The OSV-96, the first type of anti-materiel rifle to ever have been acquired by Syria, continues to see service with numerous factions in the now four-year long Civil War. Although the presence of the OSV-96 before the start of the Syrian Civil War was very limited, it has by now become the Syrian Arab Army’s (SyAA) second most popular anti-materiel rifle after the Iranian AM.50.
A limited number OSV-96s were acquired by the Syrian Arab Army shortly before the Civil War as part of the ambitious modernisation programme aimed at improving the protection and firepower of a portion of its infantry force at the time. This programme, cut short due to the outbreak of the civil war, also included the acquisition of various other types of Russian-made small arms such as the AK-74M, 9A-91 and the VSK-94, the latter two of which will be covered in seperate articles in the future.
Renewed interest in the OSV-96 was shown in early 2013, when the Army Supply Bureau of the High Command of the Syrian Arab Republic requested one-hundred 12.7mm sniper rifles along with 10000 12.7mm rounds and one-hundred night vision sights from Russia’s Rosoboronexport in early 2013. This request was fulfilled by the delivery of not only the OSV-96s, but also by 6S8 anti-materiel rifles.
The OSV-96 was originally developed as the V-94 by the Tula Instrument Design Bureau in the early 1990s, and a limited number subsequently entered service with the Russian Army in the mid 1990s. The rifle then underwent a number of changes in the late 90s and was rebranded as the OSV-96 in 2000. Due to its length, the rifle can be folded to allow for easier transportation. The OSV-96’s 12.7x108mm rounds, sharing the calibre with the 6S8, come in a five-round magazine.
Due to its range advantage over many other sniper rifles and relatively large calibre, the OSV-96 functions as an effective counter-sniper weapon in the marksmen-rich environment of the Syrian battlefield, capable of penetrating walls and engaging light armour.
As the OSV-96s came with night vision sights, the OSV-96 potentially has a great advantage over the popular Iranian HS.50, for which the SyAA and National Defence Force (NDF) mostly lack night vision sights. Although available to the regime, these night vision sights are often only handed out to specialised units or bought by individual soldiers.
With the recent introduction of the 6S8, it remains unknown if more batches of the OSV-96 will be acquired. But with new Russian-made weaponry reaching Syria nigh continuously, an increasing presence of the OSV-96 would be little surprising