American special operators are using a new virtual reality trainer to simulate their air insertions before they jump, allowing them to conduct near-perfect rehearsals over and over before the actual mission.
PARASIM incorporates a harness tailor-made to parachute manufacturer’s specifications, a virtual reality headset, and a digital environment using weather simulation and satellite or map imagery. All of this put together allows operators to create custom mission profiles and then practice them.
“If I need to insert a SEAL team in Syria tomorrow night, all I need is a latitude and longitude,” David Landon, president and CEO of Systems Technology Inc., told Defense News. “So by the time they actually make the jump, they’ve already done it. There are no surprises.”
The system can even handle multiple jumpers in a single simulation, allowing a unit to virtually jump as a team and work together to make the proper insertion to the target area.
Every military branch in the Department of Defense has purchased the system, according to Systems Technology Inc.’s website.
North Korea says its seriously considering a plan to fire nuclear-capable missiles at Guam, according to state-run media.
A spokesman for North Korea’s military told KCNA that it would carry out a pre-emptive operation if there were signs of US provocation.
The warning comes after President Donald Trump warned North Korea it would be met with “fire and fury” if it continued to threaten the US in a marked escalation of rhetoric.
The statement from North Korea mentioned using the Hwasong-12, the intermediate range missile tested in May. North Korea said at the time the missile can carry a heavy nuclear warhead, and independent analysis seems to fit with their statement.
The US military keeps a continuous presence of nuclear-capable bombers in Guam, which would make it an attractive target for a nuclear strike. North Korea specifically mentioned these bombers “which get on the nerves of DPRK and threaten and blackmail it through their frequent visits to the sky above Korea.”
CNN’s Jim Sciutto says that the US flew two B1-B bombers over Korean Peninsula Mon out of Anderson AFB in Guam, part of “continuous bomber presence.”
But the US maintains a Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense missile interceptor in Guam specifically made to protect from medium-range missiles. THAAD has performed well in test conditions but never intercepted a shot fired in anger.
Earlier, Pyongyang said it was ready to give Washington a “severe lesson” with its strategic nuclear force in response to any US military action.
In late February 2018, amid a marked thaw in tensions between North Korea and South Korea during which the prospect of diplomacy looked brighter than ever, Bolton wrote an opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal called “The Legal Case for Striking North Korea First.”
In the article, Bolton argued that North Korea had given the US no choice and must be attacked before it perfected its fleet of nuclear intercontinental ballistic missiles. In his article, Bolton never mentioned South Korea, which is in range of North Korea’s massive installation of hidden artillery guns.
Experts estimate that thousands would die in Seoul, South Korea, the capital of a democratic, loyal US ally, for every hour of fighting with North Korea.
“It is perfectly legitimate for the United States to respond to the current ‘necessity’ posed by North Korea’s nuclear weapons by striking first,” Bolton said to conclude his article.
After South Korean diplomats said North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had expressed willingness to give up his country’s nuclear weapons, Bolton dismissed it as a trick.
“The only thing North Korea is serious about is getting deliverable nuclear weapons,” he told Fox News. Bolton frequently appears on Fox, Trump’s favorite news station, to talk about North Korea in his characteristically hawkish way.
Bolton’s Twitter feed is a constant stream of reminders of links between North Korea’s weapons programs and those in Syria and Iran.
Bolton believes, not without evidence, that North Korea could become an exporter of dangerous technologies that could threaten US lives.
Trump already had a North Korea hawk — Bolton is a super hawk
McMaster isn’t exactly a dove on North Korea. McMaster is believed to have pushed the idea of striking North Korea, though perhaps in ways designed to prevent all-out war.
In November and December 2017, persistent reports came out that Trump’s inner circle was weighing such a “bloody nose” attack on North Korea. But by the new year, military and administration officials had started to pour cold water on the notion.
The Australian military is monitoring a Chinese surveillance vessel believed to have been sent to spy on the Talisman Saber war games being held along the coast of Queensland.
The People’s Liberation Army Navy Type 815G Dongdiao-class Auxiliary General Intelligence (AGI) ship is now sailing toward Australia, presumably to observe the joint military exercises involving American, Australian, and Japanese forces, Australia’s ABC News reported, revealing that up to 25,000 troops will be participating in the “high-end” warfighting exercises.
