In a combat context, signatures are anything that reveal a warfighter's presence or position to the enemy. They include:
- Visible signatures such as light reflection (glint hazard), muzzle flash, light from illumination tools
- Audible signatures such as gunshots, talking, open radio speakers
- Olfactory signatures such as fuels, solvents, fire, cooking, tobacco, scented products
Total Signature Reduction (TSR) is SureFire's systematic effort to minimize the signatures of military personnel and LEOs operating in combat-like conditions, such as SWAT teams. It is driven by a simple yet powerful concept: In combat, soldiers are both safer and deadlier when their presence and location is unknown to the enemy. The less the signature, the more quickly, safely, and easily a soldier can approach, strike unexpectedly, and change position.
The concept is specifically mentioned in the Joint Chiefs of Staff publication titled Joint Vision 2010:
Advances in low-observable technologies and the ability to mask friendly forces will also continue over the next 15 years. Signature reduction will enhance the ability to engage adversaries anywhere in the battlespace and improve the survivability of forces who employ it.
SureFire is currently focused on reducing battlespace signature caused by firearms, acoustic communication, and artificial illumination of all types. Our signature-reducing product lines include:
Arguably the most important area of signature reduction concerns a warfighter's rifle. When fired, it produces two strong signatures—one visible and the other audible--that can easily be detected at great distances: muzzle flash and muzzle report. A rifle can also produce a secondary visible signature—raised dust and debris and/or foliage movement from muzzle blast. Sound suppressors mitigate all three signatures.
Sound suppressors also provide four additional and extremely valuable side benefits that are unrelated to signature detection by the enemy:
- Reduced sound levels protect the shooter and team members against both temporary and permanent hearing loss
- Reduced muzzle flash preserves the shooter's dark-adapted vision
- Attenuated muzzle gas blast minimizes raised dust, keeping the shooter's view unobstructed
- Attenuated recoil allows bullet impact observation and faster follow-up shots
Aside from the rifle, there are other areas where signature reduction can improve a warfighter's stealth. Stealth in general is another subject highlighted in Joint Vision 2010:
Adaptations to this increasingly lethal battlespace will be warranted. These adaptations are likely to take the form of increased stealth, mobility, dispersion and pursuit of a higher tempo of operations among elements within the battlespace.
Visible signature reduction options range from simple measures such as dark clothing for night operations to technologically advanced measures such as clothing that masks thermal signature, or infrared technologies related to night vision devices. SureFire's involvement in the latter include: