US-based Leupold & Stevens, represented in Israel by the Net Company, has recently finalized a number of transactions for the supply of sniper scopes to the IDF, and in fact has become the primary supplier of sharpshooting sights to the Israeli military. Two senior Leupold executives, Steven DiGregorio (International Government Sales) and Shane Meisel (International Sales & Marketing), have recently arrived in Israel to attend a seminar on sharpshooting for specialist IDF units. One of the IDF's objectives is to implement administrative standardization in the field of long-range firearm sights, where Leupold is a major player. In the last year, the IDF has purchased at least 800 Leupold Mark-6 riflescopes with variable 3-18x magnification.
"We have noticed a trend of close combat scenarios in built-up areas, where the targets are relatively close," they explain at Leupold. "When snipers are involved in such scenarios, the requirements are not the same as those presented to normal infantrymen. In close combat, we see a requirement for sniper scopes with the emphasis on rear focal plane optics. Unlike a front focal plane sight, which shows the center of the target, a rear focal plane sight enables you to adjust up or down. If you attempt to spot a fast-moving target, it will be difficult to accomplish using a scope with a front focal plane. In scenarios involving long-range shooting, the clients want an optical adjustment option and variable magnification."
Reliability is a key element in military applications, as is performance under variable light conditions. In built-up area warfare, the sniper may change positions from a roofed cover with very little light, to outdoors conditions with full daylight. The sight should be able to adjust quickly and provide the sniper with an operational edge. The changes in light conditions notwithstanding, the people at Leupold explain that their scopes undergo a stringent quality assurance process. Among other things, they test their scopes for performance under variable light conditions, under changing temperatures, in freshwater and saltwater, under high atmospheric pressure and extreme gravity conditions. They also subject their optics to stringent tests, so that only usable light reaches the sniper's eye and provides a sharp image under combat conditions.
"We have at the Company 96 engineers who build our optical products so that they suit military snipers specifically. Our research department works on upgrades and new models. Each year, we present an upgrade to an existing system or a new generation of products," they explain at Leupold. "Upgrading an existing product takes about 18 months of development. Developing a new system from the ground up takes about 24-30 months of development. We currently have products under development at least until 2025."
One of the aspects that no one can ignore in the world of sharpshooting gear is the integration of computer systems in sharpshooting sights, whether they are used on standard assault rifles or on sniper's rifles. Companies like Smart Shooter of Israel and others develop sights that are practically computer systems. These sight systems perform all of the calculations and the user only presses a button and achieves a bullseye shot with the first round fired. This, at least, is the promotional promise.
"We cannot reveal all of our developments at the research department," they explain, "but we can say that we are focused on the promise that the infantryman will not fail on the battlefield. Electronics will fail along the time axis. When we look into the future, we should come up with technological solutions that would not prove disappointing at any point in time on the ground."
As the armed forces of western countries are not alone in using sniper scopes, and as terrorist organizations use them, too, the question that arises involves the gap between high-quality western products and products that are cheaper, more accessible and more readily available worldwide. "The education system and technological progress keep the western armed forces ahead. Admittedly, the gap has been filled as far as commercial products are concerned, but products for the defense market will retain their qualitative edge compared to the competitors in the years to come. The amounts of money invested in development are staggering. We also have cooperative alliances with ammunition manufacturers around the world, where we will adapt our sights to new ammunition types if the need arises. We are proud of our partnership with the IDF and will do our utmost to continue to provide them with state-of-the-art, reliable products."