The sniper's role in modern conflicts
September 07, 2011
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.
By a stroke of fate I wound up serving in Soviet Spetsnaz unit fighting in Afghanistan during the Soviet-Afghan Campaign in the mid-80s. Before I was transferred to an assault sub-group, I spent my time as a sniper carrying an SVD rifle. My detachment was a fighting unit; in 16 months we had 22 major raids and operations, all initiated by us with occasional exchange of fire with an enemy in-between.
Being part of a fighting unit, I learned to appreciate the semi-automatic feature of my rifle and its 4X optic with built in BDC. These gave me a capability to become a fighter, not a hunter, as a standard "Western" or "American" doctrine implies.
There can be no doubt that current sniper doctrine has its place and merit. There will always be a time when sniper has advance to take out a high-value target. But how applicable these tactics are within modern insurgency conflicts?
Although almost 25 years has passed since I had an enemy in my crosshairs or "chevrons," Taliban or other Afghan insurgents' tactics have changed very little. Fighting them requires being quick on target and on trigger. No more "one shot-one kill;" it's more like "many shots-many kills."
The role of a sniper within the fighting unit also changes. You become a lifesaver by taking out the enemy's heavy weaponry, thus eliminating a threat to your teammates' lives. Personally, I take comfort in this thought.
Spetsnaz snipers were deployed as part of a fire support group along with other
heavy guns. Overlooking the entire battlefield gave them an undeniable advantage.
Snipers were positioned slightly back and away from the engagement area and
were tasked with engaging the enemy's heavy weapons and large enemy concentrations.