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17 Jan, 2014 23:21

US Army testing precision guided ‘smart’ rifles - report

US Army testing precision guided ‘smart’ rifles - report

The US military is investing in an advanced firearm that comes equipped with an internal computer system as well as sensors that gauge environmental factors to help a soldier aim, according to a technology startup known as Tracking Point.

Tracking Point has announced that the military has purchased six of its so-called “smart” rifles, which are priced at between $10,000 and $27,000 each. That’s a hefty fee compared to the hundreds of dollars the Army pays to fit soldiers with the usual M-16 A2 rifle or M-4 Carbine, but the Tracking Point model reportedly comes fitted with aiming technology so advanced that the military may hope a $10,000 investment will help save money on ammunition.

A shooter using a smart sniper rifle would merely need to tag a target viewable on a screen that’s visible when they are looking through the gun’s scope. The internal computer system will then tell the shooter exactly how to hold the gun and when to press the trigger.

Tracking Point displayed the weapon at the annual SHOT show weapons convention in Las Vegas, Nevada, earlier this month. DefenseTech.com reported that US Army officials bought six of the precision-guided firearms.

Rifles can communicate with each other,” said Oren Schauble, a company marketing official. “We can enable a more information-driven combat in the sense that you can tag targets. You can pass off those targets to someone else with a scope. There’s a whole layer of communication that comes with having a rifle that can designate and track targets.”

Part of the motivation behind developing the precision-guided rifle, the company said, is that battlefields are becoming increasingly complex and, more importantly, connected. A Linux-powered computer in the gun scope collects ballistic data, battlefield images, and records atmospheric conditions such as cant, inclination, and even the tilt of the earth at that precise moment.

Schauble said the company has sold approximately 500 guns to a clientele that includes wealthy collectors and safari hunters.

The guns are also wireless, which means the footage and information can be live-streamed to a smart phone, tablet, or laptop.

The only way to guarantee accuracy is to control all the variables,” Scott Calvin, a Tracking Point representative, told Defense Tech. The only major factor that the gun cannot track is wind speed, which must be entered manually, Calvin added.

As with any new product that has its proponents, there are skeptics who assert that the technology has gone too far by eliminating the need for patience and calm in a high-pressure situation.

It’s the traditional shooting fish in a barrel or the sitting duck,” hunter Chris Wilbratte told NPR. “I mean, there’s no skill in it, right? It’s just you point, you let the weapon system do its thing and you pull the trigger and now you’ve killed a deer. There’s no skill.”

West Point military academy graduate and Vietnam War veteran Chris Frandsen said the Tracking Point gun should be prohibited in the civilian world because a criminal could use it and potentially remain undetected from a faraway distance.

Where we have mental health issues, where we have children that are disassociated from society early on, when we have terrorists who have political cards to play, we have to restrict weapons that make them more efficient in terrorizing the population,” he said.