“We’re tracking it,” Lt. Gen. Greg Bilton, Chief of Defense Joint Operations, explained July 6, 2019. “We don’t know yet what its destination is, but we’re assuming that it will come down to the east coast of Queensland, and we’ll take appropriate measures in regards to that.” He did not elaborate on the response.
He did, however, acknowledge that the Chinese ship is in international waters, where it has the right to sail and, if it so desires, conduct surveillance operations.
Type 815G Dongdiao-class Auxiliary General Intelligence ship.
“All nations have the right under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea to conduct military surveillance operations in international waters outside a state’s 12 nautical mile territorial sea,” Ashley Townshend, Director of Foreign Policy and Defence at the United States Studies Centre in Sydney, told news.com.au.
“While the US and Australia — along with most other nations — accept this principle and grant it to China, Beijing does not extend this right to other nations in the South China Sea, where it routinely chases away foreign vessels.”
China has long objected to “close-in surveillance” by the US Navy near its shores, despite the People’s Liberation Army Navy routinely doing the same.
Chinese AGI vessels have, in recent years, been making frequent appearances at the joint military exercises in the Pacific. The Australian Defence Department told reporters that it is “aware that there will likely be interest from other countries in exercise Talisman Saber.”
One of China’s AGI vessels was spotted lurking off the Australian coast 2017 during the last iteration of the Talisman Saber exercises.
The U.S. guided-missile destroyer Sterett fires its MK 45 5-inch gun during a naval surface fire support exercise as part of Talisman Saber 17.
(U.S. Navy photo by MC1 Byron C. Linder)
The Chinese navy was disinvited from participating in 2018 Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercises in response to the militarization of the South China Sea by Chinese forces. Nonetheless, China sent one of its spy ships to monitor the exercises from off the coast of Hawaii.
“We’ve taken all precautions necessary to protect our critical information. The ship’s presence has not affected the conduct of the exercise,” US Pacific Fleet spokesman Capt. Charlie Brown told USNI News at the time.
By allowing the Chinese military to engage in these types of surveillance activities, the US and its allies are hopeful that China will eventually offer the reciprocity it has thus far been unwilling to grant, Ankit Panda, senior editor at The Diplomat, argued.
“For international rules to function they must be reciprocated,” Townshend told news.com.au.
Australian military officials speaking on the condition of anonymity told local broadcaster ABC News that they suspected that a new aspect of Japan’s participation in this year’s Talisman Saber drills has piqued China’s interests.
“This year’s Talisman Saber involves the Japanese Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade, which was created last year primarily as a response option for potential Chinese incursion in the Senkaku Islands,” one official told reporters, adding, “Their capability and interoperability with Australia and the United States will be of interest to Beijing.”
The Australian Defence Department said the Chinese ship will be “taken into account during the planning and conduct of exercises.”
China has not yet commented on the matter.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Iran threatened to respond to economic sanctions against its oil exports imposed by the US with military action to shut down the Strait of Hormuz, the sea passage into the Persian Gulf that sees around 30% of the world’s oil supply pass — but if they did, the US would shut them down in days.
“As the dominant power in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, (Iran) has been the guarantor of the security of shipping and the global economy in this vital waterway and has the strength to take action against any scheme in this region,” Armed Forces Chief of Staff Major General Mohammad Bagheri said, according to Reuters.
But Iran’s military wouldn’t last more than a few days against the US and its allies, and according to experts, Iran must know this, and is likely bluffing as they have in past threats to close the strait.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani
“In the event Iran choose to militarily close the Strait of Hormuz, the U.S. and our Arabian Gulf allies would be able to open it in a matter of days,” former Adm. James Stavridis told CNBC on July 23, 2018.
Stavridis, who served as NATO’s supreme allied commander Europe, said that Iran would likely try to mine the waterway to ward off traffic, and may also resort to sending out its small, fast attack craft on suicide runs against US Navy ships that could do some damage.
But the US wouldn’t go it alone, and Iran would quickly find the waterway unmined, its fast attack craft at the bottom of the strait and its coastal missile batteries destroyed.
This map shows maritime traffic along the Strait of Hormuz, where about 30% of the world’s oil experts pass through.
Former US Ambassador to Turkey James Jeffrey, now an expert at the Washington Institute, told Business Insider that it’s “highly unlikely” Iran would move on the Strait of Hormuz, “but just the threat of doing that sent oil prices up.”
