Weapons: Ukraine Goes West For Sniper Rifles


March 1, 2018: In early 2018 the Ukraine officially adopted the UR-10 semi-automatic sniper rifle chambered in 7.62x51mm NATO rounds. The UR-10 replaces elderly Soviet era Dragunov 7.62x54mm SVDs that first appeared in the early 1960s. The number of UR-10s to be purchased was not announced but it is known that in 2015 the Ukrainian army had about 10,000 SVDs so either the same number of UR-10s will be obtained or some troops will have to keep using the elderly SVDs. Since snipers are heavily used in the Donbas fighting Ukraine will want to ensure its troops there have the best sniper rifle possible. Losses on both sides in Donbas are disproportionately due to sniper fire. Some snipers from Ukraine Special Forces units already use western made equipment, including sniper rifles favored by American SOCOM (Special Operations Command) operators (Accuracy International and Barrett rifles.)

The UR-10 itself is basically a little upgraded version of the Ukrainian Zbroyar Z-10 hunting rifle. The Z-10 has been in production since 2007 and is basically a license built American Armalite AR-10. The AR-10 entered U.S. service (in Iraq and Afghanistan) during 2008 as the M110 SASS (Semi-Automatic Sniper System). This weapon was not a big technological breakthrough as it was based on the older AR-10 rifle. The U.S. Navy had been buying a similar weapon, the SR25 which was also known as the Mk11 Sniper Rifle System (SRS). These new semi-automatic sniper rifles were 7.62/51mm weapons based on the designs of M-16 creator, retired USAF Colonel Gene Stoner. The basis for the M-16 was the AR-15, and a 7.62mm version of that weapon was called the AR-10. About half the parts in the SR25 are interchangeable with those in the M-16.

The Stoner sniper rifles achieved its high accuracy partly by using a 50 cm (20 inch) heavy floating barrel. The "floating" means that the barrel is attached only to the main body of the rifle to reduce resonance (which throws off accuracy.) The M110 weighs 7.8 kg (17.3 pounds) in combat. The M110 can use a ten or twenty round magazine. The 1.1 meter (40.5 inch) long rifle can have a 15cm (six inch tube) attached to the barrel, which reduces the noise and flash made when the rifle fires, and largely eliminates nearby dust rising into the air, which often gives away the snipers position. Previously, many American snipers had success using tuned up M-14s (from the 1960s) as sniper rifles. While semi-automatic and rugged, the M14 wasn't designed to be a sniper rifle. The AR-10 was a better model for a semi-automatic sniper rifle, since it is inherently more reliable and accurate. As far back as World War II, it was known that there were many situations where a semi-automatic sniper rifle would come in handy. But it took over half a century to solve the reliability and accuracy problems. The M110 replaced the bolt-action M24, and provided commanders with much more effective snipers. That increase in numbers (of snipers) and their effectiveness, changed the look (less random fire from U.S. troops) and feel (the U.S. troops appear more in control) of the battlefield. It's also easier to spot the enemy. He's usually the guy firing on automatic. The fellows firing one shot at a time are the Americans, and they are usually the last ones standing. Ukraine was not the only other nation to notice this trend.

The UR-10 is 5 kg (11 pounds unloaded) semi-automatic weapon with 51cm (20 inch) chrome-lined free-floating barrel which is good for about 7,000 shots. The UR-10 is accurate to 1,200 meters versus about 800 meters for SVD. On the downside the UR-10s Direct Impingement gas system is more prone to malfunction if not kept clean but that shouldn’t be problem for experienced snipers. Moreover the rifle uses a customizable Magpul PRS-style buttstock, a Picatinny top rail and a lightweight configurable fore-end. Before ordering the UR-10 some Z-10s were tested for nearly two years by the elite 79th Air Assault Brigade. This unit saw some of the heaviest action in Donbas and found the AR-10 type design a major improvement over the SVD. This could be seen in the exceptional performance of the 1st Battalion of the 79th Brigade was involved in the long defense of the Donetsk airfield back in 2014. The snipers of the 79th Brigade were not hesitant to urge the adoption of the UR-10 (an upgraded, for military use, Z-10).

The Ukrainian decision to adopt the UR-10 rifle gives Ukrainian snipers an edge over their Russian opponents in the Donbas war. Russia is also developing new, Western style, sniper rifles but cannot afford to buy many of them. Along those lines Ukraine is also testing ten WAC47 rifles which are very similar to the American M4 (short barrel M16) assault rifles. These would be used as a replacement for the current Russian AK-74s. The WAC47 are undergoing testing with Ukrainian National Guard Special Operations Forces. The WAC47 has a lower priority than improved sniper rifles but Ukrainian troops in general are eager to adopt American and NATO weapons.

The adoption of the UR-10 shows that Ukraine is willing and able to meet NATO standards and will make Ukrainian cooperation in Lithuanian–Polish–Ukrainian Brigade (LITPOLUKRBRIG) much easier. This brigade a reginal rapid reaction force against Russian threats. --- Przemysław Juraszek