ABOVE: It saves hours of time and does a better job. Soosung Defense Industries is offering large bore automatic bore cleaning robots. They operate by crawling through the bore (in and out) scrubbing it clean as it crawls. It also provides a clear, detailed video feed of the bore for visual confirmation of bore cleanliness. Soosung hints that it may scale down this exciting product for smaller bore guns.
This year’s AUSA EXPO trended towards three technology areas: (1) modularity in weapons and weapons systems that can be readily tailored for specific mission requirements, (2) robotic autonomy heading towards artificial intelligence (AI) autonomy, and (3) sophisticated sighting devices ranging from small arms to artillery. In addition to state-of-the-art technology, the AUSA 2016 EXPO offered optimistic attendance by vendors and visitors alike. It is always fascinating to observe the number of uniformed flag officers and other active duty members attending this event. The 2016 EXPO enjoyed a resurgence of uniformed persons who enquiringly engaged the technology displays. Whether this trend is permanent or not remains to be seen over the course of the next few EXPOs, as does its potential statistical meaning to sales. Regardless, a review of some of the technologies presented at the 2016 EXPO is in order.
Austria’s Ritter and Stark (R&S) displayed their precision SX1 MTR (Modular Tactical Rifle) fully adjustable folding stock sniper rifle that can easily be stripped down for a quick barrel change/caliber conversion. While a number of today’s gun manufacturers offer modular caliber-rapidly configurable assault rifles and sniper rifles, none exceeds the precision, or the simplistic ease of changing out calibers, like the SX1. Rifles using R&S’ patented ECM (Electrochemical Machining) barrel rifling process eliminate the bore machining marks left behind by traditional mechanical machining methods. The SX1 currently offers the configuration option of three quick-change barrel calibers: .308 (7.62 NATO), .300 Win Magnum and .338 Lapua Magnum to best meet the shooter’s operational requirements. Using magazine well adapters, the SX1 can easily be made interoperable with several magazine designs. Of course, SX1 magazine interoperability is dependent upon the caliber selected. Overall, the design engineering, manufacturing precision and attention to detail that have gone into this bolt action magazine-fed rifle are no less than elegant, sophisticated and “world class.” It all adds up to an exceedingly stable platform that is superbly reliable, ergonomic and accurate.
Poland’s Fabryka Broni “Lucznik”–Radom is an arms manufacturing subsidiary of Polska Grupa Zbrojeniowa (PGZ SA), which is a holding company established by the Polish government to unite over 30 Polish, state-owned, defense industry companies. PGZ’s headquarters is in Radom, and that brings us to their Modular Small Arms System (or MSBS, which is derived from the Polish words “Modulowy System Broni Strzeleckie”). The MSBS-5.56 is a readily tailored gas operated small arms system that shares a common upper receiver, bolt-carrier group and barrel groups (like the Gene Stoner system of the 1960s only this one is on steroids). This translates to a 5.56 bullet-launching gun system designed purely for modularity, with the ability to be quickly configured for nearly any mission-specific purpose from bull pup, to assault rifle, to a long barrel marksman variant.
The variants all possess a common ambidextrous magazine catch, cocking handle, bolt release and fire selector and use any standard AR15/M16 magazines. They’re pricey, but you get what you pay for. Their material construction and manufacturing quality reflects the par excellence of Polish engineering. PGZ is attempting to break into the U.S. sporting and military arms market with their MSBS, so don’t be surprised if you soon see it on the display shelf in your local gun shop.
When an operator comments about a “sweet” gun, NEMO Arms Company of Nampa, ID, immediately comes to mind. NEMO displayed their large frame AR-style “Omen” and “Executive Order” assault rifles chambered in .300 Win Mag and .308 Win, respectively. Both these lightweight rifles are scalable to the operator’s needs and are offered in multiple calibers and barrel lengths. Both come standard with full-length top rails that are structurally rigid, enabling in-line magnification and night-vision optics, target designators and the mounting of most any other Gucci cool stuff that makes an operator think he’s bullet proof. NEMO has built a patented and innovative recoil reduction system into every one of their guns that significantly reduces the recoil of these lightweight rifles to non-clobbering, even enjoyable, shooting parameters. NEMO’s quality in material construction and tolerance consistency is notable as is their customer service. You can bet your life on NEMO’s quality.
