January 18, 2012
Today I would like to continue a series on modern Russian sniping. As I have written before, the Russian Armed Forces have been looking at several new precision sniper rifle from non-domestic sources. Early on, it appeared that British maker Accuracy International was the front runner. After all there are several of the rifles already in service with some of Russia's anti-terrorism units.
However, they were not the only ones to make an appearance on the Russian sniper scene. In fact, during numerous and now traditional local and international sniper competitions, several other foreign sniper rifles could be spotted in the hands of Russian snipers, including Sako and Steyr-Mannlicher.
Interestingly, most were chambered in .300 Win. Mag. or .338 Lapua Mag. But seeing several rifles at the firing range at some contest being wielded by some uber-special purpose unit with deep pockets does not make these rifles a standard issue. Not until now...
The latest news is that Spetsnaz VDV (Airborne Special Operations) has adopted for use and purchased more than 30 Steyr-Mannlicher sniper rifles form the Austrian company. The official statement to this effect was made by the Russian DOD VDV (Airborne Forces) representative Col. Alexander Kucherenko. According to him, Steyr sniper rifles are the first foreign weapon systems that were purchased by the Russian VDV. The very first purchase orders for said weapons were placed at the end of year 2010.
All the necessary personnel have already been trained on the new rifle at the regional training centers, as well as at DOD sniper school. What specific models of Steyr rifles were supplied to the VDV Col. Kucherenko did not specify. Currently, Steyr-Mannlicher produces several models of sniper rifles: SSG 04, SSG 08, SSG 69, SSG Elite and HS .50.
Although the model and caliber actually adopted have not been named, it is safe to assume the SSG 04 and SSG 08 in .308 is now the medium-range rifle, along with .300 Win. Mag. chambered rifles as their "Reach out and touch someone" boom stick. Both rifles were on display at recent war games conducted by the VDV.
The first steps are made toward modernization of Russia's Armed Forces. What's to follow, no one knows. But I'll do my best to keep you informed.
Marco Vorobiev was a member of the elite Soviet Spetsnaz in Afghanistan in the 1980s. He's a U.S. citizen now and conducts training courses that draw on his special forces training. He'll have a new installment every Wednesday.