President Hassan Rouhani, in warning Trump about the “mother of all wars” tried “to warn not so much Trump, but all of the customers of Iranian oil that if they all stop buying Iranian oil when US sanctions take effect on Nov. 4, 2018, it will hurt prices,” said Jeffrey.
Manipulating oil prices and wielding its massive oil production infrastructure represent “the weapon that the Iranians can most easily use,” in combatting US sanctions, Jeffrey said. Rather than violating the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or the Iran deal, Iran prefers to force nations to trade with it in spite of US sanctions by putting pressure on overall supply.
“If they would have violated the JCPOA,” said Jeffrey, “they’d lose the support of western Europe.”
“They’re doing this to spook consumers,” of Iranian oil, said Jeffrey.
“If the Iranians want to escalate” tensions into fighting along the Strait of Hormuz, “we saw that movie in ’88 and in the end they lost their navy,” said Jeffrey, referring to the Operation Praying Mantis, when the US responded to Iran mining the strait with an aircraft carrier strike group that decimated its navy.
On April 6, 2008, two Special Forces operational detachments and more than 100 Afghan commandos began an air assault into a mountain fortress above the Shok Valley.
Six and a half hours later, two members of the assault were killed and nine seriously wounded, over 100 enemy fighters were dead or captured, and eleven men had earned some of the nation’s highest awards for valor. This is what happened.
Entering Shok Valley
The assault was to capture leaders in Hezeb Islami al Gulbadin, a regional insurgent group in Afghanistan. The targets were holed up in a mountain top village surrounded by farm terraces and tall cliffs, providing tough ground for an assaulting force to cover. The village itself was made of strong, multistory buildings that would provide defenders cover while allowing them to fire out.
The American and Afghan force flew to the valley in helicopters. Their initial plan called for a quick insertion close to the village so they could assault while they still had the element of surprise. Their first landing zone was no good though, and so they were dropped into a nearby river and forced to climb up from there. The delay allowed insurgent forces to set up an ambush from the high ground.
Combat breaks out
After the helicopters departed, enemy fighters directed automatic weapon and rocket fire on the American and Afghan National Army soldiers. Their interpreter was killed almost immediately and the communications sergeant, Staff Sgt. Dillon Behr, received a life-threatening wound to his leg. He continued fighting, attempting to suppress some of the incoming fire.
Meanwhile, the assault team had already reached the village, and so found themselves cut off when the forces behind them began taking fire. Despite the precarious position he and the lead Afghan commandos were in, Sgt. David Sanders began relaying the sources of incoming fire to the Air Force joint tactical air controller on the mission.
The mission commander, Capt. Kyle Walton, told an Army journalist later that year about the initial bombings on the target. They were all danger close, meaning friendly forces were within range of the bombs’ blast.
“I was standing next to the combat controller, and when we got to a place where we could talk, he called in close air support, and the F-15s rolled in immediately. I knew my guys were up there, and I know that when you call in danger close air, you are probably going to get injured or killed. I called back to Sanders and asked if he was too close. He said, ‘Bring it anyway.’ Bombs started exploding everywhere. When I called to see if he was still alive, all I could hear him saying was, ‘Hit them again.’ ”
The Air Force JTAC, Airman Zachary Rhyner, would go on to call over 70 danger close missions that day, using eight Air Force planes and four Army attack helicopters to achieve effects on the target.
Three-story explosion and sniper warfare
As the battle continued to rage, both sides were using controlled, focused fire to wound and kill enemies. But a massive explosion after an American bomb hit a three-story building in the village brought on a brief lull in the fighting.
“Good guy or bad guy, you’re going to stop when you see that,” Staff Sgt. Luis Morales, a Special Forces intelligence sergeant, told the Army. “It reminded me of the videos from 9/11 — everything starts flushing at you, debris starts falling — and everything gets darker.”
The Americans and Afghan commandos used this time to consolidate some of their forces.
Both before and after the explosion, snipers on each side were playing a key role. For the Americans, one of their top assets was Staff Sgt. Seth E. Howard, a Special Forces weapons sergeant.
Near the command node, Howard was well-positioned to see the enemy fighters draw close to Walton and the JTAC. To prevent them being killed or captured, Walton stepped away from his position and moved into the open to engage the advancing fighters. He halted their advance, allowing Rhyner to continue calling in bombs.
