As the war in Ukraine steadily morphs into a long war, it is an optimum time to consider both what impact snipers have already had in the conflict and how important they could be in the coming months and years.

Snipers have so far had a limited appearance in the media and the public spotlight, being overshadowed by such gripping developments as drones, foreign support, cyber warfare, and advanced weaponry. When snipers are featured, it is typically only as a buzzword to gain viewership and generate hype for a particular side rather than in a detailed analysis. To learn what snipers are doing and accomplishing in Ukraine requires a lot of searching and sifting.

BAKHMUT, UKRAINE – (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

To be fair, both sides intentionally obscure information regarding their snipers including numbers and identities as a tactical precaution, limiting assessments somewhat.1 Muddling the picture even more is the fact that those referred to as snipers include various types of fighters, especially on the Ukrainian side. Many so-called snipers are more what we would categorize as the increasingly common marksmen or sharpshooters, accompanying larger deployments to the trenches and shooting out to 300 meters and a little beyond with scoped rifles.2 There are additionally numerous volunteer shooters of varying experience and skill defending against the Russian army. The remainder of the “few thousand” counted among Ukraine’s snipers would be the typical two-man team that we are familiar with, operating with advanced training in concealment and long-range precision shooting.3

Sniper Central Ballistic Cards

These traditional snipers of both sides are of the greatest interest to us but have seen a subdued role in the war so far, regardless of the enduring hero worship of them within Russia and the former Soviet Union.4 One of the greatest hindrances to their full exploitation has been the use of drones and other new technologies to detect hidden teams, a new challenge that will require significant adaptation for present and future members of the sniper community. Technology also threatens the role of snipers by diverting attention and investment away from them. The training of new snipers for the ongoing conflict has seemingly been restricted because of focuses on advanced warfare as well as alternative strategies such as charging trenches to regain territory.

Photo: NY Times

But now, as the front lines in Ukraine have stabilized and the war becomes protracted, circumstances have provided much greater occasion for snipers to fulfill their traditional roles by scouting out enemy positions and eliminating key targets that are now far less mobile.5 Coming days are sure to offer more opportunities for snipers to demonstrate their merit, but a lack of investment may cause both sides to miss out for some time. If there is a scramble to provide new advanced shooters for a long war, leaders will have to grapple with the fact that snipers are a costly asset. Not in terms of money, but in the amount of time necessary to prepare them.

With international support for Ukraine’s defense now looking more dire, that country might be especially eager to look to snipers as a cost-effective defense measure and force multiplier during the next stage of war. Russia is generally believed to have the advantage in equipment and manpower when it comes to snipers, meaning Ukraine has catching up to do.6 As money seems destined to become sparse, they should begin to invest time into training snipers before that too runs out.

Contrary to much of the propaganda that is highlighted in the online media and news sources, snipers have so far been underutilized in the war in Ukraine, although the next stages are seeing a reversal as tactics shift to those of a long war. Additionally, the field of sniping may itself see radical changes in Ukraine as it confronts new technological threats. But like always, snipers will continue finding their niche and demonstrating the timeless need for their skills.

Stirling E.
Sniper Central Global Affairs Analyst

One Comment

Hristo Apostolovski

A Swedish man that was a sniper in Ukraine died there , he was highly skilled sniper , he was a trained sniper in Swedish army ,
According a source thats in Ukraine just now supplies every thing they need says that cal.338 LM is favorit among Ukraine snipers , only disadvange is price fore ammo .


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