In low-intensity warfare and urban warfare, armies use snipers. This to neutralise specific threats without harming the uninvolved.
The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) are using very advanced simulation tools to get ready for combat. The simulation tools used by the IDF and the other Israel security organisations have been developed by Israel`s defence industry. Most of the IDF’s operations in recent years have been against terrorists. Realising that the shape of war has changed, the IDF adapted one of its bases to become the main training place of soldiers in anti-terror actions.
Underground warfare, tactical breaching, and robotics are just a few of the specializations that the “Lotar” Counter-Terror School teaches IDF soldiers. These instructors are responsible for training all IDF units in counter-terrorism. They are combat soldiers who train others and, if needed, take part in operational activities. The school is divided into different sections according to specialization. The facility is highly classified but it can be said that it changes sometimes on a daily basis according to the planned action.
The other body in the forefront of anti-terror is the Special Operations unit of the border police (YAMAM). This unit is now considered one of the most advanced anti-terror units in the world. The training and simulation tools used by this unit are highly classified but we were allowed to learn about some of them.
In 2019, a unique facility has been opened in the heart of the Judean Desert, near Ma’aleh Michmash a few miles north east of Jerusalem.
The site looks like a Hollywood set, with huge greenhouses, exact copies of the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem, of a street leading from the Old City of Jerusalem, and part of the Sharona restaurants and store centres in Tel Aviv. All these places saw terror attacks in which Israelis were killed. The training area was built with attention to the smallest detail up to the level of authentic smells and muezzin voices coming out from a loudspeaker of a model mosque.
The Israeli border police spokesperson said that the facility serves “fighting units of the IDF” but he declined to be more specific.
A common ingredient of these special units is the sniper who is also being trained by using “combat scenarios” created by these simulation facilities. To be able to cope with very complex combat scenarios, the IDF, mainly the special units, have in recent years upgraded their sniping capabilities – mainly by a lot of training and the introduction of very advanced systems.
Israel’s leading developer and manufacturer of sniping systems is Meprolight, a subsidiary of the SK group which also owns Israeli weapon industries (IWI), a small arms manufacturer prominent for the UZI SMG and the GALIL assault rifle. Meprolight is focused on developing aiming devices for a wide variety of applications.
The MEPRO Family
One good example is the MEPRO NYX-200 family, which, according to the company, is an innovative, compact and lightweight multispectral weapon sight and hand-held device available in multiple configurations. Ilan Abramovich, Meprolight VP marketing told ESD that this high-resolution 640×480, 17μ thermal core, and high-resolution day/night digital camera enables soldiers to detect targets in total darkness while still seeing image details. “This unique sight enables the fighter to get a comprehensive view of the battlefield and a very good situational awareness necessary for making precise, faster decisions to complete missions better and safer.” The company’s official added that the advanced power saving capabilities based on motion sensor technology assures mission completion without power failure. He pointed to the integrated dual wavelength device that he claims supports various tactical scenarios including CQB (Close Quarters Battle) and covert night operations.
“We built this special sight with a special internal shock absorbing mechanism that keeps the effectivity even after using the sight on powerful weapons with a wild kick” he revealed that in some cases, the sight is attached to an external shock absorbing mechanism to maintain accuracy after it gets the shock waves involved mainly in using high power ammunition”
The MEPRO NYX-200 family he added, provides image capture and video recording on an internal SD card. All images and videos can be transmitted via a video out connector.
According to the Israeli company, another aiming system, the Mepro FORESIGHT, provides benefits not seen before on an optic – Battery Level, Five Preset Reticles (from the sight memory database), Digital Zeroing, Built-in Compass, Leveller and Real-Time Projected Data – providing the shooter with critical ballistic data needed to assist in accurate shot placement. The FORESIGHT mounts to the Picatinny rail of the weapon and once the individual ballistic data is saved, the sight can be removed and placed back without having to re-zero. The FORESIGHT app allows the shooter to store up to 10 zeroing profiles for 10 different guns, regardless of the calibre or save the shooting profiles of 10 different individuals. Previously stored profiles can be uploaded from the mobile app to the sight. The app also contains an extensive list of reticles that can be uploaded and used.
