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Photos: NATO snipers practice cliffside high-angle shooting in the Alps

NATO snipers conduct a training exercise at the International Special Training Centre’s High-Angle/Urban course at the Hochfilzen Training Area in Austria. (1st Lt. Benjamin Haulenbeek/U.S. Special Operations Command Europe)
October 15, 2020

Snipers from various militaries around the world participated in a September 2018 demonstration in the Austrian Alps, and the pictures show a beautiful yet altitude sickness-inducing scene. The weeklong event sought to help these snipers hone their high angle shooting skills in unique terrain.

“High-angle shooting is when you shoot further than 300 meters at angles greater than 15 degrees,” Lt. Alexander Rishovd, a sniper instructor assigned to the Norwegian Army Land Warfare Centre, said.

“Imagine the whole shooting process being a triangle and the sniper is on top, the line of sight to the target at the other end is greater than the distance the bullet travels in a flat line,” Rishovd said. “With the greater the angle the more the deviation between the line of sight and the distance that gravity has to affect the bullet.”

NATO snipers conduct a training exercise at the International Special Training Centre’s High-Angle/Urban course at the Hochfilzen Training Area in Austria. (1st Lt. Benjamin Haulenbeek/U.S. Special Operations Command Europe)

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Snipers came from Belgium, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Slovakia, the United States, and other NATO countries to participate in the event. It was part of the International Special Training Centre’s High-Angle/Urban course at the Hochfilzen Training Area.

The soldiers had to hike up some 6,500 feet to the high-angle ranges and were paired with packhorses to help them carry the load.

NATO snipers conduct a training exercise at the International Special Training Centre’s High-Angle/Urban course at the Hochfilzen Training Area in Austria. (1st Lt. Benjamin Haulenbeek/U.S. Special Operations Command Europe)

“With a sniper rifle and sometimes two rifles, hundreds of rounds of ammo, tripod, spotting scope and night optics, mountaineering gear, sleep system, and water and food, your pack easily gets over 40 kilos,” one Belgian special forces soldier said.

“It is a difficult balance because snipers require a lot of specialized equipment, so you have to decide what is absolutely mission essential.”

NATO snipers conduct a training exercise at the International Special Training Centre’s High-Angle/Urban course at the Hochfilzen Training Area in Austria. (1st Lt. Benjamin Haulenbeek/U.S. Special Operations Command Europe)

The main purpose of the event, besides getting to practice advanced techniques, is a collaboration between countries.

“Each country has its own tactics, techniques and procedures,” an unnamed US Army Special Forces sniper instructor said. “When we pair snipers from different countries together, or have them compete against each other, they are able to compare and see what works best.”

NATO snipers conduct a training exercise at the International Special Training Centre’s High-Angle/Urban course at the Hochfilzen Training Area in Austria. (1st Lt. Benjamin Haulenbeek/U.S. Special Operations Command Europe)

For some, it may be the only time in which they can practice these special skills in this type of environment.

“It is very difficult to find ranges where you can shoot at high angles,” US Army Staff Sgt. Ryen Funk said. “We don’t get to practice high angle enough, so it is good to come here and get that experience.”