Sniping is one of the two specialties of the 4 Company of the 2e REP.

During the famous Kolweizi operation in 1978 the company’s “tireurs d’elite”, carrying FRF-1 rifles, were highly successful in neutralizing enemy personnel and supporting the progression of the other infantry units. More recently, the skills taught and maintained by the company proved their worth in the Ex-Yugoslavia and Kosovo conflicts, where the marksmen of the 4 Company were able to successfully engage isolated rebel/insurgent shooters that harassed the civilian population and the multi-national NATO “casque bleue” peacekeeping force. In the mid- to late-1990s the 4 Company’s snipers were all concentrated in the first section (platoon), with a total of over 10 qualified “tireurs d’elite” in a combat unit that normally contains only two. As such, many exotic and invariably much more modern weapons and optics than the ubiquitous FRF-2 were tested to enhance the capabilities of the sharpshooters. This included the civilian-oriented Swarovski Habicht NOVA 2.2-9X42 riflescope (at the time the standard scope for the FRF-2 was the aging APXL-806 with a magnification of 3.85X), the Accuracy International L96 rifle in the .338 Lapua Magnum calibre (being called simply the “Super Magnum”), the American Barrett M82A1 “Light Fifty” semiautomatic .50 calibre rifle and, ultimately, the Franco-Belgian PGM 12.7mm rifle. The last was finally adopted as the standard heavy sniping/anti-material rifle of the French Armed Forces. The following set of photos are from that epoque. I dug them up, as a set of colour slides, from our “magasin”, a storeroom for everything that is not needed at hand and yet cannot be thrown away. Many of these photos were used later on in Yves Debay’s pictorial book titled “2e REP”, showcasing the entire regiment and its history. The vast majority of the men portrayed in the photos are gone now, either in civil or with other companies or regiments. The only person whom I can personally recognize is a Chef de Groupe (squad leader) who was a Sergeant back then – now he is an Adjudant (Warrant Officer) and a Chef de Section (platoon leader).
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The Stage Sniper "Tireur d' Elite " Officially, a “sniper” does not exist in the French Armed Forces: neither the term nor the function it implies. Aside from specialized anti-terrorist and commando units (including the GIGN which belongs to the Gendarmerie), the French infantry regiments – airborne, motorized or mechanized – are regular infantry troops using standard tactics dating back to the Second World War. The missions and combat roles performed by the regular infantry troops are thus mainly of defense. After all, France, like all other Western European nations, is a country of peace and has no real foreseeable need to mount large-scale assaults or airborne offensives. Within this doctrine, the French Army maintains two categories of soldiers trained and specialized in precision shooting: the “tireur de precision”, armed with an FRF-2 and the “tireur d'elite” armed with a PGM. Neither of these two categories can be translated as a classic sniper. The tireur de precision, or TP, acts as a precision marksman within the combat squad. Operating aside the squad or platoon leader and progressing as part of the main unit's effort, his main mission is to provide intelligence based on his observation and, if need be, the neutralization of high-priority enemy personnel at ranges beyond that of the FAMAS assault rifle, ie. in the 300-500m bracket. The tireur d'elite, or TE, has a PGM rifle weighing in at over 19kg in combat-ready state; too heavy and cumbersome to be ported on foot by a two or three man team. The strategy is that the PGM trinome is motorized on a 4X4 jeep with a 7.62mm machine-gun as its close-in protection. The motorized tireur d'elite has thus more of a closesupport role, targeting sensitive optical instruments on enemy tanks and IFVs, lightly skinned APCs and troop transporters and, if necessary, neutralizing enemy personnel at ranges of 1000-1200m. It is for this reason that all of the regiment's PGM rifles belong to the close-support company (CEA) which has its own section that specializes in using the PGM.

The sniper in the classical sense of the word: an autonomous shooter/spotter two man element with a specific mission and operating alone inside enemy-held territory, does not fit into this strategy. The sniper is considered as being too aggressive an element to integrate into standard infantry tactics. This is precisely the reason why the 4 th Company of the 2e REP has for so long specialized in true sniping and why it is so keen to maintain the skills and know-how associated with it. The formation of the snipers is done during a four week stage, which extends from the TP stage which is a pre-requisite for all sniper candidates. Thus in total, the sniper undergoes two months of training, to give him enough tools and knowledge to carry out his function. We had the best instructors in precision shooting that the company has – these pushed us to our limits and demanded nothing but absolute dedication on our behalf. Instruction itself consisted of the standard tools-of-the-trade of an autonomous team of soldiers: topography (with and without a GPS), transmission (using a frequency-hopping mode), camouflage and discretion and others. Particular to our company, we also learnt how to call in for and correct mortar fire, as our company has two 81mm mortar pieces as part of its support platoon (which the snipers belong to as well). The level of instruction was carried to, and often exceeded, that normally given to a Chef de Groupe (squad leader), a Sergeant. These photos show some of the moments from the stage sniper, unique to the 4 th company of the 2e REP. The Corsican maquis is pretty much impenetrable during progression and approach. Yet, it offers unbelievable potential to hide in for the person that knows how to exploit this. Testing out the effectiveness of the ghillie suits. Even without face camouflage paint the sniper is impossible to pick out amongst the bushes from

any distance. A sniper "laying up" amongst typical Corsican maquis. Sniping from the maquis. The shooter places the rounds whilst the spotter observes with the laser telemetry and gives corrections if necessary.
Another sniper, using very effective camouflage scrim netting to hide the rifle.