Rhyner’s bombs would also be instrumental in protecting the command node. He sometimes had to order bombs within 100 meters of his and Walton’s position.
Planning to leave
American forces and Afghan commandos had more problems as the day wore on. The weather at the outset of the mission had been tricky, but the team was getting reports that a dust storm was getting worse and would stop air support before nightfall. That would leave them without bombs, helicopters, or an exit strategy. Meanwhile, surveillance platforms showed another 200 enemy fighters moving to the battlefield.
Walton had requested medical evacuation multiple times, but enemy fire made it impossible. And with six seriously wounded men, a closing window to exit the battlefield, and the serious danger of being overrun, Walton began looking at pulling the team out. But there was a problem. The initial plans had called for the team to leave by descending back down the terraces, a route now closed due to intense enemy fire.
Sanders had managed to break out of his besieged position in the village when another green beret forced a route open. Now, Walton asked him to recon a route down the sheer cliffs to the north of the village.
Sanders told the commander that the route was bad and it was possible that some climbers might break their backs or necks attempting it, but they’d probably live. The situation was so dire, Walton approved it as an exit strategy.
Leaving Shok Valley under heavy fire
Team Sergeant Master Sgt. Scott Ford led the organization at the top of the cliffs. He had less wounded team members carry the more seriously wounded down. One team member made the climb while carrying his leg that had been amputated by a sniper round early in the battle. Others were nursing wounds sustained from both insurgent fire and the effects of all the “danger close” bomb drops.
Ford was defending the top of the cliff other soldiers were climbing down when he was struck in the chest plate by a sniper round. He jumped up and continued fighting, but he was struck again. This time, his left arm was nearly amputated. Ford then finally began his own climb down the mountain, continuing to lead his men as he did so.
Howard, the sniper from above, stayed until all the other Americans and the Afghan commandos had left the mountain. He defended the top of the cliffs with his last magazine before pulling out.
One Afghan commando and an interpreter died, but all of the Americans survived the battle. The Army estimated the insurgents suffered over 150 dead and an untold number of wounded, according to an Army article. Eight insurgents were captured.
After the battle
Many of the wounded members of the team returned to service, including Ford and Sgt. 1st Class John Walding, the team member who lost his leg early on and carried it down the cliffs. Walding is attempting to return to his team, an ambition he describes near the end of this Army video about the battle. He later became the first amputee to graduate the Special Forces Sniper Course.
In a ceremony on Dec. 12, 2008, 10 members of the team were awarded Silver Stars. Rhyner was awarded the Air Force Cross during a separate ceremony in 2009.
Russia hinted on Jan. 11 that Ukraine manufactured the explosives used in an attempted drone attack on its military bases in Syria, following claims linking Turkey and the U.S. to the attack.
“Preliminary research has shown that PETN was used as a base for an explosive substance used in that ammo, which is more powerful than hexogen. The specified explosive is produced in a number of countries, including at Ukraine’s Shostka Chemical Reagents Plant,” Major General Alexander Novikov said in a Russian Ministry of Defense release.
The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense denied the allegations, according to Hromadske, a Ukrainian media outlet.
“This is nothing more than a regular informational attack,” Ukrainian Defense Minister Victoria Kushnir said. “We reject these allegations.”
Russia’s Hmeymim Air Base and Tartus Naval Facility in Syria were attacked overnight with a swarm of 13 drones on Jan. 5 and 6, but were seemingly successfully repelled.
Moscow has since released a number of pictures of the drones, which were fixed-wing UAVs made of wood and tape and powered by small internal combustion engines seen on lawn mowers.
Russia has continuously claimed the drones came from a local force that was backed by an outside power. But experts told Business Insider that the drones could have been constructed and operated without any outside help.
“I could literally turn 10 drones on right now in a field by myself and tell them to fly to a specific coordinate,” Brett Velicovich, a leading expert in drones and author of “Drone Warrior,” told Business Insider in an email.
“Basic swarming with drones now is so easy that any kid with an internet connection can figure out how to do it,” Velicovich said.
Russia plays the blame game
Moscow had previously hinted that the US helped target the drones, claiming that a P-8 Poseidon spy plane had “coincidentally” flown over the Russian bases around the time of the attack.
