- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Standard infantry Marines will soon have small arms suppressors similar to those used by elite forces like the Navy SEALS or the Army’s Delta Force to help them avoid detection while attacking an enemy stronghold.

The Marine Corps Systems Command this month began rolling out thousands of suppressors for the M-4 and M-27 infantry rifles. While not completely noiseless as in the movies, they are designed to help reduce noise, flash and recoil on the battlefield.

“We’ve never fielded suppressors at this scale. This fielding is a big moment for the Marine Corps,” said Maj. Mike Brisker, an infantry weapons product manager at Marine Corps Systems Command.

The idea for the change came from an exercise in 2016 called “Sea Dragon” that enabled Marine officials to experiment with emerging technologies. A Marine Corps battalion used small arms suppressors during the exercise.

“The positive feedback from that experiment was the primary driving force behind procuring suppressors,” said Maj. Brisker. “We had a few limited user experiments with various units since that time and all of those events generated positive reviews of the capability.”

The suppressor decision ties in with the plan from Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger to revamp the Corps to meet the changing face of war, said Dakota Wood, a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation and a retired Marine Corps lieutenant colonel.

“It’s all about signature management. I need to make it harder for the enemy to find me,” he said.

Under the overhaul plan for the service, the Marine Corps would reduce its numbers and give up some traditional combat systems such as tanks. The idea is create a leaner, lighter force able to fight “near-peer” rivals, especially China, in the close-in coastal regions around East Asia.

“If my concept of employment dictates that I have small units operating within this environment, having these small units properly equipped to enhance force protection and reduce the signature is just the way to go,” Mr. Wood said. “They have to be equipped with the reconnaissance capabilities, communication capabilities and the weapons systems that are relevant to that type of a concept.”

Marine Corps officials said their goal is to field about 30,000 suppressors by fiscal year 2023. The plan was to leverage commercially available technology like the suppressors to support the modernization required for close-combat fighting, officials said.

Suppressors can reduce confusion in the ranks by dramatically increasing the ability infantry squads to communicate on a chaotic battlefield, Marine Corps officials said.

“The most important thing the suppressor does is allow for better intersquad, inter-platoon communication,” said Chief Warrant Officer 4 David Tomlinson, Marine Corps Systems Command’s infantry weapons officer. “It allows the operators to communicate laterally up and down the line during a firefight.”

Suppressors on combat rifles may not have been necessary in the days when troops were lined up in ranks, but the Marines of the future will likely have to fight in smaller units in areas where there aren’t clear battle lines and hiding from enemy is critical, Mr. Wood said.

“It’s just another example of how warfare is changing and you have to adapt,” he said. “All the units have to make the smallest signature possible.”

The Army will likely be closely watching how the Marine Corps fares before they decide whether to issue suppressors to their infantry units, Mr. Wood said.

“The Marine Corps embraced it [but] the Army just hasn’t been that focused on it,” he said. “They should do it, but they just haven’t.”

Using suppressors may have some side benefits for the health of the Corps, officials said.

“In the big picture, the VA pays out a lot in hearing loss claims,” Maj. Brisker said. “We’d like Marines to be able to continue to hear for many years, even after they leave the service.”

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