The average number of rounds expended to kill one Boko Haram insurgent with the AK-47, Beryl and other assault rifle is 50,000. The average number of rounds expended by army snipers to kill one Boko Haram fighter is1.3 rounds. That’s a cost difference of $23,000 per kill for the average soldier, vs. $0.17 per kill for the military sniper.
The average soldier will hit a man-sized target 10 percent of the time at 300 meters using the Beryl assault rifle. Nigerian Army snipers are expected to achieve 90 percent first-round hits at 600 meters, using the M24 Sniper Weapon System (SWS).
Snipers have special abilities, training, and equipment within the army. It’s a sniper’s job to deliver discriminatory, highly accurate rifle fire against enemy targets that cannot be engaged successfully by the regular rifleman because of range, size, location, fleeting nature, or visibility.
Here we examine the role, equipment and training of the various sniper units within the regular Nigerian armed forces (not including the Special Forces).
On the battlefield, the sniper’s primary role is to scout out ahead of the main force and carry out reconnaissance and intelligence gathering while remaining undetected. They can also use their marksmanship skills to take out key enemy personnel. Such targets may include commanders, signallers and weapon systems operators.
In 2015 the Nigerian army sent 700 soldiers to Belarus and Russia for training as snipers to strengthen the fight against Boko Haram. The special snipers were chosen after a rigorous screening that was carried out towards the end of former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration.
They were selected from the Army, Police, Navy, Air Force, and State Security Service (SSS) were flown to Belarus. These guys take are some of the elite and best trained unit in the army and take their Job seriously, and rightly so. Each of the sniper-trainees was paid $7,700, which was 30% of their Duty Transport Allowance (DTA), and promised payment of the 70% balance on their return to Nigeria. Well trained, well payed, professional.
Snipers may also support their battalion by providing overwatch / sniper cover, either during offensive operations or by guarding a base from attack.
A sniper may be called on to carry out counter-sniper missions i.e. hunting and neutralising their counterparts in an opposing force.
Some snipers undergoing training to allow them to call in and adjust indirect fires from artillery and mortars.
It is a highly specialised job and the role requires a high level of training and commitment. Snipers have to become masters at concealment, moving undetected, navigation, reconnaissance, observation and marksmanship.
Snipers work in 2-man teams, made up of a shooter, the No.1, armed with a long range precision rifle, and a spotter, the No.2. The spotter is usually the more experienced of the 2 and is in command of the team. He is responsible for planning routes, selecting targets and gauging shooting parameters such as windage, range to target, angle of shot, air density etc.
The primary weapon of the military sniper is the bolt-action Alex.338 Long Range Rifle and the Les Baer .308 Semi-Auto.
The Alec.308 is a bullpup-configuration bolt-action magazine-fed sniper rifle. The configuration provides increased accuracy by allowing a barrel length of 680 mm (26.8 in), but minimizes the overall length of 1,038 mm (40.9 in). The muzzle is fitted with a double-baffle muzzle brake, which is claimed to reduce recoil by up to 30%.
Weight is further reduced without sacrificing accuracy by the use of a free-floating fluted barrel. This can be augmented with a Sniper Thermal Imaging Capability (STIC) night scope for low light level shooting.
However in recent times other sniper rifles have been introduced. Some units also use the Chinese made QBU-88 Type-97 Semi-Automatic Sniper Rifle, a .50 caliber weapon system that can take out key enemy equipment. This can also be fitted with a STIC thermal sight.
In some circumstances, such as when on the move, a sniper may carry an SA80a2 assault rifle. His sniper rifle may be carried in a drag bag slung over his back when on foot, or pulled behind him when crawling, only to be taken out when the sniper has reached a firing position.
The spotter may employ optics such as a Mark 4 12-40x60mm Tactical Spotting Scope and a FTS Handheld Thermal Surveillance Sight. The team may carry High Powered 8×42 binoculars. To assist them in making adjustments before taking a shot, sniper teams may employ hand-held laser range finder.
One of the most visible aspect of a sniper is concealment. To aid in concealment, snipers wear ghillie suits and other forms of covering. These are made from camouflaged materials that the sniper adapts so they blend in with any given environment.
If intending to stay at a fixed location for a long period, a sniper team may establish a hide by digging into the earth and covering the hide with camouflaged netting. Hides may also be constructed in an urban setting.
Although traditionally an Independent fighting unit, the unconventional nature of Boko Harams hit and run tactics, Nigerian army snipers are deployed in a sniper section of a Commando’s Recce Platoon. They typically operate in shooter/spotter pairs.. A sniper platoon deploys 2 sniper sections of 4 2-man teams as needed throughout the various companies within the battalion.
The elite nature of this unit is reflected in a comment made by one of the snipers :
If you were not fit, they discovered from your heartbeat and they returned you. They returned at least two men. We are still fighting with the manual system, but war has gone beyond that. A lot of equipment was given to us in Russia, and they make us different from the conventional soldiers.
The art of sniping requires learning and repetitiously practicing these skills until mastered. A sniper must be highly trained in long-range rifle marksmanship and field craft skills to ensure maximum effective engagements with minimum risk.
Sniping requires the development of basic infantry skills to a high degree of perfection. A sniper’s training incorporates a wide variety of subjects designed to increase his value as a force multiplier and to ensure his survival on the Battlefield.
A lot of people have the misconception that to be a good sniper, you have to be a good shooter. Shooting is only 20 percent of the course at the Army Sniper School. It takes a patient person, a disciplined person, a person who is used to working alone.
In addition to marksmanship skills, Sapperd are trained on detecting and stalking a target and estimating the range of a target, concealment and camouflage, as well as observation and patience.