Robots Sharpen Snipers Skills: Versatility of Targets Offers More Realistic Engagement


On today’s modern battlefield, sniper teams are required to engage moving combatants at distances that can exceed 300 meters. However, most operational snipers have a limited ability to engage realistic moving targets to the maximum effective range of their sniper weapon system. Current training of movers is archaic, and this leads to a low confidence for a high hit probability on an enemy combatant. Enemy combatants walk, jog and run at various speeds. To deal a high hit percentage on targets, snipers need to train with the right targetry to provide efficient fires on targets of opportunity, while still adhering to authoritative rules of engagement and prevent any collateral damage to surrounding civilians and infrastructure.

Marathon Robotic Targets are dressed as OPFOR (opposing forces) to assist snipers in their direct fire engagement process. Marathon Targets can be used as hostile and non-hostile role players in training.

Traditional Army ranges only offer fixed, pop-up or rail-mounted target systems that lack the realism of human-like behaviors and often just present a front-facing profile that tracks sideways. In these conditions, snipers do not efficiently develop the credible marksmanship skills required to engage moving targets.

Modern targetry from Marathon Targets has been making headway regarding moving targets that provides realism and versatility, and their employment is limited only by those who design the training activity for their snipers.

Marathon Targets is an Australian-based company that describes their targets as, “Our targets provide a Robotic Opposing Force (ROPFOR) to conduct live fire training over uneven and lightly wooded terrain in rural field environments. Our robots appear as realistic human-shaped targets, especially when observed at the range by field snipers. Common training scenarios involve robots simulating enemy convoy movements, formations and rendezvous, giving snipers the opportunity to practice threat identification and target acquisition.

When engaged, robots can rapidly change speed and direction to provide a realistic marksmanship challenge. This challenge strengthens the communication between sniper and observer and builds a realistic appreciation of field operations. Our system allows users to very easily command robots to move in a formation to key areas and select appropriate responses when engaged” (See

A United States Army sniper is providing overwatch in Baghdad, Iraq. Being able to train on autonomous targets will assist the sniper in becoming more lethal on the battlefield. 

Autonomous Robotic Targets can move along a predetermined path, move to a series of GPS positions and react to contact tactically and unpredictably. The targets are controlled by the range operating software or as a series of targets to provide high-value target discrimination training based on a particular scenario. The system includes an anti-collision detection and avoidance capability that allows multiple systems to operate independently or collectively without striking stationary or moving objects or other targets.

The way forward for snipers is through utilization of Autonomous Robotic Targets to increase their proficiency in neutralizing a moving enemy combatant on the field of battle. Combatant Commanders who employ snipers need to look to companies such as Marathon as to provide snipers adequate training targetry to increase their lethality and improve their performance that will pay dividends on the front lines.