The Sniper’s Second

11Mar08

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Surrounded by the rolling hills and scrub of Salisbury Plain, the media strode towards a low hillock where red MoD firing range flags on paint-peeled poles, twitched in the breeze.

Snipaahrs!” came the Crufts bark from a Sergeant-Major and three soldiers wearing bracken camouflage rose up from near our feet. Then, crouching again they adopted sniping positions: one eye open like Nelson at Trafalgar and legs spread like Boney’s marksmen up in the rigging.

Clamped in ear defenders as well as ear plugs, we too looked like Best in Breed – long-eared Spaniels hoping for a treat or two after a mammoth journey around the M25 and down the M3. Photographers went native alongside the soldiers, laying intimately on the ground to parody the Shooter.

Squinting down 25x scopes into the crosshairs of the army’s secret L115A3 long range the Sniper rifle, the soldiers squeezed off clips of 5 Swiss-made 16g 8.59mm Lapua Magnum rounds exiting the rifles’ suppressors at the speed of Concorde in a mid-Atlantic headwind. One second later they arrived down-range onto the targets 1,100 metres away. What a hallucinogenic journey they are making as they plummet – just for that second – through time and space, to puncture and deliver these would-be humans to their God, had they not been created in the Kingdom of B&Q.

Sniping is both Zen and Psychology. Stealthy calm and fearlessly imaginative is seemingly what your above-average infantryman needs to be to get even a whiff of this 8-week course here in Wiltshire. To top it all, their favoured £23,000 toolbox is what a 21st Century sharpshooter will soon carry in Helmond Province to similarly help pepper the upper-body of an Islamist teenager shouldering an RPG.

Just imagine, you might otherwise be meandering innocently along the wadi and the next you’re a pulpy puddle in the poppy-rich dust. War is dirty alright but if Terry Taliban can be dastardly in their killing habits, then so can we. Commanding Officer of the Support Weapon School Lt. Col X (Anon for security reasons, he tells me), is very excited about the new kit for his boys. In a Carlsberg moment, he says carefully, “This is probably the best sniper rifle in the world, it avoids collateral casualties because of its precision .. even the US Army at Fort Benning have been impressed.”

I’m not sure why the US Army are so interested with accuracy all of a sudden but 1km in 1 second and the death of the wrong human makes a big difference between good PR and a crap headline.

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