Category Archives: DARPA

Army Spends $1B on Sci-Fi Weapon Sights

Massachusetts-based FLIR Systems Inc. and Leonardo DRS of Melbourne, Florida last week pulled down a shared $1 billion Pentagon contract for advanced weapon sights.

Terme the Family of Weapons Sights-Individual, when coupled with the new ENVG-B night-vision goggles, the FWS-I gives the user the ability to accurately engage targets via offset shooting without shouldering the weapon. This includes shooting in daylight or no-light, through smoke, and under adverse weather such as rain and fog.

“The ENVG III/FWS-I integrated solution uses a wireless connection that transmits the weapon sight’s aim point and surrounding imagery directly into the soldier’s goggle,” notes the Army’s Program Executive Office Soldier.

Yup, around corners, under obstacles such as cars, etc., all while giving you thermal “Predator vision”

Weight on the FWS-I is under two pounds, giving an 18-degree field of view and a range of almost 1,000 meters. The runtime on a trio of AA Lithium batteries is seven hours, which means you really need to carry some spares, but hey, these things allow you to fire from cover and concealment, and ignore the night, weather, and smoke grenades.

More in my column at Guns.com.

Sig Delivers Commerical NGSW-R Variant to the Consumer Market

I’ve been talking a lot over the past couple of years about the U.S. Army’s Next Generation Squad Weapon program- which is rapidly coming to a head. While Winchester recently won a contract to set up the Army’s Lake City Ammunition Plant to make the NGSW’s 6.8mm ammo and Vortex pulled down a huge award to make up to 250,000 advanced optics for the weapons, the Pentagon has not decided which version of the NSGW-Rifle and NGSW-Automatic Rifle to order.

Current contenders for the weapons platforms themselves include Sig Sauer and two teams made up of defense contractor General Dynamics Ordnance Tactical Systems, working with Beretta and True Velocity; and AAI/Textron partnered with ammo firearms maker Heckler & Koch. 

Well, it seems Sig is confident enough about winning the big teddy bear when it comes to the NSGW-R that they are now releasing a commercial variant of it, the MCX-Spear in .277 Fury (the company’s civilianized 6.8mm NSGW round.)

The Sig Sauer MCX-Spear is a multi-caliber platform that can swap between .277 Fury, 6.5 Creedmoor, and 7.62 NATO via a simple barrel change at the user level. It has rear and side non-reciprocating charging handles, a 6-position folding stock, a lightened free-float M-LOK handguard, and a full-length Picatinny top rail for optics and accessories.

The overall length on the Sig Sauer MCX-Spear is 34.1-inches with the stock extended while the weight is 8.38 pounds. Listed with a 13-inch 1:7 twist, it looks like this will require an SBR stamp.

More in my column at Guns.com.

More Lasin’ in the Gulf of Aden

Looks like the Navy has replaced the capability they lost when the old Ponce and her 30kW Laser Weapon System (LaWS) was retired in 2017.

211214-M-HB658-1322 GULF OF ADEN (Dec. 14, 2021) Amphibious transport dock ship USS Portland (LPD 27) conducts a high-energy laser weapon system demonstration on a static surface training target, Dec. 14, while sailing in the Gulf of Aden. During the demonstration, the Solid-State Laser – Technology Maturation Laser Weapons System Demonstrator Mark 2 MOD 0 aboard Portland successfully engaged the training target. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Donald Holbert)

From 5th Fleet Public Affairs – NAVCENT:

MANAMA, Bahrain – Amphibious transport dock ship USS Portland (LPD 27) conducted a high-energy laser weapon system demonstration, Dec. 14, while sailing in the Gulf of Aden.

During the demonstration, the Solid-State Laser – Technology Maturation Laser Weapons System Demonstrator (LWSD) Mark 2 MOD 0 aboard Portland successfully engaged a static surface training target. Portland previously tested the LWSD in May 2020 when it successfully disabled a small unmanned aerial system while operating in the Pacific Ocean.

