(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

The Maneuver Battle Lab tested a new long-range weapon system this week on Griswold Range. Twelve Soldiers from across the Army, including the Army Marksmanship Unit, National Guard Sniper School and Experimental Force, 1st Battalion, 29th Infantry Regiment, participated in the experiment, which concludes today.

The MK13 has the potential to "fill the gap" between the M24 and the .50-caliber sniper rifle, said SSG John Brady, C Company, 2nd Battalion, 29th Infantry Regiment, one of two Soldiers from the Fort Benning Sniper School to test the system.

The M24 can hit soft targets, or personnel, up to 800 meters. The .50-caliber reaches 1,700 meters but is less precise. It can only be used at long distances for hard targets such as houses or trucks.

"I think the Army is definitely moving in the right direction for the shifting of focus from Iraq to Afghanistan. They're going to need a longer range, more precise weapon system," Brady said.

Afghanistan terrain is more mountainous and less urban, so snipers will need to shoot longer distances, he said.

The changes in elevation can also lead to fluctuations in elevation. That is where a larger bullet, like the one with the MK13, is helpful, said SFC Robby Johnson, AMU.

The larger bullet is more resistant to wind and weather, he said.

More precision at longer distances means increased survivability for the sniper and friendly forces.

"The more standoff you have the better. It only helps the sniper and your friendly troops.

If I can keep the enemy 1,100 ... 1,300 meters away from us, there's not much they can do," Johnson said. "It would give you a better advantage at shorter ranges also. Any weapon that can reach out to extreme long ranges will definitely help make even the 600-yard shot attainable."

Soldiers fired about 150 rounds this week measuring the effectiveness of the weapon in the field.

The Maneuver Battle Lab chose the MK13, which is already fielded to special forces units, because of its availability, said Robert Harbison, project officer for the experiment. The experiment tests a sniper's improved capabilities when using any long range sniper rifle with features similar to those of the M13.

"In the conflicts we're currently engaged in, the ability for our Soldiers to use precise fires is key," Harbison said. "Precise fires both protect our Soldiers by quickly defeating enemy threats, but they also mitigate the risk of collateral damage."

The Maneuver Battle Lab will report its findings to the Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey and the USAIC Soldier Requirements Division, Small Arms Branch, next month.