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Last Updated:  Monday, 7 April, 2003, 14:15 GMT 15:15 UK
Fact files: Special forces - equipment
American and British special forces in Afghanistan

Special forces seek to maintain a military advantage over an enemy through not only their training but also the equipment they use. Below is a typical selection of their kit.

A sniper
Camouflage is key if the sniper is to remain hidden
Barrett sniper rifle

Special forces units will often have a sniper among the team and the Barrett .50 calibre sniper rifle is considered to be one of the most dependable weapons available. An experienced marksman can hit a target at up to 1,800 metres with the Barrett, meaning that it can provide the user with the ability of killing an opponent perhaps without even giving away their position.

GPS system
Targets can be pinpointed precisely
GPS system

A vital piece of survival kit for any special forces member is a Global Positioning System. The unit uses signals from satellites to calculate a position anywhere in the world. The receivers can also be programmed to calculate distances to travel and estimated time of arrival.

Radio communications must be secure

The Clansman radio has long been a backbone of special operations because of its strength, weight and mobility. Both British and US forces are introducing digital systems which will be lighter, more secure and capable of sending and receiving both voice and data traffic.

The grenade launcher has a range of about 350m
M16 with M203 grenade launcher

The M16 semi-automatic rifle is regarded as one of the most dependable weapons available. It can use a variety of standard issue Nato ammunition and can be linked to the M203 grenade launcher.

Body armour
The armour's weight can slow down wounded troops
Body armour

No soldier is fully protected against the risk of fatal injury but body armour such as the PASGT system (Personnel Armour System Ground Troops) tries to reduce the risk. It is estimated to reduce the risk of fatal injury by between a fifth and a half. It is often worn with Kevlar helmets.

Claymore mine
The mine can detonated from over 30 metres away
Claymore mine

The Claymore carries a small charge packed behind hundreds of steel balls. On detonation, the balls shoot forwards in a 60 degree arc and will almost certainly kill anyone within 50 metres. The weapon still poses a risk at up to 250 metres and is ideal for ambushes.

M249 light machine gun
The M249 can sustain a fire rate of 850 rounds a minute
FN Minimi/ M249 light machine gun

The M249 light machine gun (known as the FN Minimi in Europe) is designed to provide a small team with the equivalent heavy fire power of a standard machine gun but the portability and accuracy of a rifle. It has been designed to be versatile enough to be fired from the shoulder, hip or from a mounted position.

Night vision goggles can also be mounted on helmets
Night vision goggles

Among the standard equipment for special forces are night vision goggles. The system works by providing the viewer with an enhanced image of the surrounding environment. The goggles amplify the available light many times so that objects which appear as just shadows become defined.

All uncredited pictures are sourced from the US Army








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