Earlier this year, Military.com reported about the US Military acquiring six TrackingPoint models for testing and evaluation.
“The Army purchased six Tracking Point fire control systems to begin exploring purported key target acquisition and aiming technologies,” said PEO spokesman Alton Stewart.“The Army is considering buying additional Tracking Point weapon Systems pending of funding. This purchase would allow the Army to evaluate, test and analyze the commercially available, non-developmental item to assess the capabilities this system could bring to the soldiers and to assist Army requirement developers to define future fire control requirements.”
Our subscribers and fans have been avidly interested in what exactly this system and its testing include. While we don’t know the depth to which the system will be tested, we can showcase the platform it is on, including our working in-house version. Our networked tracking scope and guided trigger are integrated with the XM 2010 enhanced sniper rifle for military testing purposes.
The TrackingPoint Value Proposition
The TrackingPoint Precision Guided Firearm is likely to be a game changer in the current theatres of war. In effect, any soldier becomes an extraordinary marksman when armed with a PGF. Within hours of starting basic training, a soldier can consistently overcome targets at extreme ranges. The PGF reduces training time, enables mastery persistence (follow-up training is minimal), collapses target engagement times from minutes to seconds, and increases success rates dramatically. The PGF creates substantial squad overmatch capability and delivers asymmetric battle standoff ranges. The following features are integrated in all TrackingPoint PGF Systems.
Heads-Up Display (HUD)
Similar to a fighter jet HUD, the PGF provides the shooter with visuals to aid shot set up and enhance the shooting experience (Figure 4). Similar to a fighter jet HUD, the PGF HUD is overlaid into the shooters field of view in a non-obscuring manner. Typical HUD elements include range to target, wind speed (manually set by the shooter), shot angle, rifle cant, compass direction, battery life, and zoom setting.
Modes of Operation
PGFs have two modes of operation, Traditional and Advanced. In Traditional Mode the PGF operates just as a standard rifle operates today. Target tagging and tracking are disabled and the guided trigger acts as a traditional trigger with no “pushback” on the shooter. The reticle is a standard duplex eticle zeroed at 100 yards. Automatic ballistics is disabled.
In Advanced Mode all of the extended range capabilities are operational – tagging, tracking, guided trigger, and automatic ballistics.
High Powered Optics
Precision Guided Firearms have stronger optics than a typical rifle scope. More magnification is necessary because of the range at which targets are now engaged (up to 1200 yards) compared to target engagements of traditional rifle. A typical PGF will have native optical zoom of 30x to 35x
Long Distance Range Finder
PGF range finders tend to have more power that standard Commercial-Of-The-Shelf range finders. A PGF range finder will predictably range semi-reflective targets out to 1500 yards.
Current PGFs allow the shooter to rapidly enter in cross-winds from a simple rocker button on the top of the scope. Wind is entered in MPH up to 40mph. The wind setting is used by the automatic ballistics solver.
Stabilized Target Tagging
When a shooter presses the tag button the target image and the reticle are auto-stabilized by the scope. This stabilization allows the shooter to quickly and accurately tag a target.
Automatic Ballistic Solution
The networked digital tracking scope instantly calculates a precise firing solution for a given shot. The Automatic Ballistic Solution accelerates target engagement times and eliminates shooter error due to mis-estimation of conditions. The Automatic Ballistic Solution is continuously adapting to all environmental and positional conditions relative to an acquired target including range, wind, target velocity, temperature, pressure, incline/decline, cant, Coriolis effect, and barrel temperature (cold barrel vs, warm barrel) such that the shooter has no need to perform calculations, adjust turrets (there are no turrets on a Precision Guide Firearm), estimate holdovers for wind, or hold for lead on moving targets. The PGF has a lifecycle ballistic capability that adjusts ballistic solutions based on the age of the barrel predicated on how many shots have been fired. Internal ballistics change predictably as more rounds are fired. This prediction curve is an input to the automatic ballistic solution. All environmental and positional conditions serve as inputs to the Precision Guided Firearms embedded ballistics computers. The calculated firing solution is then used to instantly adjust the view area and reticle to reflect the calculated firing solution. This entire process from tag to solution is less than 1 second.
