Weapons: Russia Regains Its Sniper Mojo

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March 31, 2017: Russia is equipping some of its troops with a radical (for Russia) new sniper rifle, the T-5000. Testing began in 2011 for what was obviously a rifle based on successful recent Western designs. The T-5000 underwent several years of field testing and tweaking and the production model was known as the T-5000M. It is a 6.5 kg (14.3 pound) bolt action rifle with a 66cm (26 inch) barrel, five round magazine and Picatinny rail. The T-500o is available in versions for the standard NATO 7.62x51mm, .300 Winchester Magnum or .338 (8.6mm) Lapua Magnum. With the 8.6mm round the T-5000 has achieved accurate shots at over 2,000 meters. The T-5000 looks and operates like Western designs and that was done on purpose, using quality components and expert construction. The Russian manufacturer is seeking export customers as well.

The T-5000 was part of the Russian effort to reform their Cold War era armed forces by adopting the best techniques used by the more successful Western nations. The T-5000 was part of an effort to make more aggressive use of snipers. By 2010 Russia was selecting the most promising new recruits and sending them to a three month sniper course. Via this, and other recruiting methods, the Russians sought to obtain at least a thousand additional snipers by 2016. Apparently they succeeded and thanks to the Internet these newly trained snipers were familiar with the rifles their Western counterparts were using in combat.

Ironically, the Russians were large scale and successful users of snipers during World War II, and developed many training and operational techniques now used by Western armies. But during the Cold War everything in the Russian military got threadbare and shabby. Too many people were just going through the motions and Russia lost its edge in maintaining a large and capable force of snipers.

The United States has been the most successful user of snipers so far this century. Since 2001 sniper training in the U.S. Army and Marine Corps underwent tremendous changes. Mostly this was because so many snipers were getting lots of combat experience. That experience comes back to the sniper training schools. Another change has been increasing communication between the three primary centers of sniper training (army, marines and army Special Forces). Each of these schools has long tended to develop in isolation from the others. But after 2001 there were more competitions and gatherings that brought together snipers from all three and many valuable exchanges about tactics, techniques and combat experience took place. Finally, the growth in the number of snipers led to many more sniper weapons and items of equipment being developed and produced. This has been driven, in part, by the growth in the number of civilians taking up sniping as a sport. Some of these civilian snipers are former military, but most are civilian shooters seeking an edge in their hunting, or simply to develop some new, and challenging, skills.

In 2004 the U.S. Army, emulating the U.S. Marine Corps, began training additional snipers, so that army units would have more than three times as many. This was about the same number of snipers the marines have had for a long time. To do make this happen, the army is tripled the output of its sniper schools. The army had a five week sniper course, while the marines had a ten week course that was considered one of the best in the world. These schools turn out professional snipers who know how to operate independently in two man teams.

Marine regiments (about the same size as army brigades) then had about three times as many snipers per battalion as did army units. Back then, the army only has six or eight snipers per infantry battalion. The additional sniper training sought to provide one sniper in each infantry squad. There are 27 squads in an infantry battalion.

But both the army and the marines were also taking advantage of the greater number of veteran troops in their combat units, and the fact that just about every soldier has a rifle with a scope, and has a lot of target practice behind them. In the past, infantry commanders were encouraged to find and designate about ten percent of their men as sharpshooters (sort of sniper lite) and make use of these guys to take out enemy troops at a distance, with single shots. This was a trend that had been growing since the 1990s and was becoming a major feature of American infantry tactics. These sharpshooters, especially the ones with combat experience, were the prime candidates for sniper school. The trained snipers, however, also have the special skills required to find the best shooting position, and how to stay hidden, and get out of harm's way if discovered. Trained snipers have proved to be a powerful weapon in the kinds of battles encountered in Afghanistan and Iraq. The enemy fighters greatly fear the snipers, and the presence of snipers restricted the mobility of enemy gunmen.

 


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