These pictures show NATO snipers from eight countries taking aim in an elite high-angle shooting exercise in the Austrian Alps.
Military snipers from Belgium, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Slovakia and the United States took to the Hochfilzen training camp to practise hitting targets from high in the mountains.
The training, which involves firing shots from as high as 6,500 feet, requires the sniper team to figure out how much a bullet will drop on its way down.
Recruits had to carry a sniper rifle, hundreds of rounds of ammunition, tripod, mountaineering gear and sleeping equipment as well as water and food during their time in the mountains.
A Belgian special operations sniper takes aim at targets across a valley in the Austrian Alps, during the NATO exercise in the Austrian alps which saw recruits from eight countries’ military forces practise their shooting
A Norwegian Army Telemark Battalion sniper team takes aim at targets in the Hochfilzen Training Area in the Austrian Alps. The two-week course was designed to give recruits experience of shooting in mountainous areas
U.S. Army Staff Sargent Ryen Funk, a scout squad leader assigned to 2nd Cavalry Regiment, fires at uphill targets during the training exercise in the Austrian mountains. He said troops ‘do not get to practise high-angle shooting enough’
The two-week high-angle urban course qualifies experienced snipers to operate and engage targets in mountainous and urban terrain.
High-angle shooting is when troops shoot further than 300 metres (984 feet) at angles greater than 15 degrees, instructor Lieutenant Alexander Rishovd explained.
He 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.
‘With the greater the angle the more the deviation between the line of sight and the distance that gravity has to affect the bullet.’
The course in the Alps provides a rare opportunity to practise angled firing as the majority of shooting ranges are on flat terrain.
Recruits from different countries were paired together or competed against each other in order to compare their tactics and procedures and see what worked best.
Austrian soldiers load gear onto their packhorses before hiking to a high-angle range during the two-week training exercise in the Alps. It qualifies experienced snipers to operate and engage targets in mountainous and urban terrain
Multinational snipers hike to the high-angle range in Austria. Military snipers from Belgium, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Slovakia and the United States took part in the two-week NATO exercise
A Dutch sniper aims his weapon at targets in a valley below in the Austrian mountains. The training, which involves firing shots from as high as 6,500 feet, requires the sniper team to figure out how much a bullet will drop on its way down
The course was run by the International Special Training Center, which provides centralised training for NATO forces in Europe.
A Belgian special forces soldier who took part in the exercise said: ‘The calculations are not very difficult. The challenge is the shooting positions.
‘To aim at targets that are at odd angle requires getting into difficult and sometimes unstable and uncomfortable positions. It is also difficult for the spotter to get a good line of sight.
‘The further out you shoot the more the angle and other factors effects your shot. Operationally it is one of the most commonly used skills, so it is good to refine them here.
‘You also realize when operating in the mountains you have to be light. 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.
‘It is a difficult balance because snipers require a lot of specialized equipment, so you have to decide what is absolutely mission essential.’
U.S. Army Staff Sargent Ryen Funk, a scout squad leader assigned to the 2nd Cavalry Regiment, said: ‘It is very difficult to find ranges where you can shoot at high angles. We don’t get to practice high angle enough, so it is good to come here and get that experience.’
A Norwegian sniper takes aim against a backdrop of the Austrian mountain landscape during the NATO training exercise in September. The two-week military course was run by the International Special Training Center
A Belgian Special Forces sniper team climbs to a firing position high in the Austrian mountains. Recruits had to carry a sniper rifle, hundreds of rounds of ammo, tripod, mountaineering gear and sleeping equipment
A Belgian Special Forces sniper uses binoculars to identify targets some 6,500 feet (2,000m) away across a valley. Recruits from different countries were paired together or competed against each other in order to compare their tactics
Austrian horses haul equipment high in the mountains as NATO recruits practise their high-angle shooting, defined as when troops shoot further than 300 metres (984 feet) at angles greater than 15 degrees