When it comes to firearms, optics have always been devices that bring our bodies, specifically our eyes, more in line with a gun’s capabilities, instead of relying on our own meager vision limitations.
Now, U.S. Army researchers are working on four current programs designed to create optics devices that ensure shooters of the future can’t miss. Literally.
This story from ArmyTimes.com says the progress of the programs was reviewed at this year’s Association of the U.S. Army’s Annual Meeting and Exposition.
Darren Ward, head of the U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center’s Optics and Targeting Branch. The programs focus is identifying and tracking targets, adjusting aim for ballistics, and compensating for wind, the story says.
It sounds a lot like the tech being the TrackingPoint system, an expensive computerized scope that, when mated with a rifle, can take into account ballistic information and environmental conditions mark a target and control when the round is fired to achieve the best chance of a hit.
The story says they all will be incorporated into the Army’s Next Generation Squad Weapon, with a target of having the weapon and at least some of the fire capabilities ready for testing in the next three years.
Here’s a rundown of the new tech:
• Small Arms Weapon and Fire control device for which Ward and his researchers have built a prototype uses a laser to identify human movement and then track that target with the scope or display. The laser has a combination of a laser range finder, long-wave infrared camera, and video camera, all running off six AA batteries.
Currently, the prototype is too large to mount on a firearm, but its expected to be sized down.
• Another program is the Rifle Integrated Optic, which would be an optic that provides the shooter with an enhanced view, increased hit probability, and rediced engagement and target recognition time.
The story says the device has yet to be ruggedized.
• The Advanced Small Arms Ballistic System takes the capabilities of current artillery systems and shrinks them down to nearly the rifle size. It’s a computer that factors in GPS coordinates, laser range finder data, compass orientation, and weather conditions to better align the shooter to the target.
It also contains a data library for calibers ranging from 5.56 to .50 BMG.
• The Precision Optical Wind System – Ward’s researchers have partnered with Sandia National Laboratories to fund this project, which is undergoing testing in Texas this month, the story says. It uses multiple lasers that touch the target and then reflect to the device. The laser travel measures aerosols or movements of items within the space between the shooter and the target, estimating and averaging the wind speed.
Next month, researchers will begin adding a ballistic solver to the unit, bringing it one step closer to a fire control system that would integrate wind, ballistics, range, and aim correction into one system, something that is paramount for the Next Generation Squad Weapon that’s being developed.