Although the US Army and Marines have not yet decided what small arms to adopt in place of the current M4 and M16 automatic carbines, as well as the M249 light machine gun, their command has decided on the optics for the new generation of weapons. Sheltered Wing (part of Vortex Optics) was awarded a contract to produce 250,000 XM157 fire control systems over the next 10 years, worth about $ 20 million.
The XM157 fire control system integrated optics with variable magnification, a backup reticle, a laser rangefinder, an automatic ballistic calculator, a set of atmospheric sensors, a compass, internal wireless communication of the unit, sighting lasers in the visible and infrared range, and a digital display. In fact, we are talking about a computer that will be installed on small arms and integrated with "universal army goggles".
All the soldier has to do is decide to shoot or refrain and not pull the trigger.
The smart fire control system is intended for a promising small arms (Next Generation Squad Weapon, NGSW), which is planned to be selected during the current year. The Pentagon thought about replacing small arms more than half a century ago in 2018. Today, the NGSW program is one of 35 priority programs for the modernization of the US military and is part of 24 programs that, according to Army Chief of Staff, General James McConville, will go into production by FY2023.
SIG Sauer and LoneStar Future Weapons are participating in the tender for new standard small arms with their samples. The samples they develop as part of the program must use a 6.8mm cartridge. This caliber was chosen because the cartridge created for it provides a greater range and accuracy of fire, as well as a higher destructive power than the 5.56 and 7.62 mm calibers used today.
Two American companies, True Velocity and Textron, are working on new ammunition, but the former seems to be in the lead. Textron took on a more complex, but very promising idea, and ran into technical problems. But the product of the True Velocity company is simpler and more reliable.
The unitary cartridge she proposed, measuring 6.8x51 mm, is made in the form of a composite sleeve, consisting of three parts - a small bottom with a low wall, which is inserted into a plastic sleeve, and a pointed bullet. This approach has reduced the mass of the cartridge by 30% compared to existing ones.
The cartridge uses an enhanced propellant charge, which increased the fire characteristics of the weapon, but kept the pressure in the barrel bore at a safe level. Ignition is carried out using a standard primer.
According to the development company, the new cartridge design has given a number of advantages over the 7.62 NATO. Despite the lighter weight, the new cartridge has improved energy and has a higher penetrating effect. In addition, the effective range of fire has increased by 50%.
Finally, the new caliber cartridge is suitable for use in existing small arms. It is enough just to change the standard barrel for a part of a new caliber with a different chamber, and the bolt and other parts do not need to be replaced. Only the sighting device will have to be reconfigured for the new bullet ballistics.
Since the US Army alone has almost a million M4 and M16 carbines today, smart sights are naturally intended for special forces, reconnaissance of the marine and army infantry, sappers and engineers.