Infantry: Making Life Tough for Snipers


January31, 2007: There are several hundred "gunshot detectors" in Iraq, and the usefulness of these anti-sniper systems has increased as the manufacturers have decreased the number of false alarms, and improved the user interface. These devices have come a long way in the last decade, by virtue of major advances in computing power, sensor quality and software development. Most detectors use acoustic sensors, and the U.S. Army recently spent another ten million dollars on additional acoustic gunshot detector systems.

An alternative approach, using an infrared sensor, detects the object (bullet) itself, and eliminates the false alarms. That's because there aren't too many objects flying around at two or three thousand feet a second that are not bullets (and definitely are dangerous, no matter what they are.) There are about twenty of the infrared detectors in use, plus nearly 200 of the older, acoustic, detectors.

These systems, no matter what sensor they use, have gotten a lot more user friendly. They give timely alerts and good information (about where the shooter is) very quickly. The infrared senor, however, also gives very accurate data on the caliber of the projectile, information which can also be useful on the battlefield.

Ambush has long been the favorite form of combat, but these gunshot detectors make it more difficult for the most deadly type of ambush, the sniper, to succeed. Not every combat unit going on patrol is going to take a gunshot detector with them. But if troops are going somewhere that is a known hangout for snipers, than the detector is good to have along. Most of these snipers are amateurs, and get caught because they do not hide carefully enough, or have a well thought out escape plan. The gunshot gives the target an edge, and has made sniping much less popular among Iraqis, than it would otherwise be.


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