The Israeli company’s official said that the Meprolight FORESIGHT’s digital zeroing takes the hassle out of zeroing the weapon. All five reticles are immediately co-witnessed. The built-in compass provides direction and the leveller ensures that the shooter is set up for the shot, which is critical on longer distance shots with larger calibre rifles. “The data from this highly advanced yet easy to use optic is projected on a transparent optical lens to keep the shooter informed at all times. The built-in light sensor automatically adjusts the reticle to changing light conditions”.
The FORESIGHT has Bluetooth interface to connect to the Mepro FORESIGHT App and the unit is powered by a rechargeable battery using a USB cable. The energy efficient system features an automatic shut-off and automatic power-resume diode to extend battery life between charging. The large viewing window allows the shooter to keep both eyes open for increased situational awareness.
Another very advanced aiming device manufactured by Meprolight is the Mil-Spec Mepro M21 Self-Illuminated Reflex Sight. According to the company, this aiming device is used by militaries and law enforcement agencies worldwide, and is unique in that no batteries are needed. Illumination of the point of aim reticle is achieved by a fibre optic collector system during the day and by a miniature self- powered tritium light source at night. Meprolight says that a large 30mm display window allows the shooter to keep both eyes open for better battlefield situational awareness. The shooter has the option of five reticles – 4.3 MOA dot or 5.5 MOA Triangle, Bullseye, and X. Day or night, no matter the weather conditions with the M 21.
The Israeli company says that the M21 has a large field of view that enables quick shooting in urban areas. Another aiming device made by Meprolight is the HUNTER X4. This is a compact and lightweight night vision weapon sight, with x4 magnification based on Gen-II or Gen-III image intensifier tubes. The company says that it features a highly durable design for the most demanding battlefield conditions. It’s high accuracy red projected reticle and brightness adjustment ensures fast ballistic compensation in long and medium range targeting. Powered by two commercially available “AA” type batteries, the sight provides up to 60 hours of continuous operation under normal conditions.
Snipers as a Threat
While snipers are a very important asset of a fighting unit, at the same time they are a very serious threat. High-powered rifles with suitable optics can inflict heavy casualties. In recent fighting in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip, the IDF had to take various steps to avoid sniper fire. One way of dealing with the problem was to quickly spot the sniper’s location and apply counter fire to neutralize him.
Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, one of Israel’s leading defence companies, has developed a system that helps ground forces locate enemy snipers. The company says that today’s battlefields present significant dangers for ground and mobile forces, including Time Critical Targets (TCT) and undetected enemy fire from small arms, RPGs and ATGMs.
In response to the casualties they cause, large amounts of ammunition are often inaccurately fired, missing the targets. This inefficient and costly action disrupts combat plans while enabling the enemy to gain the initiative.
The LAND SPOTTER
According to RAFAEL, the answer to this critical scenario is the ultra-smart, vehicle-mounted LAND SPOTTER, a passive electro-optical Hostile Fire Detection and Location solution. The Israeli company says that with pinpoint accuracy, the system immediately detects and locates enemy fire, whether coming from stationary or on-the move positions. This extremely precise, pixel level input allows forces to quickly gain a clear situational picture and neutralize the enemy, thus ensuring the upper hand on the battlefield.
Rafael says that the systems can be perform rapid day/night, all-weather detection, pinpoint location, and verification of enemy fire and in addition it is unaffected by environmental conditions. A company source said that the systems is achieving a high Probability of Detection (PD) and has a very low False Alarm Rate (FAR). “The system is rapidly closing the sensor-to-shooter loop even in urban areas, which today is a main challenge”. The system weighs less than 30 kg, including two very small, low-profile sensors, a smart display and cables. The source pointed to the fact that the systems is unaffected by environmental conditions including wind, noise or echoes. The LAND SPOTTER consists of two very small, low-profile Forward-Looking Infrared (FLIR) sensors, delivering a 360° horizontal FOV and +35° vertical FOV as well as a connecting harness and an HMI unit. The total weight of the system is less than 30 kg.
