Army researchers are working on four current programs geared toward making it so future shooters can’t miss.

Darren Ward reviewed the progress of the programs at this year’s Association of the U.S. Army’s Annual Meeting and Exposition.

Ward is the head of the U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center’s Optics and Targeting Branch.

The programs focus on identifying and tracking human targets, adjusting aim for ballistics and compensating for wind.

All are expected to be incorporated into the Army’s Next Generation Squad Weapon, with a target of having the weapon and at least some of the fire control capabilities ready for testing in the next three years, officials said.

The 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 within 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. At this point the prototype is too large to mount on a weapon, but in testing the laser could steer the shooter to the target and compensate for “gunner wobble.”

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Another program, the Rifle Integrated Optic, gives the shooter an optic that enhances the view, increases hit probability, reduces time to engage and increases target recognition. That device has not been ruggedized and is being used now as a comparison item to currently available commercial optics to help researcher gauge shooter needs, Ward said.

The Advanced Small Arms Ballistic System takes the capabilities of current artillery systems and shrinks them down to nearly the rifle size. It is a streamlined computer that can factor in GPS, laser range finder, compass orientation and weather conditions to better align the shooter to the target, depending on the ammunition.

It contains a data library for calibers ranging from 5.56 mm to .50-caliber.

But one factor that affects accuracy at ranges beyond 300 meters is wind.

So, Ward’s researchers have partnered with Sandia National Laboratories to fund a project dubbed the Precision Optical Wind System, or POWS. The system is undergoing testing in Texas this month.

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.

Beginning next month, researchers will work on combining the ballistic solver to the POWS.

That is one step closer to the ultimate fire control system that would integrate wind, ballistics, range and aim correction into one system, a goal of the Next Generation Squad Weapon that’s being developed by Program Executive Office Soldier.

Todd South has written about crime, courts, government and the military for multiple publications since 2004 and was named a 2014 Pulitzer finalist for a co-written project on witness intimidation. Todd is a Marine veteran of the Iraq War.

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