DARPA eyes secret new sniper rifle scope that measures and compensates for crosswinds

By John Keller

ARLINGTON, Va., 4 Jan. 2007. The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in Arlington, Va., is asking the electro-optics industry to design an advanced sniper rifle targeting scope that helps compensate for crosswinds and enables snipers to hit their targets with the first shot.

DARPA issued a broad agency announcement (BAA07-03) Dec. 24 for the Advanced Sighting System (One-Shot) program to enable snipers to hit targets accurately with the first round, under crosswind conditions, at the maximum effective range of the weapon. The standard U.S. Army Remington M24 sniper's rifle has a published maximum range of nearly half a mile.

Only companies that have classified secret facility and safeguarding clearances will be allowed to work on this program. Companies that do not have both of these clearances must team with an organization that does if they want to participate.

The Advanced Sighting System (One-Shot) must provide a measure of downrange crosswind and range to target. The system then will use the information to compensate the bullet trajectory to achieve a substantially increased success of kill, DARPA officials say.

Researchers over the last decade have tried to measure crosswinds in two ways: laser Doppler velocimeter (LDV) and coherent Doppler lidar. DARPA officials point out that these techniques may be useful for some applications, but do not seem to be adequate for this application.

Companies interested in working on the program may consider any potential sensor technology, individually or in combination. DARPA cautions, however, that U.S. forces need this kind of technology quickly and affordably, which lends itself to mature technologies.

The system must operate over a range of visibilities, atmospheric turbulence, and environmental operating conditions. The system ultimately developed will have performance that will be classified.

The development work will be conducted in two phases. First, the contractor chosen must demonstrate the feasibility of the proposed solution. Second, the successful contractor will build a prototype of a size, weight, and power consumption sufficient for battlefield use.

U.S. military officials say they are not satisfied with current methods to compensate the bullet trajectory under adverse combat conditions since they require the sniper to use a spotter to guide him by observing wind velocity and direction, determine the severity of misses, and guess the range to target. Current methods also make intense field training necessary.

Typically for long-range shots, snipers would benefit from the ability to profile the downrange wind instead of measuring an average value since wind can change at various points along the range, which could increase the overall measurement time duration.

The Advanced Sighting System must be able not only to enhance accuracy in a given measurement period and in several profiled wind segments over the engagement range, but also to consider topography, pressure, and temperature.

The system, at minimum, must have sensing and display elements integrated with a rifle or spotter's scope.

Companies interested in participating in the Advanced Sighting System project must respond to DARPA by 5 Feb., although this broad agency announcement will remain open until December 2007.

Send questions about this program by e-mail to Deepak Varshneya at BAA07-03@darpa.mil. More information is available online at www.darpa.mil/sto/solicitations/oneshot/index.htm.

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