The SMASH 2000
The growing demand for aiming devices has brought many small companies to invest in the development of advanced systems. One is SmartShooter. This company is manufacturing the SMASH 2000 plus, an optical device that can be placed on many small arms, including the M4 Carbine, and tracks potential targets using a traditional red dot sight picture.
According to the company, once a target is found, the device issues a firing solution that compensate for the soldier’s breathing and fatigue which would normally pull his aim off target; all the soldier needs to do is hold down the trigger.
“What we promise here is that almost every bullet will be on target, by controlling the exact moment when the bullet is released so if you’re not on target, you won’t be able to fire,” Abraham Mazor the company’s business development VP, told ESD. The company’s official said that the systems is based on a very advanced algorithm combined with an imaging processing capability. SMASH 2000 is being used by the IDF and is combat proven. According to Mazor, the system ensures that each round finds its target, in both day and night conditions, as well as keeping friendly forces safe. “Our proprietary target acquisition and tracking algorithms are integrated with sophisticated image-processing software into a rugged hardware solution, providing an easy to use and cost-effective solution that creates the required overmatch.”
The system works by tracking potential ground and aerial drones, using a day or night mode with a traditional red-dot sight picture. Once found, it works out a firing solution even as a soldier’s natural breathing and fatigue draws his aim off target. All a soldier has to do is hold the trigger down. When the solution is calibrated, the round is let loose, hitting the target and nothing else, a SmartShooter official told ESD.
According to Mazor, the system has been in use by the IDF for several months along the Gaza border, taking out drones and incendiary balloons launched from the blockaded coastal enclave. “There is a lot of interest around this product because of the drone threat and the balloons from Gaza,” he said, adding that the main customer of the system is the US Special Forces, and that the company is preparing to work with Europeans and other countries. “We have tested the system and others have. They are very happy with it – and results are very successful so far,” Mazor said.
Elbit Systems, one of Israel’s major defence industries, has also invested in the field of addressing sniper fire and last year unveiled MAY, a wide area acoustic based situational awareness solution. Accurately defining and geo-locating events, the system offers a powerful tool for security and law enforcement agencies. The system provides real-time autonomous wide-area acoustic based intelligence that significantly enhances situational awareness and response time of security forces operating in urban and border areas. Developed by Elbit Systems EW and Elisra, a subsidiary of SIGINT, MAY is based on high-end acoustic sensors which operate interactively within an area of interest. Compact and durable, these fixed-installation sensors sustain long-term, outdoor 24/7 operation using either wired or wireless communications. MAY continuously senses its surroundings, detects acoustic abnormalities and provides a real-time analysis of emanating sounds based on advanced algorithms and deep-learning. Once it detects an acoustic anomaly such as gun-fire, the system identifies the event, classifies the sound type, pinpoints the geo-location of the signals and automatically provides actionable information to operating forces. MAY can also detect and process a variety of other public safety related sound signals including screaming, alarms and vandalism sounds.
Deploying MAY dramatically reduces response-time of first responders, increases efficiency by avoiding irrelevant event interactions and introduces a strong deterrence factor to urban environments. This makes it an effective solution for Homeland security and law enforcement agencies tasked with maintaining order and providing public safety.
It is clear that in urban warfare snipers are very crucial in dealing with many operational scenarios. Based on the vast experience of the IDF, Israeli defence industries have developed spotting and sniping systems that allow “first shot- first kill”.
Arie Egozi served in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). After completing his service, he studied political science and journalism at Tel Aviv University. Egozi worked as aerospace and defense correspondent for Israel’s largest daily “Yedioth Ahronot”. He writes about the IDF and the Israeli defence industry from a wider perspective. He is currently the Editor in Chief of the Israel Homeland Security website (I-HLS).