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Vipers are Cobra Troopers with additional infantry training, and better equipment. They are equipped with armored helmets and vests that can mask heat signatures, and assault rifles with built-in grenade-launchers.

Originally, Vipers were to replace the poorly equipped, but highly skilled "Blue-shirts", but it eventually became established that "Blue-shirts" are the basic level soldiers, while Vipers are advanced infantry.

Text from the G.I. Joe Wiki

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