well-placed shots can disrupt enemy reconnaissance efforts, force him to deploy into combat formations, and deceive him as to the location of the main battle area. The sniper's stealth skills counter the skills of enemy reconnaissance elements. Snipers can be used where scout or rifle platoon mobility is unnecessary, freeing the scouts and riflemen to cover other sectors. Snipers can also be used to direct ground maneuver elements toward detected targets. This also helps maintain their security so they can be used against successive echelons of attacking enemy.
f. Snipers should be tasked to support any unit defending a strongpoint. The characteristics of the sniper team enable it to adapt to performing independent harassing and observation tasks in support of the force in the strongpoint, either from within or outside of the strongpoint.
g. Snipers can provide effective long-range fires from positions forward of the topographical crest or, if the unit is occupying a reverse-slope defense, on the counterslope.
The sniper team must know the concept, intent, and scheme of maneuver. Withdrawal times, conditions, or both; priorities for withdrawals; routes; support positions; rally points; and locations of obstacles are all key information the sniper must know. Both engagement and disengagement criteria must be planned and coordinated to ensure snipers achieve the desired effect without compromising their positions. (Chapter 5 discusses retrograde operations.)
a. Snipers can help the delaying force cause the enemy to deploy prematurely during retrograde operations. They help by inflicting casualties with accurate, long-range, small-arms fire. When the enemy receives effective small-arms fire from unknown positions, he is likely to assume he is near an enemy position (most likely one with ATGMs) and he will begin to maneuver to a position of advantage against the perceived threat. Thus, using a sniper team, the commander can achieve the same effect that he could with another infantry unit. The snipers' stealth also gives them a better chance of infiltrating out of positions close to the enemy.
b. Delaying forces risk being bypassed or overtaken by attacking enemy forces during retrograde operations. Commanders may provide transportation to move snipers to successive positions. Vehicles must remain in defilade positions to the rear of the sniper position; or, they must occupy different positions away from the sniper's area of operations so as not to compromise the sniper's position. In either case, a linkup point, egress routes, and conditions for executing the linkup must be fully coordinated. Commanders may also provide communications assets to the sniper team to facilitate control and movement.
c. Snipers, as well as other units, may find themselves behind the enemy's front; therefore, they must be prepared to infiltrate back to friendly positions. Their infiltration plans must be fully coordinated to avoid fratricide when they try to reenter a friendly position. When planning successive positions, the commander must realize that the sniper team may be unavailable for use if they are destroyed or are having difficulty disengaging from an enemy force. In view of this, the commander must consider carefully how and where he wants snipers to contribute to the operation. Planning too many positions for the sniper team in a fast-paced retrograde is sure to result in failure.
d. Snipers may be assigned any of the following specific tasks:
- Delay the enemy by inflicting casualties.
- Observe avenues of approach.
- Cover key obstacles with precision fire.
- Direct artillery fire against large enemy formations.
The value of the sniper to a unit operating in an urban area depends on several factors. These factors include the type of operation, the level of conflict, and the rules of engagement. Where ROE allow destruction, the snipers may not be needed since other weapons systems available to a mechanized force have greater destructive effect. However, they can contribute to the fight. Where the ROE prohibit collateral damage, snipers may be the most valuable tool the commander has.
a. Sniper effectiveness depends in part on the terrain. Control is degraded by the characteristics of an urban area. To provide timely and effective support, the sniper must have a clear picture of the scheme of maneuver and commander's intent.
(1) Observation and fields of fire are clearly defined by roadways, but surveillance is limited by rooftops, windows, and doorways; each of these require constant observation. Also, the effects of smoke from military obscurants and burning buildings can degrade what appeared to be an excellent vantage point. The requirement for all-round defense must be met, because the enemy can fire from many directions and because enemy infiltration attempts must be countered.
(2) Cover and concealment are excellent for both the attacker and defender. However, the defender has a decisive advantage; the attacker normally must expose himself during movement through the area.
(3) Avenues of approach that remain inside buildings are best. Movement there is less easily detected than movement through the streets. The sniper must be conscious of ALL avenues of approach and must be prepared to engage targets that appear on any of them.
b. Snipers should be positioned in buildings of masonry construction. These buildings should also offer long-range fields of fire and all-round observation. The sniper has an advantage because he does not have to move with, or be positioned with, lead elements. He may occupy a higher position to the rear or flanks and some distance away from the element he is supporting. By operating far from the other elements, a sniper avoids decisive engagement but remains close enough to kill distant targets that threaten the unit. Snipers should not be placed in obvious positions, such as church steeples and rooftops, since the enemy often observes these and targets them for destruction. Indirect fires can generally penetrate rooftops and cause casualties in top floors of buildings. Also, snipers should not be positioned where there is heavy traffic; these areas invite enemy observation as well.
c. Snipers should operate throughout the area of operations, moving with and supporting the companies as necessary. Some teams may operate independent of other forces. They search for targets of opportunity, especially for enemy snipers. The team may occupy multiple positions. A single position may not afford adequate observation for the entire team without increasing the risk of detection by the enemy. Separate positions must maintain mutual support. Alternate and supplementary positions should also be established in urban areas.
d. Snipers may be assigned tasks such as the following:
(1) Conducting countersniper operations.
