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DSEI 2021: Digital fire control sight aims to ease brain strain on soldiers

14th September 2021 - 11:34 GMT | by Samuel Beal in London

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Specter digital fire control sight. (Photo: Raytheon ELCAN)

Raytheon ELCAN DFCS bolsters soldier lethality with focus on active targeting to reduce ‘cognitive workload’.

Ask modern infantry soldiers to consider their toughest tactical tribulations and the answer might sound like a mechanical puzzle: how to balance weapon limitations such as weight and power against incessant calls from the top brass to bolster soldier ‘lethality’ and ‘survivability’?  

Packing more punch in ever lighter, dispersed and mobile infantry forces has come to form a core plank of many innovative military operating concepts. In this context, the Specter digital fire control sight (DFCS) from Raytheon ELCAN aims to do good on such newfound requirements, starting at the very basic level of small arms fire.  

Like an AI-powered battle management system, the DFCS moves weapon sights from a passive to an active tool of engagement.

‘This is our first “intelligent optic”. What the smartphone did for global communications is what smart optics will do for weapon sights,’ said Deborah Ratushniak, a communications and government relations official at Raytheon ELCAN. 

Traditionally, a shooter needs to peer down the scope, analyse the situation and make split-second decisions, but the active technology in DFCS ‘will help make decisions for the individual soldier by taking all those things the human has to take into account like atmospheric pressure, temperature, humidity range, and the sight does it for them’, she added.

Ratushniak pointed towards a recent Raytheon fire trial that demonstrated the sight’s ease of use. Where untrained soldiers missed every target at 600m, 700m and 800m with conventional weapons and optics, with the ELCAN DFCS sight, those same shooters hit 100% of the targets out to 600m, 700m and 800m. Such ease of use should help slash training costs for militaries and keep soldiers safer from a distance. 

'What the smartphone did for global communications is what smart optics will do for weapon sights’Deborah Ratushniak, Raytheon ELCAN.

Asked by Shephard about how digital optics may be vulnerable to deception, Ratushniak  argued that the closed nature of ELCAN DFCS makes it resilient, saying: ‘All of the calculations are done in the sight — it’s not like a cell phone where you need to be on a network.’

Even if the sight loses power, the reticle and fully functional 1-8x scope remain usable. 

The sight is also highly adaptable. The computer-powered ballistics wizardry in DFCS means that any NATO ammunition and weapon can be programmed for use. 

Ratushniak said the shift from analogue to digital is ‘a learning curve, change is always a challenge’. 

However, in order to deliver ‘overmatch’ on the battlefield as adversaries equip their infantry to fire at longer ranges, digital fire control on a man-portable weapon becomes all the more important. 

Raytheon hopes to build on the digital bones of DFCS to develop new capabilities, such as wireless communications, augmented reality or even implementing cameras into the sights.

This aims to feed into the demand to connect ‘every shooter with every sensor’ and reduce the isolation of the individual soldier. 

Asked by Shephard whether the DFCS will see mass military adoption, or remain a niche and pricey capability, Ratushniak remarked that as technology continues to get smaller and more powerful, it is likely to be adopted more broadly by warfighters.

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