Headquartered in the town of Kongsberg, Norway, Kongsberg’s PROTECTOR RWS (Remote Weapons Station) Low Profile is the newest addition to the M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tank. Why is this important? Today’s warfare threats from RPGs, IEDs and VBIEDs to gunfire account for the preponderance of friendly causalities. Manning a machinegun atop an Abrams Battle Tank in the heat of battle is largely seen as suicidal. It is no secret that the warfare environment we face is evolving to the regular use of remotely operated land, air and sea vehicles in both defensive and offensive roles. Battlefield survivability has always meant avoiding one’s opponents’ direct line of fire, but with the advances in artificial intelligence, tomorrow’s weapons and tactics will surely drive the wide employment of remotely operated weapons platforms.
Kongsberg has an answer today. The PROTECTOR RWS is a platform mounted system for remote operation of light, medium and heavy machineguns. An Automatic Grenade Launcher (AGL) and various other effectors can also be integrated. Use of advanced sensors and servo systems enables the operator to observe and engage targets from an armor-protected operating position.
The PROTECTOR RWS family has been integrated on more than 80 platform variants, ranging from small light-armored patrol vehicles (4×4) to main battle tanks, fixed installations and naval platforms from small fast patrol boats to frigates, and is in use by 17 nations. The low-profile variant is now being installed on the Abrams M1A2. Hurray for the good guys!
Taking the remotely operated gun platform a bit further, QinetiQ North America, headquartered in Waltham, MA, has put their version of the remotely operated gun and sensor platform on a small tracked robot body, which they call MAARS. MAARS stands for Modular Advanced Armed Robotic System. MAARS can be configured to carry a mix of non-lethal, less lethal and lethal armament ranging from dazzling lasers, to a 40-mm sponge launcher, to a 40-mm high explosive grenade launcher along with an M240 machinegun that carries a 450-round magazine.
MAARS is an impressive and ominous-looking robot. But it does have some limitations that may well be reduced or eliminated with the exponential advances in artificial intelligence (AI) that are anticipated to be achieved by the year 2020. Currently, MAARS is not an autonomous robot. In other words, it doesn’t think for itself (and perhaps it should not given the arsenal it carries). MAARS currently requires human operator interface to guide its path, select its weapons level of lethality and to aim and fire those weapons. With advances in AI, MAARS may be released into a questionable violent scenario ranging from a battlefield to a hostage scenario, thinking for itself. This might sound somewhat scary today (and it is using today’s limited AI technology), but in just a few short years AI will have advanced to the point where such decisions can reliably become fully autonomous with simple plug-and-play upgrades of a mother board or the download of specifically written applications. And, of course, all data in motion and at rest will be fully encrypted so robot control and its AI cannot be corrupted.
Features that identify friend or foe (IFF) will be commonplace through the ability to do instantaneous facial and voice recognition, iris scan, threat recognition based upon identification of the subject’s mood and what he may be holding (gun, knife, explosives, etc.). This may sound farfetched, but all these technical capabilities exist today (yes–they do). They just haven’t been combined for purposeful interoperability. Standby, because we are on the precipice of this capability becoming operational reality within the next several years, and MAARS may well become a platform of choice.
South Korea’s, Soosung Defense Industries, Ltd, is offering a truly unique Automatic Bore Cleaner (ABC) for large bore artillery, tank and naval guns. This 110v-230v umbilical-powered machine automatically crawls through the bore from muzzle end to breach and back out, while scrubbing the bore clean using a multitude of rotating brushes that surround its conical body. This cleaning robot is cylindrical in shape and about the size of a projectile. It has rubber drive wheels on all sides that not only power it through the bore, but keep it perfectly aligned during its movement. A multitude of powered rotating brushes are located 360 degrees around its cylindrical body, and they scrub the bore walls as the cylindrical machine slowly moves down the bore to the breach end and then automatically returns.