Upon designation by the shooter, a Precision Guided Firearm utilizes computer vision based digital image processing techniques to track targets. Images from the optical sensors are analyzed and targets are identified and tracked using techniques such as edge detection, blob detection, fast fourier transforms and correlation. Moving target velocity is determined using image registration techniques and an internal Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) to track the scene background relative to the target. Moving target velocity is used by the automatic ballistic reticle to set moving target lead. By tracking the target and the barrel position relative to the target the networked digital tracking scope can determine a precise launch time for a given round.
PGF Triggers are wired directly to the Networked Digital Tracking Scope. The scope can control the trigger weight in order to guide the shooter; when the shooter is off target trigger weight is temporarily inflated which defers launch. When the shooter precisely intersects the target trigger weight is decreased allowing normal trigger pull force to launch the round. The Guided Trigger is based on the Jewel trigger and includes sensors and control electronics to ensure reliable and accurate firing.
Barrel Reference System
All PGFs are factory zeroed electronically eliminating human zeroing error. Each PGF incorporates a Barrel Reference System (BRS) in order to maintain the factory zero. The BRS is an eye-safe laser based system mounted to the barrel. The BRS laser is injected into the networked digital tracking scope to continuously monitor any alignment shift between the barrel and the scope. Microscopic shifts between the barrel and scope are measured by the BRS and provided to the automatic ballistics solver. In effect, the scope and barrel are always zeroed so less lead goes into the environment and off target shots are less likely.
PGFs include Wi-Fi video servers. Any Wi-Fi enabled device such as a smartphone, tablet or PC can be used to see what the shooter sees in real time (Figure 5). In the future, if the shooter is in a 4G enabled zone then the shooter view can be streamed to any smart device around the world.
Take a look at commercial smart rifles equipped with this technology: http://www.tracking-point.com/store
The History of the XM 2010 Platform
In 2010, Program Executive Office Soldier (PEO Soldier) developed a prototype sniper platform to replace the insufficient M24.
Right now soldiers in the US Military have the ability to ask for equipment they do not have, using “operational need statements.” Over the past few years, the Army took notice that snipers in Afghanistan were repeatedly asking for longer-range rifles with low minutes of angle.
SOCOM had eight MK 13 rifles chambered to .300 winmag available and distributed them to lucky sniper units. The Mk13s performed exceptionally well in the Afghan theater where battles are often fought ridgeline to ridgeline with the Taliban.
The Army knew they needed to get .300 winmag rifles out to its units. So it had PEO Soldier assess the operational need statements and produce a rifle that considered solider needs. The rifle needed to use equipment already in inventory like the receiver from the soon to be replaced M24. The XM2010 was born of these requirements and the Army awarded the development contract to Remington Defense.
The XM2010 addressed needs laid out by soldiers currently in the field, it is a sniper rifle designed by snipers. The XM2010 also manages to make use of components of its predecessor making maintenance predictable while managing overall cost of production. Rechambering the M24 long action receiver to .300 winmag ammunition combines battle proven rifle com receivers with field proven long range ammunition. The .300 winmag ammunition presents a 50% range increase over the M24’s 7.62mm from 800m to 1200m.
Harsh Afghani environments require rifles built from the ground up to maintain operability despite environmental conditions. These environments include climate and terrain variations not previously encountered in the modern theater of war. The chassis and the rifle components use corrosion resistant materials and coated to protect against the elements for ultimate weapon longevity.
Empowering snipers with new off the shelf technology while utilizing components of the M24 led to a weapons upgrade that withstood zero friction from the bureaucracy. Due to the high mountains, deep valleys, and broad deserts of Afghanistan, military spending on sniper technology skyrocketed. This rifle in particular went from concept to delivery in less than a year making it one of the fastest ever pieces of military technology to be adapted.
In May 2011, the Army approved a pure fleet conversion of 2,270 M24s into XM2010s.