"Where'd that shot come from!?"
That's a question most troops ask themselves when a sniper or a small band of bad guys pop off a few rounds and scurry -- that is, assuming the triggermen missed.
It turns out the Army is taking the shot detection dilemma pretty seriously and has fielded limited quantities of Humvee and MRAP-mounted sniper detection systems and even detectors mounted on troops.
According to Lt. Gen. James Thurman, the Army has fielded the so-called "Boomerang" sniper detection system on Humvees in Afghanistan. These systems detect the crack (the bullet going by you) and the bang (the bullet leaving the muzzle) and correlate distance and bearing pretty accurately and display that information on a simple digital readout in the Humvee.
These systems have been around for a while and were of limited use in Iraq since the walls of tall buildings and other urban debris tend to interfere with the acoustics of the shot. But in the rugged hills of Afghanistan where shots are taken at a greater distance, the Boomerang has found a home.
But Thurman also added during a hearing this morning on Capitol Hill that the service has fielded the so-called Soldier Wearable Acoustic Targeting System, or SWATS, to the 56th National Guard Stryker Brigade Combat Team serving in Iraq. He said about 100 have been fielded and about 350 have been purchased from SAWTS manufacturer QinetiQ.
Here's a company description of the system:
Designed for both mounted and dismounted infantry, QinetiQs miniature, low-profile acoustic Ears family of wearable, sniper detection and gunshot localisation solutions is based on a miniature single integrated acoustic sensor.
The palm-sized, 6.4-ounce sensor can be coupled with an individual operators interface or used in vehicles and at fixed locations. It responds with the direction and distance in less than a tenth of a second from the first gunshot being fired, without being confused by surrounding sounds, to accurately locate snipers in a 360o view, even when in use on a vehicle moving at speeds over 50mph.
For his part, Marine Lt. Gen. George Flynn played down the technical approach.
"The best counter to a sniper is another sniper, and we make sure that we train our snipers to be the best and most deadly on the battlefield."