With this type of camouflage, a person can literally walk three meters next to the sniper and not be able to see him. A typical sniper hide, complete with a radio, a laser telemetry unit, maps and, of course, an FRF-2 in "disposition de combat". The effectiveness of some of the "bushrag" type ghillie suits was amazing in the dense Corsican vegetation. A sniper observing an objective at dusk. If possible, any shooting is done as the sun sets to give the team the maximum time under darkness to exfiltrate the zone and make their escape. The stage “Tir de Haut Precision” (THP) with the RAID Earlier in June this year (2004), I had the rare honour of being selected to do a stage (course) in high precision shooting with the snipers of the élite Recherche, Assistance, Intervention, Dissuasion (RAID) force. To give some background on the RAID, they form a branch of the Groupe d’Intervention de Police Nationale (GIPN), the police equivalent of the gendarmerie’s well-known GIGN intervention force. Being specially trained and equipped to handle hostage situations, armed hold-ups and other terrorist/criminal actions in France, the RAID represent a crucial component of

France’s intervention force. The 4 Company of the 2 REP, with a long-standing history of sniping as its speciality, has close links with the snipers of the RAID. Each year, the RAID runs a stage on high-precision shooting to form their own snipers as well as snipers from the GIPN and other international intervention forces. A two-man “binôme” sniper team from the 4 Company of the 2 REP is also invited along to do the stage and in return, the REP invites the snipers of the RAID to Corsica to undertake training in the Corsican terrain. I was lucky enough to be selected to do the stage TPH with the RAID, together with a Sergeant (also a sniper) from my company. The week-long stage took place in Montpellier, at the Ecole d’Application d’Infanterie, a extensive French military academy where practically every French soldier spends some time at during his or her military career. With us we brought along our own FRF-2 rifles with their J8 scopes, OB-50 night-vision scopes, laser rangefinders and other equipement essential to high precision shooting. The entire stage consisted of four two-man teams: aside from our binôme there was one team from the Swiss GIGN and two teams from the French GIPN, thus eight “stageurs” altogether. Immediately evident was the gaping difference in the quality of equipement between us and the other teams. Whilst we used the aforementioned ubiquitous FRF-2s that have already fired tens of thousands of ordinary 7.62mm armor-piercing rounds each, the others used the PGM Ultima Ratio rifle in the case of the Swiss team and the Austrian SSG69 in the case of the GIPN teams, each having their own supply of match-grade Winchester .308 ammunition matched to the rifle. During our first shoot, at 100m the Swiss and the GIPN teams easily managed 20mm groups with 5 rounds, whilst we struggled to maintain our groups below 60mm. The program of the stage was highly interesting, as the nature of the shooting was very much unlike what us army shooters are used to. Our methodology concentrates on long-distance shooting (ideally 500-600m, but ranges of up to 800m are possible), without a
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great emphasis on precision – if one hits the target (silhouette of a kneeling man), it is considered as a successful shoot. The RAID, inversely to us, practise extreme high precision shooting at distances that we would classify as extremely close range – a maximum of 100m. Of course, this is due to the nature of their work, as most of the actions take place in an urban environment, where the distances involved are generally from one city building to another, in another words across a street. However, there is a massive emphasis on precision, as in any hostage situation there must be a 100% certainty that no hostage will be harmed and that it is only the terrorist that will be hit by any intervening sniper action. We thus concentrated on close distance shooting from different positions, learning how to compensate for short distances with our scopes, simultaneous shooting to a countdown, shooting at moving targets and dusk/night shooting. Every day was spent at either an outdoor or an indoor shooting range, placing rounds into paper targets or polystyrene “heads”. Me and my sergeant gave instruction on camouflage and outdoor sniping, showing the amazing effectiveness of the sniper gillie-suits, and its ability to protect a sniper and allow him to approach a target unseen. We fired an extremely diverse range of armaments, supplied by the RAID, to gain familiarity with some exotic firearms we would not usually encounter. This included the Belgian 5.7mm P90 submachine gun, the Heckler & Koch MP5SD silenced submachine gun and the HK53 short assault rifle and G36 assault rifle from the same manufacturer. The true “icing on the cake” though was the German MG3 machine gun, a 7.62mm version of the classic MG42 weapon from the second world war. We had an abundant supply of ammunition, and each of us made our own belts (the weapon used non-disintegrating link belts) to get a taste of this weapon. I found the MG3 amazingly versatile and effective, being much easier to handle than our own French ANF-1 machine guns. In addition, we had the rare opportunity to be visited by a team from the CREL research labs. The RAID has its own cuttingedge armament research labs, where ballistics and gunsmith experts work to improve the characteristics of rifles and ammunition. On their

visit, they brought with them a sample of their “research” weapons, including a customised 12.7mm PGM rifle and a highly modified PGM Ultima Ratio in .284 Lapua calibre, with special ammunition designed to have the same ballistic characteristics as the 12.7mm PGM round. Using this weapon, I was able to shoot a 50mm group at 500m with 5 rounds, a feat practically impossible with my FRF-2. The custom 12.7mm PGM was also tested with specialised CREL ammunition; we tested its penetrating power at 500m against an armored glass window pane from the windscreen of a TGV high-speed train. The 5cm thick glass was completely perforated by the deadly round. We even had a helicopter at our disposal for a few hours, the idea being that we get a taste of shooting from a helicopter using a G36 assault rifle with a plastic cartridge-case collector. However, being a civilian helicopter, we were not granted permission to actually shoot from it, and instead we used its power winch to do exhilirating aerial drops and assaults. During the entire week, I think that I saw and learnt more than during an entire month back at base. Just working with the highly professional RAID team was an incredible experience, and being able to take so much from it was a rare opportunity.

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