(2) Killing targets of opportunity. The sniper team prioritizes these targets based on their understanding of the commander's intent--for example, enemy snipers first, then leaders, vehicle commanders, radio men, sappers, and machine gun crews, in that order.
(3) Denying enemy access to certain areas or avenues of approach (controlling key terrain).
(4) Providing fire support for barricades and other obstacles.
(5) Maintaining surveillance of flank and rear avenues of approach (screening).
(6) Supporting local counterattacks with precision fire.
e. Snipers can be valuable to commanders in operations other than war. Since collateral damage and civilian casualties are normally restricted by the ROE, the snipers can selectively kill or wound key individuals who pose a threat to friendly forces. This selective engagement avoids unacceptable civilian casualties or collateral damage. Targets often hide in the midst of the civilian populace, which makes them virtually invulnerable to US forces since destroying these targets would probably cause innocent casualties--for example, a lone gunman in a crowd who fires at soldiers manning a roadblock. The soldiers must first identify the gunman (this is nearly impossible from their vantage point). Then, without hurting innocent bystanders, they must stop him from continuing to tire or from fleeing. This is an easier task for an overwatching sniper than for the infantry on the ground. The sniper can look down on the crowd, use his optics to continuously scan, and employ precision fire to eliminate (kill or wound) the identified threat without harming bystanders. Though other unit optical systems may supplement the surveillance effort (Dragons and TOWs from the ground or from the upper floors of buildings), they do not engage the target for the previously stated reasons. The sniper rifle provides the commander with the ONLY system that can both identify AND engage the target. Also, after identifying the target, Dragons and TOWs still need time to guide a precision weapon or maneuver unit to the target to deal with it.
Sniper teams, by virtue of their observation and precision-fire capabilities, are uniquely adaptable to the initial stages of a river crossing. They are normally employed in general support of the battalion both before and during the crossing.
a. Snipers assume positions across the total width of the crossing area (if possible) before the crossing. Their main task is to observe. They should be located as far above or below possible crossing sites as is consistent with observation and fields of fire. They report all sightings of enemy positions and activity immediately. Once again, they provide a stealthy observation capability not otherwise available to the commander. Their stealth prevents the enemy from learning what type of unit is trying to cross, and so on. They supplement normal reconnaissance assets.
b. Snipers provide support during the crossing by continuing to observe and suppress enemy OPs and other key targets that might be overlooked by heavier supporting elements. The snipers' ability to continue to provide close-in suppressive fire makes continuous fire support possible up to the moment the far side is reached and elements begin their movement to establish the bridgehead line.
c. Snipers should be positioned as early as possible, preferably as part of the reconnaissance force. Their movement across the river must also be planned in advance. How they will get across and where their subsequent positions will be must be coordinated. Generally, they displace once friendly elements reach the far side.
d. Snipers are placed with elements controlling an air assault or boat crossing. The snipers expand the capability of the inserted force to engage threatening targets at long ranges. Their priority of engagement is generally the same as that for the remainder of the inserted force. Once on the far side, snipers may screen the flank or rear of the inserted force, infiltrate to destroy key targets, such as a demolition guard or fortified emplacements, or man OPs well to the front of the inserted force. This increases both early warning time and the inserted force's ability to disrupt enemy counterattack forces. This also confuses the enemy as to the type, strength, and location of the opposing force.
The effective employment of sniper teams with any size or type patrol is limited only by the terrain and by the patrol leader's ingenuity. Snipers must know all aspects of patrolling.
a. Snipers normally remain with the security element during reconnaissance patrols. If terrain permits, snipers can provide long-range support that will enable the reconnaissance element to patrol farther from the security element. To prevent compromise of the reconnaissance element's position, snipers only fire in self-defense or when ordered by the patrol leader. Normally, the only appropriate time to fire at a target of opportunity is when extraction or departure from the position is imminent and firing will not endanger the success of the patrol.
b. Sniper employment on a raid is influenced by the time of day the raid is to be conducted and by the size of the patrol. When maximum firepower is needed and the size of the patrol must be limited, snipers may be excluded. If long-range precision fire is needed and patrol size permits, sniper teams may be attached to the security element. If appropriate, the sniper team may be attached to the support element to help provide long-range supporting fires. When attached to the security element, the sniper team helps observe, helps prevent enemy escape from the objective area, and helps cover the withdrawal of the assault force to the rally point. When the element withdraws from the rally point, the sniper team may be left behind to delay and harass enemy counteraction or pursuit.
c. Snipers are positioned during ambushes in areas that afford observation and fields of fire into terrain features the enemy might use for cover after the ambush has begun. The long range of the sniper rifle allows the sniper team to be positioned away from the main body. Sniper fires are coordinated into the fire plan. Once the signal to initiate fires is given, snipers add their fires to that of the rest of the patrols. Snipers shoot leaders, radio operators, and crew-served weapons teams. If the enemy is mounted, every effort is made to kill drivers of his lead and trail vehicles in order to block the road, prevent escape, and create confusion. Snipers may remain in position to cover the withdrawal of the patrol.
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