Suppression is fire that degrades the performance of an enemy force below the level needed to fulfill their mission. The purpose of suppression is to stop or prevent the enemy from observing, shooting, moving, or carrying out other military tasks that interfere (or could interfere) with the activities of friendly forces.
There are only two ways fire can be suppressive.
- Actually hitting the intended target. Launched projectiles that physically connect are the most likely to stop or prevent the enemy from observing, shooting, moving, or carrying out other military tasks.
- Failing actual hits, fire that lands so close to the intended target causing the legitimate impression they could purposely hit. This suppression lasts only as long as these close, almost-hitting impacts can be continued.
For suppression to work, any fire that fails to hit has to be directed well enough that it’s obvious it could have hit. Any fire that doesn’t meet this criterion is not suppressive. If the target is missed and the fire strikes far enough away to give little to no reason to believe that moving or returning fire won’t result in being hit, the fire isn’t suppressive. That’s the simple, obvious fact of the matter.
Note that nowhere was there any mention of volume of fire. Unless the fire is directed with sufficient accuracy, suppressive fire is not affected by volume of fire. Volume of fire is only beneficial if it’s directed with sufficient accuracy. This is the biggest suppressive fire myth. Poorly directed fire that fails to convince an adversary he/she could be hit is ineffective. Increasing rate of fire doesn’t change that. Here’s an example:
Low skilled shooters will misinterpret this video above as suppressive fire. However, suppressive fire is measured by observing the target/objective area and can not be demonstrated by observing the shooter. While only a fool would believe this obvious waste of ammo was effective suppression or anything else, it’s ultimately determined by down range effect. What did the targets look like after the fusillade? Of course, I’d wager the featured fellow doesn’t have any particular target(s) down range to being with.
Yes, this was just a goof and he was having fun on the range. The problem is people will do this when it’s actually detrimental. Here’s an example below. Training scar, anyone?
No Enemies Were Harmed
Shooting starts at 4:27. This is followed by a deserved ass-chewing from his leadership for this mistake at 4:54.
Effective Suppressive Fire Demonstrated
Observing the man with the PKM in this third video as the shooter, we again can’t tell if his fire is causing effective suppression (though it’s easy to guess that it likely is not.) However, observing him as a target, it’s clear that the shooter down range returning fire managed effective suppressive fire even though that incoming fire was of low volume. It would appear Mr. PKM failed to stop or prevent his enemy from observing and shooting. Instead, Mr. PKM seems to have been stopped from observing, shooting, moving, and carrying out military tasks.
Suppressive fire is useful, if you know what effective suppression actually is.