Canadian sniper hits ISIS militant with record-setting shot
Josh K. Elliott and Jackie Dunham, CTVNews.ca
Published Thursday, June 22, 2017 2:19PM EDT
Last Updated Friday, June 23, 2017 11:18AM EDT
A Canadian Special Forces sniper in Iraq has shattered the world record for the longest kill shot, after taking out an Islamic State insurgent in Iraq at a distance of 3.54 kilometres.
The sniper, who is a member of Canada's Joint Task Force 2, successfully hit his target from an elevated position 3,540 metres away, Canadian Special Operations Command confirmed to CTV News in a statement.
The distance is comparable to the length of 58 hockey rinks. In fact, it’s so far that it took the bullet 10 full seconds to reach its target.
The shot shatters the previous world record for the longest sniper kill, which was held by British soldier Craig Harrison. Harrison hit an insurgent in Afghanistan at a distance of 2,475 metres in 2009.
The sniper’s incredible shot has been credited with saving the lives of Iraqi soldiers fighting against ISIS in the ongoing battle for Mosul, Iraq, the terror group’s last stronghold.
Although Canadian soldiers aren’t on the frontlines in Mosul, Canadian special operation forces are active in Iraq.
Canadian snipers had spotted ISIS members preparing for an ambush against an advancing Iraqi unit. The Canadians dismissed calling in an airstrike because there were women and children in the nearby vicinity. Instead, the sniper took a long shot and one of the ISIS soldiers was hit and killed by the bullet.
In an interview with CTV News, Canadian Special Operations Forces Commander, Maj.-Gen. Michael Rouleau explained how the shot happened.
“In that moment, my elements made an assessment of how they could disrupt the attack before they started killing Iraqi army forces,” Rouleau said. “They [ISIS] had no idea where it [the bullet] was coming from and that’s what resulted in the attack being dispersed.”
CTV News has learned that Canadian snipers have played a critical role in degrading ISIS in Iraq. Canadian troops also seem to have a knack for making long shots -- three of the five longest shots ever recorded were taken by Canadians.
Former Canadian sniper Rob Furlong, who set a distance record of his own in 2002, says Canada's Joint Task Force 2 snipers are the "cream of the crop," with access to the best training and equipment money can buy.
"They have high-power laser range finders, they have ballistic software, wind meters, and of course they have the budget for the proper equipment and the proper training," Furlong told CTV News Channel on Thursday, explaining that a combination of gear and human talent are necessary to reach peak levels.
"You could be the best race car driver in the world… but without the proper race car, you're not going to be successful. It's the same thing for a sniper."
Furlong’s 2002 world record longest confirmed kill shot was fired from a distance of 2,430 metres, when he was serving in Afghanistan with the Canadian Forces. Now, he runs a marksmanship academy in Edmonton.
Hitting a target at long range is not as simple as point-and-shoot, Furlong points out. A variety of factors come into play, such as patience, wind speed, elevation and the curvature of the Earth.
The sniper’s shot was a “remarkable” one, former NATO commander retired Maj.-Gen David Fraser said during an interview with CTV News from Gagetown, N.B. on Thursday.
“It defies description,” Fraser said. “The distance would have been easy to determine, but the swirl, the heat, the obscuration, all of that would have made this shot absolutely almost impossible.”
Jody Mitic, a former sniper with the Canadian Armed Forces and the author of “Unflinching: The Making of a Canadian Sniper” told CTV News Channel that even the slightest flinch can change the shot dramatically at such a far distance.
“Just imagine a one millimetre deviation at the end of that sniper’s barrel would have been a three-and-a-half-metre miss at the target,” Mitic said. “He had to maintain that position and maintain that sight picture and pull that trigger just perfectly so that bullet would find its target at three-and-a-half kilometres.”
Sniper teams must also be stealthy about getting into position and remaining out of sight while setting up their shots.
"These are very difficult shots from operators," Furlong said. He says shots at that distance are "attainable" for professional shooters, but are much more difficult under combat conditions.
"They don't have the luxury of having lots of time and being properly hydrated, properly fed. Fatigue plays a big portion," he said.
Mitic said he encountered plenty of soldiers with good shots when he was in the forces, but not all of them were able to endure the elements when they were out on an exercise.
“We would get troops that would come into the course that were amazing shots but you could never take them on a sniping mission because they didn’t have the ability to sit still for three days and sacrifice some personal comfort for the mission,” he explained.
Furlong says a sniper's spotter is also critical to hitting a long-distance target. "It really comes down to the team. There's going to be the guy pulling the trigger, the actual sniper behind the gun, but equally important is your spotter."
The sniper's identity cannot be revealed due to security concerns. However, the sniper’s identity may become public after returning from the mission.
With files from CTV's Mercedes Stephenson