Counter-sniper systems and procurement in general

Think Defence wrote about the apparently new purchase of some laser-based counter-sniper sensor for the UK's army.
It's strange. All counter sniper sensor approaches appear to have substantial deficits (such as acoustic systems failing against subsonic bullets; an example for subsonic sniper rifle is  this), but I'm surprised anyone is still looking much at the "laser reflections give away optics" approach. This approach was already used during the early 90's in the "Stingray" modification of Bradley, and kept having troubles in several iterations as far as I can tell. 

One of the fundamental problems is that the sniper can basically counter it in a minute with duct tape. You probably know the anti(sun)-reflection device for sniper scopes; cover the lens with something, then add a slit into it. A surprisingly small slit suffices for almost unimpaired view. Example from quick google search: 

anti-reflection slit cover for the scope
It works also on binoculars. You would likely need to look directly at the sensor for the sensor to detect your optic despite this countermeasure.*

All you need to do is to disperse glass balls, 90° angled or curved reflectors (mirrors) and so on in the landscape. A smart opponent will do so once (s)he understands the challenge. 

Last but not least, a sniper does NOT need a scope. Open iron sights (such as diopter sights) are accurate enough out to 300 m without much training (I disliked the G3's diopter and have no steady aim, but I was good at least on the 300 m shooting range!), and out to 500 m under fine circumstances in skilled hands. Today's snipers pride themselves in their lethality at long ranges such as 700 m or more than a kilometre. Historically, almost all sniping was done at much shorter ranges, below 600 m with majority even happening within 300 m. This wasn't because of the limitations of the guns, but because opponents in a real war become careful and simply don't show themselves that much. You simply cannot see them that often at 600+ m.
The likely most deadly sniper ever did most of his kills with open sights.

All too often Western military equipment procurement fails to take into account basic countermeasures, betting on our opponents being incapable anyway. That's probably even a successful bet, but what does this tell about our employment of our military. How can incapable opposition be a threat to our security at all?

related posts:

2012-03 The missing information on equipment

2011-11 Sniping: History and theory

2010-08 The sense of smell for reconnaissance

2009-03 Acoustic sniper detection systems and their weak spot

*: To be honest, I'm not 100% sure this slit thing would work (I would love to see a test of it), but considering the other examples it doesn't really need to.


  1. Yes, you can almost hear the technophiles outrage. 'How dare the enemy put duct tape over their scopes and counter our $1000 sensor array!' Heh. Thats the thing with fighting against general intelligences - they have that annoying tendancy to learn and adapt.

  2. If you tape your scope, you'll see less in low light. If you put up reflectors, the enemy will know you are watching. The latter is bad if you have the role of covert observer that calls for precision munitions on unsuspecting hostiles... and that is the role you primarily advocate for snipers Sven if I recall correctly.

    So having the laser thing around might be advantageous as it provokes the opponent to do somethings that lessens his efficiency.

    Provided of course that the system can rack up some impressive kills, most easily done by using against weak opponents.

    1. One question is whether putting up the system is more effort than countering it. I suppose it is.

      Another question is which effects it has on its users.
      Will they trust it and become careless?
      Will they be able to keep secret whether it's active or not (stuff gets broken all the time).

      How troublesome are reflectors? The system is being employed in a civilian setting. A simple lantern will suffice to create a false alarm.

      Will the users bully civilians to not use anything which sets off a false alarm, including car headlamps? What's the reaction to this going to be?

      How about guys with glasses. Will this thing create an alert every time someone short-sighted passes within a half-mile?

      Ground surveillance radars have trouble with rabbits and other wildlife. Will this laser mistake animal eyes for optics?

      A physicist may consider such a laser system perfectly fine, an electrical engineer may consider it slightly troublesome yet functional - a soldier would probably put it in the trash after a few weeks if no-one was held accountable for it.

  3. That only works if the slit is narrower than the laser beam. The scanners run 360 non-stop. So even someone trying to dick the target gets flagged.

    1. The slit is in this case supposed to be effective when the rifle isn't aimed at the laser.
      You cannot set up a laser gadget next to every worthwhile sniper target.