The Office of Naval Research selected Portland to host the laser weapon technology in 2018. The LWSD is considered a next-generation follow-on to the Laser Weapon System (LaWS) that afloat forward staging base USS Ponce (AFSB(I)-15) tested for three years while operating in the Middle East.

Bzzzzzzzzzp! And this is how LWSD (Laser Weapons System Demonstrator) Mark 2 Mod 0 looks full face on USS Portland

I Recently Ran Across a Beautiful Beast of a Machine Gun Suppressor

One of the most interesting but least talked about aspects of Maxim Defense is its suppressor wing, and I talked to them about their almost spooky quiet GPMG can.

While on a visit to Maxim’s St. Cloud, Minnesota headquarters, spoke with CJ Dugan (late of certain Tier 1 groups) and the gang about the company’s suppressor team. Acquired after the great schism in the suppressor industry in 2017, Maxim’s quiet-time R&D crew includes such legends in the industry as Dr. Phil Dater.

By 2019, the company arrived at SHOT Show with a few prototypes of their integrated suppressed AR uppers as well as a very interesting can for the FN MAG 58/M240 series of 7.62 NATO general-purpose machine guns. Incorporating a series of patent-pending technology, it is treading harsh terrain that has broken other cans.

Besides holding up despite glowing red-hot– it has outlasted the machine guns it has been tested on– it is shown to drop the sound report to 135dB, which is quiet enough to talk in the vicinity of without ear pro.

Now, it is being tested by the Army, with good initial feedback. Not bad for a company that didn’t exist a decade ago.

More in my column at Guns.com.

Redlegs Stretch theirs out to 70 Clicks

Who says Tube Arty is irrelevant? The Army contends they have made the longest distance precision-guided shot in history using one.

The Extended Range Cannon Artillery (ERCA), designated the XM1299 howitzer, was developed in 2019 by BAE Systems. Based on the pre-existing M109A7 Paladin, it uses a much-longer XM907 155mm/58 caliber gun rather than the legacy 155/39, as well as a host of other improvements above the turret ring, and is planned to enter service in 2Q FY2023.

From an Army Presser:

The first successful test of a 70 km (43 miles) shot with a precision-guided munition took place on December 19, 2020 at U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground.

The live fire demonstration used the Excalibur projectile and was the culmination of a campaign of learning on multiple systems.

“Not only did the test show the design robustness of a current fielded projectile to demonstrate lethality at extended ranges, it did so while maintaining accuracy, marking a major milestone in support of Long Range Precision Fires objectives of achieving overmatch artillery capability in 2023,” said Col. Anthony Gibbs, Project Manager for Combat Ammunition Systems.

Providing longer range than that of potential adversaries, is a significant combat multiple for maneuver commanders and the Long Range Precision Fires Cross Functional Team (LRPF-CFT) was established to tackle that objective. Their mission includes increasing lethality, improving rates of fire, and enabling deep fires to shape the battlefield and set conditions for the brigade combat team close fight.

Multiple efforts including new propellant charges, an Extended Range Cannon Artillery (ERCA) system, multiple projectiles with varying capabilities, and target identification and tracking systems, are under development to increase range and reduce the time from target identification to effects on target.

Personally, I’d like to see one or two of these guns navalised and put in low-profile mounts on the Zumwalts, perhaps alongside if not in place of the fabled Naval Rail Gun system, replacing the failed 155mm AGS. But that would make too much sense. 

Golden BB, DDG edition

Lost in the sauce in the past few days resulting in the excitement and afterglow of the recent NASA/SpaceX mission to the International Space Station was an interesting bit of space news.

Well, space/naval news, anyway: the first successful smackdown of a (simulated) ICBM at extreme altitude by a destroyer-launched SM-3.