Soosung’s ABC is truly astounding to watch as it quietly and efficiently cleans the gun bore in a matter of minutes compared to the time necessary to manually scrub the same bore clean using traditional methods. Soosung hints that it may consider miniaturizing this revolutionary ABC technology for applicability to smaller bore weapons, perhaps as small as .50 cal. The jury remains out for ABC miniaturization as it will surely depend upon demand. Currently the tank and field artillery bores Soosung offers are 105 mm, 120 mm, 125 mm and 155 mm. Naval gun bores offered are 76 mm and 127 mm.
Located in Boise, ID, GEMTECH’s American-made sound suppressors (silencers) remain one of the most technically sophisticated and effective available on today’s market. GEMTECH offers suppressors for a wide range of long guns and handguns. Uniquely, they offer internal baffling upgrades for older technology suppressors that have removable internal baffles. Since the suppressor can (outer cylindrical body) is the ATF-registered part of the suppressor containing the tax stamp serial number, the internals can be changed out without any federal law restrictions or regulation involved. GEMTECH has capitalized upon this and is offering upgrade replacement of internal baffling elements with their trademarked G-Core improved-technology baffling elements for most of their older cans as well as 22 cans from other manufacturers.
Why is GEMTECH’s G-Core design internal element better than their previous in-line cone design core? Perhaps a quick physics review is in order. Suppressors reduce the rapidly expanding high velocity gasses that propel a bullet (from a fired weapon) by slowing the sonic gasses to sub-sonic speeds before the gasses leave the muzzle. The report you hear from a fired weapon essentially results from a sonic (“sonic” means exceeding the speed sound which is approximately 1,100 feet per second) blast of those gasses leaving the muzzle. A second report, usually not heard unless down range in the line of fire, results from the projectile breaking the sound barrier. The degree to effective sound suppression is directly related to how efficiently the gasses can be slowed by the suppressor’s internal elements before exiting the bore into atmospheric pressure. GEMTECH’s G-Core internal suppressor element design is perhaps the most advanced available today because it reduces the high pressure gasses without allowing a backpressure build up that cause critical malfunction of both blowback and gas operating systems.
Another critical discriminator that puts GEMTECH’s suppressor technology above its competition is GEMTECH’s material construction. GEMTECH suppressors are light, small and agile. They’re easily attached and easy to disassemble for field cleaning and/or internal element inspection/replacement. Last, they are competitively priced and available. What’s not to like about GEMTECH?
Harris Corporation’s advanced technology night vision division in Roanoke, VA, debuted their latest-greatest white phosphor technology-viewing screen branded as the Harris P-45, available as an upgrade option for their Gen 3 night-vision goggles. The white phosphor technology contained in the P-45, when compared to traditional green phosphor P-43 viewing screen technology, provides superior black and white image color clarity and contrast sensitivity. This in turn provides the operator both enhanced image recognition and depth perception for positive target identification. In operational capability terms, using Harris’s P-45 white phosphor technology means the NVG wearing-user will more surely discriminate and rapidly conduct control tasks when operating air, land or seaborne vehicles, machinery or weaponry.
Cased Telescoped (CT) Weapons and Ammunition development has been an on going US Army-funded project for the past 12 years. Managed by the Joint Service Small Arms Program (JSSAP) and led by Textron Systems of Hunt Valley, MD, an experienced team of arms and ammunition developers has developed a 5.56 CT machinegun and accompanying CT ammunition ready for operational evaluation. But first, exactly what is cased telescoped ammunition and how does it work?
