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New ghillie suit for Army snipers put to the test

An Army sniper wearing the current Flame Resistant Ghillie System is pictured. The new Improved Ghillie System looks to enhance the snipers' lethality and survivability while being simpler and modular. (U.S. Army/Released)

Some Army snipers are finally getting their eyes and hands on prototypes of the Army’s new ghillie suit in “bench tests” at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.

As part of the evaluation exercise, some snipers wore models of the proposed Improved Ghillie System, or IGS, and concealed themselves in forest and arid settings. The other snipers tried to spot them from distances as far away as about 655 feet and as close as about 33 feet.

Staff Sgt. Ricky Labistre, a tester and sniper section team leader with 1st Battalion, 160th Infantry Regiment of the California National Guard, said ghillie suits improve a sniper’s ability to remain camouflaged and concealed.

“Anytime we can improve our survivability, it is very welcomed,” Labistre said in an Army statement.

The evaluation took place for three days in November. The Army plans to buy about 3,500 ghillie suits to outfit the approximately 3,300 snipers in the service, the statement said.

The Army is set to replace the current Flame Resistant Ghillie System, which all snipers are currently issued — but rarely use operationally — with the IGS, which is simpler and more modular, Program Executive Office Soldier officials said in a statement.

“The current kit is thick and heavy and comes with a lot of pieces that aren’t used,” said Maj. WaiWah Ellison, assistant product manager for durable goods. “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.”

Often ghillie suits are made of camouflage uniforms reinforced with canvas and pieces of rain gear sewn and glued in for reinforcement, with burlap copiously attached all over the suit.

Snipers, except for those fighting in urban terrain, traditionally spend much of their shooting time in a “creep,” pursuing a target in the prone position. A soldier’s creation of his first ghillie suit is seen as a rite of passage into the sniper community.

If the suits in the evaluation pass the Army’s requirements, they will go on to the limited user evaluation phase, Ellison said.

“Whichever system passes this bench-top testing, the Army will purchase a limited amount and send them to units to use for training and even operational purposes overseas,” he said. “The units that receive these will provide feedback through surveys and other methods that provide quantifiable data that helps us choose the user’s preference.”


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