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The U.S. Army is soliciting bids for high-tech battlefield solutions to create the soldier’s rifle of the future. Smart guns could call in an air offensive, prevent accidental firing by children at home, or render stolen guns useless.
The Army’s specifications are that its Next Generation Squad Weapon – carbines and machine guns – come equipped with a “smart rail,” a communications and power interface between the analog gun and digital technology.
Three finalists were selected for the contract, to be awarded next year: General Dynamics, Sig Sauer, and Textron. While they battle it out, the Army already is looking toward the next step, seeking partners to provide the IT.
First it wants a partner to build a fire-control (FC) system, which will link a soldier’s weapon to other systems to help the operator remain locked on targets, adjusting for atmospheric conditions and range. Historically used for larger systems such as artillery and antiaircraft weapons, prototypes for the carbine and machine gun are due by November.
Then, Innovative Designs & Engineering Assessment (IDEA) prototypes will be evaluated.
One company seeking an Army contract is Dimensional Weapons Systems. It is working on a blockchain-based operating system that could be embedded into the gun, which could have law-enforcement and civilian applications. “You could accomplish some of the functionality by duct-taping an iPhone to your gun. However what we offer is the world’s first truly embedded operating system,” said Melvic Smith, principal owner of the company.
That system could eventually add any number of applications, Smith said, including “smart gun” technology that would only allow the weapon to be fired by a designated shooter’s hand.
The company plans to compete for contracts with its Camelot operating system, which the company says will be hackproof by using blockchain, the decentralized ledger of information used to protect cryptocurrencies like bitcoin.
Smith says his technology will record every movement of a gun, from the angles it is pointed at to the exact time of every round fired, providing a digital record that can be used in training or investigations. It could also diagnose the weapon to indicate when it needs to be repaired or retired from service.
However, the application of information technology to firearms has long been resisted in the United States by gun owners and law-enforcement officials who worry they could be hacked, fail at the wrong moment, or invite government control. The US Army is moving forward regardless of theses concerns, as reported by armyrecognition.com. Gunmaker Smith & Wesson nearly collapsed due to the wrath of gun owners and the firearms industry when it toyed with the smart gun idea in 2000. German company Armatix was practically put out of the gun business following a 2014 boycott of its short-lived smart gun by U.S. gun rights advocates who said it was unreliable.
Smart guns have also stalled because of lack of funding. Many investment funds’ covenants prevent them from investing in firearms, while others want to see a working prototype before committing money.