Army modernization officials have selected a Wisconsin-based optics firm to make advanced fire-control prototypes capable of equipping the service's Next Generation Squad Weapon (NGSW) with a 1,000-meter laser range finder and a ballistic computer to calculate the bullet's path to the target, according to an April 20 news release from Vortex Optics.
The Army's Product Manager Soldier Lethality awarded Vortex an agreement to deliver production-ready prototypes of the NGSW-Fire Control for future Soldier Touch Point evaluations, the release states.
The 1-8x30 Active Reticle Fire Control is a variable power, direct-view, first focal plane riflescope -- meaning that the reticle is located in front of the magnification lens to allow the reticle to increase in size as the shooter increases the magnification level.
The Vortex system 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 [Project Manager] Soldier Weapons," according to the release.
"The end result is Active Reticle, which has been proven to increase hit percentage and decrease time to engage during U.S. Army Soldier touchpoints over the last two years," it adds.
The Army released a Prototype Opportunity Notice last spring inviting companies to develop a NGSW Fire Control that "increases the soldier's ability to rapidly engage man-sized targets out to 600 [meters] or greater while maintaining the ability to conduct Close Quarters Battle," according to the solicitation, posted May 30, 2019, on FedBizOpps.gov.
Weapons officials are currently testing NGSW prototypes from General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems Inc., Textron Systems and Sig Sauer Inc. for the final phase of the NGSW effort, which is designed to replace the 5.56mm M4A1 carbine and the M249 squad automatic weapon in close-combat units with automatic rifle and rifle versions chambered for a more powerful 6.8mm round.
The Army plans to select a final design for both weapons from a single company in the first quarter of 2022 and begin fielding them to an infantry brigade combat team in the first quarter of 2023.
It's unclear whether the Army has awarded agreements to other optics companies for fire-control prototypes. Military.com reached out to Army program officials but did not receive a response by press time.
Vortex officials maintain the prototype's "1km-capable laser rangefinder, state of the art on-board ballistic engine, atmospheric sensor suite, and programmable active matrix micro-display ... delivers a true multi-mission fire control enabling everything from [close-quarter battle] to designated marksmanship at the extents of the NGSW's effective range," according to the release.
"For the soldier in the field, that means the freedom to devote their entire focus downrange," Sam Hamilton, chief technical officer at Vortex Optics, said in the release. "End-users will no longer need to leave their field of view to consult separate rangefinders or ballistic calculators, slowing them down and compromising their situational awareness."
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