10 years, 5 months ago
Of course, military operations on urban terrain (MOUT) are difficult, and have always been problematic to not only U.S. forces, but military forces around the world. But with the canyon-like walls, cave-like rooms, and noise-reverberating qualities of sprawling urban areas, one would think that the U.S. military had at least developed a point of doctrine regarding snipers. There is no doctrine, so there can be no strategy, and thus there are no tactics to address this threat – Herschel Smith, November 9, 2006
U.S. Sniper Nest in Karma, Iraq, Courtesy of the New York Times
I have long been a follower of the use of snipers, Carlos Hathcock probably being the premier shooter in the history of snipers. It was with great chagrin that I wrote Snipers Having Tragic Success Against U.S. Troops. This post followed the tragic tale of insurgent snipers and their work in Iraq, primarily in Sunni controlled areas (although also present in Baghdad and beyond).
The insurgents lose every stand-up fight in which they engage U.S. troops, so they have transitioned to asymmeteric warfare, shooting from positions of concealment, and learning the weaknesses of the body armor worn by the U.S. More particularly, the insurgents have learned to aim for unprotected parts of Marines and Soldiers, specifically, the head, neck and armpits (the later due to the fact that there are definite gaps in the SAPI plates, or Small Arms Protective Inserts, along the lateral torso, an issue I covered in Snipers and Body Armor).
This post took on a life of its own, and comments ranged from the hint to “destroy everything” to the implication that “there isn’t anything we can do about it because all of your suggestions will fail.” So it might be helpful to rehearse the core of my recommendations for dealing with the insurgent snipers.
The Unites States Marine Corps is the only branch of the military in the world which requires qualification with the rifle at 500 yards. Urban areas don’t have distance considerations that require snipers on the level of Carlos Hathcock. Each and every Marine should be able to operate as a sniper — or a countersniper … If there are regularly scheduled combat patrols that allow the snipers to plan their activities, these schedules should be changed, and changed again, and then again. If the sniper and his spotter are known to be in an area, Marines should be dispatched in night time operations to find concealment from which they can then observe enemy movements the next day, or two, or three. This last suggestion is the most radical, since it involves the breakup of squads and possibly even fire teams, and the decentralization of command and control. Further, there is the problem of training. Only a few Marines have been trained to be “Recon