“Any suggestion the US, the Coalition or our partnered forces played a role in an attack on a Russian base is without any basis in fact and utterly irresponsible,” Defense Department spokesman Eric Pahon previously told Business Insider in an email, adding over the phone that the insinuation is “absolute bonkers.”
Moscow on Jan. 1o said that the drone attack originated from the village of Muazzara, which is located in the Idlib province of Syria.
“The recent drone attack on Russian bases in Syria was launched from an area near Idlib, which is controlled by Turkish-backed rebel forces,” RT reported, adding that Moscow complained to Turkey about the incident.
However, Russian President Putin said on Jan. 11 that he had spoken to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and that he was confident that Turkey had nothing to with it, according to the Associated Press.
“There were provocateurs, but they weren’t the Turks,” Putin said. “We know who they were and how much they paid for that provocation.”
“We often overestimate how much governments in capitals have control over the rebel groups they sponsor,” Dmitry Gorenburg, a senior research scientist at CNA, previously told Business Insider.
While Moscow appears to have now excluded Ankara from its list of perpetrators, it continues to insinuate that the rebels that launched the drones had outside help.
The Russian MoD Defense Ministry spelled it out on Thursday, arguing that the complexity of the drones — which they said required “calculations and flight tests” — prove that whoever launched them were backed by an outside power.
“First of all, it is impossible to develop such drones in an improvised manner. They were developed and operated by experts with special skills acquired in countries that produce and apply systems with UAVs,” according to the MoD. “The fact that terrorists have received assembly technology and programming technology is the evidence that this threat stretches far beyond the Syrian borders.”
Experts agree: Russia is wrong
Business Insider spoke with multiple experts who all said that the drones could have been constructed and operated from a distance of more than 30 miles by rebels without any outside help.
Gorenburg, the CNA research scientist, said Russia was likely “embarrassed” by the attack and the MoD may have needed to attribute the drone strike to “a major power.”
Caitlin Lee, a political scientist at the RAND Corp., told Business Insider that GPS or a camera would be needed to operate a drone at such a distance.
“It’s not out of the realm of possibility for a non-state actor to put GPS software on a drone,” Lee said.
The Russian Defense Ministry even admitted that one of the drones had a camera on it.
Velicovich, the author of “Drone War,” said the drones could have come from ISIS, which has been increasingly active in Syria’s Idlib province.
“Wouldn’t surprise me if this was ISIS’s drone unit, which has been active for a few years now and played with similar technology under their Al Bara Bin Malik brigade,” he said.
Aaron Stein, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, told Business Insider the same thing.
“All of the technology — the styrofoam, wood, lawn mower engines — can probably be bought in Idlib for a couple hundred dollars,” Stein said.
“It’s really embarrassing to have a bunch of junk fly through your air defenses and wreak havoc,” he said.
The Taiho launched on April 7, 1943, and was commissioned on March 7, 1944. With the Japanese Navy in retreat across most of the Pacific, the admirals held the Taiho in reserve until it could be sent where it would make a significant difference.
The ship was committed to combat in June as part of the Battle of the Philippine Sea, one of the largest carrier battles in history. The goal of the Japanese forces was to force a confrontation with the U.S. and wipe out the greater American numbers.
But the Taiho only participated in part of the defeat. In the opening hours of the battle, the USS Albacore spotted the carrier and launched a spread of six torpedoes right as the second wave of planes was taking off.
The blast rocked through the ship, blowing out the sides and opening holes that stretched down below the waterline. So Komatsu’s actions were one of the more heroic moments in warfare history, but it wasn’t enough to save his friends or his ship.
The U.S. and its allies continue to invest heavily in the F-35 and other stealth-capable aircraft. But Russia and China are rapidly developing systems that would negate the benefits that stealth offers.
According to Zarchary Keck writing in The National Interest, both Beijing and Moscow have begun development of unmanned aerial vehicles that have the goal of finding, detecting, and possibly even eliminating enemy stealth aircraft.
China’s stealth detection drone, called the Divine Eagle, is believed to be specially built to counter stealth aircraft while they are still far from the Chinese mainland.
Popular Science notes that the drone’s “long range anti-stealth capabilities can be used against both aircraft, like the B-2 bomber, and warships such as the DDG-1000 destroyer … the Chinese air force could quickly intercept stealthy enemy aircraft, missiles and ships well before they come in range of the Mainland.”
