A Canadian Special Operations sniper shot an Islamic State fighter from nearly 2.2 miles away in Iraq, the Toronto-based Globe and Mail newspaper reported Thursday.
The shot, according to the report, happened within the last month. In a statement following publication of the Globe and Mail article, the Canadian Special Operations Command confirmed that one of its soldiers from the elite Joint Task Force 2 hit a human target from 3,540 meters away. The statement did not provide any evidence to support the claim, or say if the target was killed.
“For operational security reasons and to preserve the safety of our personnel and our Coalition partners, we will not discuss precise details on when and how this incident took place,” the statement said. “The [Special Operations Task Force] provides its expertise to Iraqi security force to detect, identify and defeat Daesh activities from well behind the Iraqi security force front line in Mosul,” it added, using an Arabic acronym for the Islamic State.
If true and if the target was indeed killed, the shot — or multiple shots — would join the macabre ranks of the longest sniper kills in history.
The Globe and Mail said the shooter used a McMillan Tac-50 rifle. The U.S.-made rifle, chambered in .50 caliber, is known in the Canadian armed forces as the C15 Long Range Sniper Weapon and was responsible for multiple record-breaking shots during Operation Anaconda in Afghanistan in 2002. The weapon has a maximum effective range of around 4,000 yards and weighs roughly 26 pounds.
The Tac-50 is billed as being able to shoot a .5 inch bullet group at 100 yards. Meaning at 3,871 yards, its grouping size would be somewhere around 20 inches. For the soldier to hit his target 3,540 meters (3,871 yards) he would need to account for every atmospheric factor available. Windspeed, temperature, barometric pressure, the bullets yaw and the rotation of the earth would all need to be considered before pulling the trigger. These variables, once harnessed from devices such as a handheld weather meter and potentially range-finding equipment on the gun, would then be processed through a ballistic calculator that would let the shooter make the necessary adjustments on the rifle’s scope.
When asked about the incident, one active duty and two former U.S. Marine Corps snipers were skeptical, saying that the shot, while possible, was also highly improbable. A human sized-target at that range would be almost impossible to see with even some of the most advanced rifle optics available, they said.
Evan McAllister, a former Marine sergeant who served multiple deployments as a sniper in Ramadi, Iraq and in Afghanistan’s Helmand province, said little is known about the capabilities of a unit like Joint Task Force 2. The team was likely operating with an array of systems to help make the shot, he said.
“While the shot was possible with the outstanding ballistic properties of a match .50 projectile, a conventional rifle scope would make seeing the target at that range almost impossible, and it may be likely that the sniper team had some form of assistance either from an extremely advanced rifle scope or an overhead drone,” McAllister said. “There is also a chance that the sniper couldn’t exactly see the target or the impacts, but a spotter with an advanced optical device was able to verbally walk the sniper onto the target and correct his aim.”
The Canadian military maintains a robust special operations presence in Iraq in lieu of conducting airstrikes on behalf of the U.S.-led coalition. Much like their American counterparts, the units provide assistance for Iraqi forces and have been filmed on the front lines.