As noted in a DOD presser:

The U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA), and U.S. Navy sailors aboard the USS John Finn (DDG-113), an Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) System-equipped destroyer, intercepted and destroyed a threat-representative Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) target with a Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Block IIA missile during a flight test demonstration in the broad ocean area northeast of Hawaii, Nov. 16.

This event, designated Flight Test Aegis Weapon System-44 (FTM-44), was the sixth flight test of an Aegis BMD-equipped vessel using the SM-3 Block IIA guided missile. FTM-44 satisfies a Congressional mandate to evaluate the feasibility of the SM-3 Block IIA missile’s capability to defeat an ICBM threat before the end of 2020.

“This first-of-its-kind test shows that our nation has a viable option for a new layer of defense against long-range threats,” said Bryan Rosselli, vice president of Strategic Missile Defense at Raytheon Missiles & Defense.

Navy zaps drone via laser

Just missed May the 4th, but this just happened last week.

“Amphibious transport dock ship USS Portland (LPD 27) successfully disabled an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) with a Solid State Laser – Technology Maturation Laser Weapon System Demonstrator (LWSD) MK 2 MOD 0 on May 16. ”

As noted by U.S. Pacific Fleet Public Affairs:

LWSD is a high-energy laser weapon system demonstrator developed by the Office of Naval Research and installed on Portland for an at-sea demonstration. LWSD’s operational employment on a Pacific Fleet ship is the first system-level implementation of a high-energy class solid-state laser. The laser system was developed by Northrup Grumman, with full System and Ship Integration and Testing led by NSWC Dahlgren and Port Hueneme.

“By conducting advanced at sea tests against UAVs and small crafts, we will gain valuable information on the capabilities of the Solid State Laser Weapons System Demonstrator against potential threats,” said Capt. Karrey Sanders, commanding officer of Portland.

Has Vortex cracked the combat optic of the future?

Wisconsin-based Vortex Optics announced Monday they have entered into an agreement with the U.S. Army an agreement to deliver a possible component of the service’s Next Generation Squad Weapon.

The contract between the Pentagon and Vortex is an Other Transaction Authority (OTA) agreement, an award type traditionally used to fund innovative prototype procurement and development of forward-looking technology. As such, Vortex will provide production-ready prototypes for use in Soldier TouchPoint evaluations.

The optic at the center of the OTA is Vortex’s 1-8×30 Active Reticle Fire Control, which the veteran-owned company explains is “built around a revolutionary technology based on many years of internal research and development, along with multiple cooperative development efforts with the Army’s PM-Soldier Weapons group.”

The Active Reticle has reportedly been proven to increase hit percentage and decrease time to engage during Soldier TouchPoints in the past two years. In the case of a battery power loss, users still have an uncompromised 1-8x, direct-view optic and glass-etched reticle, which alone exceeds current optics.

And it looks pretty sweet.

More in my column at Guns.com. 

Next Generation Squad Weapons abound

Groovy and very sci-fi looking new guns competing in the U.S. Army’s Next Generation Squad Weapons program were shown to the public last week.

Intended to replace the current standard M4 Carbine and M249 SAW light machine gun, the new NGSW contenders — which use 6.8mm (.277-caliber) hybrid ammunition with an EPR bullet– were on hand at the largest land warfare conference and tradeshow in North America: the Association of United States Army annual meeting (AUSA 2019) last week in Washington DC.

General Dynamics Ordnance & Tactical Systems, which is working with True Velocity and Beretta, showed off their new RM277 NGSW platform, a bullpup with lots of modularity.

Notably, the gun uses True Velocity’s 6.8mm composite-cased cartridge, which has a “drastic reduction in cartridge weight and enhanced accuracy.”

Other contenders include a team made up of Textron, which has subcontracted with ammo maker Winchester-Olin and firearms maker Heckler & Koch, while Sig Sauer is going it alone.

In the below, BG Dave Hodne, Director SL CFT, and BG Potts, PEO Soldier, talk about soldier lethality and how the NGSW fits into the equation, below.

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