The Divine Eagle features multiple different radar systems, including X/UHF low band radar systems, according to Popular Science. These systems could be used to track stealth aircraft like the F-35 at long distances, as most stealth technology is created to avoid high band radar systems, thereby eroding one of the key advantages of the fifth-generation plane.
The Divine Eagle has apparently undergone multiple redesigns which sought to limit the plane’s infrared signature — something that would help ensure the drone’s own purported stealth capabilities.
Russia has been working on its own stealth-detection drone. Flight Global writes that the Russian military subcontractor KRET debuted a stealth drone prototype at the MAKS air show in Moscow in August.
The unnamed drone, Flight Global notes, will also come outfitted with UHF and X-band radar systems that could be used to detect stealth aircraft. Additionally, the drone is outfitted with an electronic warfare system that would both cloak the drone and make it difficult to target with air-to-air missiles.
If such Chinese and Russian systems are ultimately proven effective, the U.S.’ reliance upon stealth technology will need to be radically evaluated.
At the same time, both Chinese and Russian claims of the technology’s status should be viewed with some skepticism.
Chinese military technology is often based on designs stolen from U.S. and other allied countries, which calls Beijing’s domestic research and development capabilities into question. Additionally, rampant corruption throughout the Chinese military may undermine the country’s ability to fight or develop advanced technologies.
Russia also faces serious challenges to its military ambitions. Large-scale economic problems throughout the country — the partial result of EU and U.S. sanctions stemming from Russia’s aggressive policies in Ukraine — have limited Russia’s military procurement. Already, Russia is cancelling the construction of most of its planned next-generation tanks and may have be scrapping of plans for a fifth-generation bomber. Any new stealth drone could face similar funding hurdles.
Still, the potential rise of anti-stealth drones should worry the U.S., as it could expose an over-reliance on stealth technology that suddenly has far less tactical and strategic worth.
Some in the Pentagon already feel that way. In February, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jon Greenert gave a speech in which he called out the potential limitations of stealth technology.
“You can only go so fast, and you know that stealth may be overrated,” Greenery said. “Let’s face it, if something moves fast through the air, disrupts molecules and puts out heat — I don’t care how cool the engine can be, it’s going to be detectable. You get my point.”
On Dec. 8, 2012, Byers was part of a SEAL Team Six unit deep in the Taliban-controlled mountains of Afghanistan on a mission to rescue Dr. Dilip Josheph when all hell broke loose. According to the MoH citation, Byers distinguished himself that night by showing extreme courage and disregard for his life when he shielded the hostage with his body while simultaneously taking out two insurgents.
In this Navy video, Byers shares the story of that evening, as well as his reaction to the news that he would be receiving the Medal of Honor.
Anyone who’s ever shot an AR or M4 with a suppressor knows how much better the experience is. Hence the saying, “Once you go suppressed, you never go back.”
Previously the exclusive domain of special operations troops, the Marine Corps is experimenting with outfitting an entire infantry battalion with suppressors to fire with their M16 and M4 rifles — and even with their light, medium and heavy machine guns, like the M2 .50cal.
“What we’ve found so far is it revolutionizes the way we fight,” a top Marine Corps official told Military.com recently. “It used to be a squad would be dispersed out over maybe 100 yards, so the squad leader couldn’t really communicate with the members at the far end because of all the noise of the weapons. Now they can actually just communicate, and be able to command and control and effectively direct those fires.”
Industry and military experts agree, saying suppressors deliver tremendous advantages to troops in battle. But there’s a reason why the technology has been primarily in the kit bag of special operations troops and highly trained snipers — they’re not always “grunt proof” and can sometimes cause more problems than they solve if used improperly, experts say.
So first, let’s look at three reasons why firearm sound suppressors awesome. Then we’ll show you three reasons why they’re a potential bigtime problem.
1. Signature mitigation
One of the main benefits to suppressor use by infantry troops, military experts say, is that the suppressor helps eliminate the flash of the powder burn from a fired round from emerging from the end of the barrel. Sound suppressors are like a vehicle muffler and use a series of baffles to progressively disperse the gas and flash from a shot.
The flash from a shot is a dead giveaway of a trooper’s position to the enemy — especially at night. (DoD photo)
When a trooper fires his rifle equipped with a suppressor — which can add another 4-6 inches to the end of the barrel (more on that in our “disadvantages list”) — that’s a lot of extra room for the flash to dissipate, making it hard for a bad guy to see a Marine’s position in the dark.
