Last month, snipers from across the U.S. Army gathered to test the new Improved Ghillie System (IGS). The IGS is currently in the development phase. Numerous versions are being evaluated to determine which is the most effective.
During this evaluation process, the gathered snipers tested the visual attributes of the ghillie suits. Snipers wearing different versions of the suit had to escape detection by the evaluating cadre whilst performing traditional sniper tasks. Among other units, snipers came from the different Special Forces Groups, the 75th Ranger Regiment, the 82nd Airborne Division, and also from the Army National Guard.
Currently, the Army is furnishing its snipers with the Flame Resistant Ghillie System (FRGS). However, the FRGS, which was introduced in 2012, hasn’t been popular with the troops due to its heavy weight and bad breathability — which makes it ineffective in hot environments. And since 9/11, American troops have been fighting in battlefields with extremely hot temperatures. The IGS isn’t developed to have the same amount of flame resistance as its predecessor. Instead, the soldiers will be protected by their flame-resistant uniforms.
Major WaiWah Ellison, who is the assistant product manager of Durable Goods, Soldier Clothing and Individual Equipment of the Program Executive Office Soldier (PEO), said that currently “soldiers are creating ghillie suits with their own materials to match their personal preference. We want to make the IGS simpler and modular so the snipers will use what is issued to them instead of relying on outside resources.”
PEO is responsible for identifying equipment shortcomings in the Army and prototyping, procuring, and issuing effective upgrades.
“The battlefield has changed, and our enemies possess the capabilities that allow them to better spot our snipers. It’s time for an update to the current system, and I am happy to be a part of the testing,” said Sergeant Bryce Fox, who is serving as a sniper team leader with the 2nd Battalion, 505th Infantry Regiment.
The gathered snipers put the different variants of the IGS under a series of tasks. The top-performing IGS versions will proceed to the next phase, which is called the Limited User Evaluation (LUE). During the LUE, the selected suits will be shipped to Army units both in the U.S. and overseas for additional operational testing. Then, the Army will use the feedback from the units to decide which version will be the next ghillie suit to be issued. Surveys and undisclosed criteria that produce quantifiable data will be used in the final determination.
“Ghillie suits provide snipers that edge and flexibility to maintain a concealed position, which is partial to our trade,” said Staff Sergeant Ricky Labistre, who is a sniper section team leader with the 1st Battalion, 160th Infantry Regiment of the California National Guard. “A sniper’s mission dictates that he remains concealed in order to be successful. Anytime we can improve our survivability, it is very welcomed,” he added.
But there is an added benefit to pooling together snipers from across the Army: experiences and lessons-learned are passed down from mouth to mouth. And with everyone having a different background, there is bound to be a healthy and productive debate that would only enhance the participants’ sniper skills.