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U.S. Army Wants One-Way Tracers

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The U.S. Army is seeking "one-way" tracers that can only be seen from the vantage point of a shooter -- a big advantage that would solve an age-old drawback with the technology by not giving away his position.

Engineers with the service's Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center, known as ARDEC, at Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey are working on developing the technology, known as the One-Way Luminescence, or OWL, tracer round, according to a recent press release from the service.

What's more, the service is holding a competition to solicit bids from companies interested in manufacturing the technology, according to the release.

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Fired every fifth round or so in machine guns, tracers illuminate a line of fire with a pyrotechnic charge that burns bright and helps soldiers see where the bullets are going so they can adjust their aim, accordingly. The problem is they quickly give away a shooter's position to the enemy.

The new technology could change that.

"OWL is a technology approach that doesn't allow an enemy target to trace back to who is firing rounds at him, even if the target is using night vision goggles," Christel Seitel, who leads quality assurance for the OWL program, told the service.

One potential solution is essentially adding a thin layer of luminescent material on the back of the round, like a glow-in-the-dark sticker, Seitel said, according to the release.

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But the Army realizes other concepts may work, too. This year, the service awarded multiple contracts to companies to solicit prototype designs, the release states. In 2017, it plans to enter an agreement with at least one of the firms to begin manufacturing products, it states.

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