“This reduces or eliminates attention drawn to the shooter, making him virtually invisible,” said one Marine infantry expert. “We like to fight at night because it helps us reduce the enemy’s ability to see us or identify us as quickly — add a suppressor and it will help increase tempo.”
2. Recoil reduction
One of the things that a lot of shooters don’t realize is that a suppressor drastically reduces a firearm’s felt recoil, one industry expert said. Trapping the gasses within the suppressor negates the need for muzzle breaks or other devices to help keep the barrel level shot after shot.
As anyone who’s had to fire a shot in anger would know, accuracy is the key to survival, and suppressors help a lot in this area.
“Suppressors reduce firing recoil significantly … reducing the speed and quantity of the gas expelled and reducing the total momentum of the matter leaving the barrel, transferring to the gun as recoil,” the Marine infantry expert told WATM. “Suppressors also increase the speed of the bullet to the target, and this will cause an increase in accuracy and the shooter’s ability to track the target longer — and if needed calmly fire another carefully aimed shot.”
3. Sound suppression
Of course, as the name implies, suppressors are primarily designed to reduce the report of a firearm. They are not “silencers” like the Hollywood image would imply. A suppressor typically reduces the sound of a rifle from 160 dB to 135 dB — just enough to make it hearing safe, but by no means deadly quiet.
But that sound reduction is enough to provide a major advantage in fighting indoors and helping small unit leaders communicate better on the battlefield. Particularly when used with a machine gun, the suppressor can expand the area a unit can communicate and operate, industry and military experts say.
“Especially in [close quarters battle] suppressors are particularly useful in enclosed spaces where the sound, flash and pressure effects of a weapon being fired are amplified,” the infantry expert said. “Such effects may disorient the shooter, affecting situational awareness, concentration and accuracy. This could also reduce the noise in the battlefield thus aiding leaders in maintaining command and control.”
And the affect on a trooper’s hearing isn’t anything to shake a stick at either, industry experts say.
“The VA spends about $10 million per year on helping veterans who’re suffering from hearing loss,” the silencer industry source said. “That’s a big concern for service members who’re being exposed to gunfire throughout their career.”
While it’s clear most agree suppressors deliver major advantages to the war fighter, it’s not all ninja moves and .5 MOA shots every time.
Look, it’s physics folks. That gas and flash from a shot has to go somewhere.
Trapped in the suppressor, the hot gas and flash of a magazine dump, for example, can heat the accessory up to as much as 500 degrees. That’s enough to melt handguards and deliver severe burns if a trooper absentmindedly handles one.
That means if grunts are using suppressors as a matter of course, they have to add yet another element to look out for when they’re manipulating their weapons.
2. Length and Weight
Adding a “can” to the end of a rifle adds extra weight and length to the firearm. That changes how the trooper operates, particularly in close quarters battle scenarios.
The whole point of equipping infantry Marines with 14.5-inch barreled M4s is the make them more maneuverable. Adding another 6 inches to their rifle puts them right back in M16 A4 land, the Marine infantry expert said.
The added weight to the end of the barrel also affects accuracy and manipulation, industry sources say. A suppressor can make a rifle “front heavy,” changing the way a shooter has to mount the rifle and balance it for an accurate shot.
Great care has to be taken in mounting a suppressor to a rifle, the industry expert told us. Marines are probably using suppressors that attach to the rifle using a quick-attach mount so that a trooper can take the suppressor off quickly if needed (the other type of attachment is to just thread it directly to the barrel).
If this attachment isn’t done right and the suppressor is just a tiny bit off from the line of the barrel, it can result in the fired bullet impacting the baffles inside the suppressor, causing it to rupture. This is known as a “baffle strike,” and while it doesn’t usually cause severe injury, it can take a gun out of a fight, the industry source said.
Additionally, on direct (gas) impingement guns like the M4 (but not like the piston-driven M27), the suppressor can force a lot of gas back into the rifle breach.
“A suppressor scenario is going to result in a much filthier gun,” the industry source said. “That could cause more malfunctions if it’s not cleaned immediately.”
Modern suppressors are awesome and make shooting a firearm more controllable, accurate and safe. Most believe outfitting service members with this technology increases their effectiveness on the battlefield. But its important to remember they do come with some drawbacks that take training and practice to avoid.