CT ammunition looks much like a shortshotgun shell minus the brass end. The projectile is a conventional bullet and is encased inside (surrounded by) its propellant and packaged/contained in a polymer casing tube. The projectile does not protrude from the shell casing as it does in conventional cartridges. The CT cartridge primer end uses conventional center fire primers to ignite the propellant the same as metallic cased cartridges. When fired, the propellant surrounding the bullet creates rapidly expanding gases just like conventional ammunition, and the bullet moves (telescopes) forward through the face of the cartridge tube very much like a shotgun rifled slug works. The round enters (“feels”) the barrel lands and proceeds down the barrel bore at the burn velocity of the propellant. Beyond a CT cartridge’s approximate 30%-weight saving and smaller space-saving length, it has comparable ballistic performance characteristics of conventional metallic cartridges of the same caliber.
Based in Redmond, Washington, B.E. Myers remains at the cutting edge of electro-optical and laser technology development. Designed to be a full-featured, infrared and visible green aiming and illumination laser for individual carbines, their MAWL-DA is a prime example. B.E. Myers designed the ultra-lightweight MAWL-DA from the ground up to be operator-intuitive, ergonomic and modular so the “shooting feel” remains the same with or without the MAWL-DA mounted on the gun. The MAWL-DA mounts offset from the rail to minimize impact on hand position and optic field-of-view (what a concept). It further eliminates granular illuminator adjustment and complex multi-position switches and instead consolidates these choices into the settings you need: close-range, mid-range, and long-range, with the power and divergences appropriate for each. Mode changing is rapid and effortless by using a tactile sliding switch to determine the mode by feel/touch alone, thereby enabling the user to confidently make adjustments to the settings in complete darkness. Modes and power output are set for optimal illumination, beam size and clarity for each engagement range. The MAWL-DA system is designed so the body, tailcap and head are separate, interchangeable components. This makes the MAWL-DA readily ambidextrous by simply swapping the tailcap and head end for left-handed use.
Trijicon’s MGRS (Machine Gun Reflex Sight) is a long-awaited winner that measurably increases the gunner’s probability of first-round hits. Its housing is ruggedly constructed from military-grade aluminum that attaches to any standard Picatinny rail. It comes with two interchangeable ranging knobs. One is scaled for the .50 cal. Ma Deuce; the other, the M-240 machinegun. It has adjustable brightness and range settings. It’s waterproof to 2 meters and works with Trijicon’s 3X magnifier to aid in positive ID. The whole enchilada is made in the good old USA, and it comes packaged in its own Molle pouch ready to rock and roll as part of any gunner’s bag of tricks.
Roving Blue, Inc. of Lena, WI, showed its unique pocket-portable, pen-sized Individual Water Purifier (IWP) featuring advanced ozone water purification process that is pure genius. When immersed in an 8 oz. cup of unpurified water it kills all microbiological organisms in 30 seconds and treats a 16 oz. cup in about a minute. This makes any water source drinkable in austere conditions (obviously those that contain toxic chemicals do not qualify). Weighing about an ounce and a half, it is powered by on-board rechargeable Lithium batteries, and it comes with a USB cable for full charging in about 30 minutes. It will treat 1.8 gallons of water per charge. It has a completely silent operation and no additional chemicals required. Its components are all FDA-, EPA- or NSF-approved/compliant so it’s ready to go to work for you following charging.
If you consider a lethal miniature version of the classic Claymore mine you’ll have the precision fragmentation charge offered by Forcit Defence of Hanko, Finland. This “Claymore-like” charge has been developed specifically with small unit and Special Operations Forces in mind. At less than 2 pounds, and roughly the dimensions of most smart phones, this charge fires 315 stainless steel or tungsten 5-mm diameter pellets that travel downrange at 2,300 meters per second in a 40-degree cone. At 30 meters, for example, the fragmentation field is 20 meters wide and 2 meters high, producing 5 to 7 hits per square meter at this distance. This insensitive munitions-compliant charge confines the fragmentation pattern by design, which enables more precise enemy engagement and allows friendly maneuvering forward of the charge. Compare this small precision charge to its big brother Claymore, the M18a1, which weighs 3.5 pounds, has 700 3-mm fragments, an initial velocity of 1200 meters per second and a cone of greater than 180 degrees with no set fragmentation distribution; you can see why the good guys might be excited about this.