TAMPA, Fla. — Having eyes on the battlefield can mean the difference between hitting the right or wrong target, or even hitting the target at all, which is why U.S. special operators are looking to upgrade a host of optics items.
Those include a new close-quarters scope, clear glass that can display data and a solution to the vexing problem of fogged-up lens. More specifically, Special Operations Command wants to replace its SU-231 and SU-231A enhanced close-quarters weapon sights, a lieutenant colonel with the command’s lethality office said Tuesday at the Special Operations Forces Industry Conference in Florida.
Per media coverage rules at this conference, names of representatives at or below the rank of O-5 cannot be identified due to the sensitive nature of their work.
The Su-231 technology is a holographic sight that projects a dot into the shooter’s field of view on the weapon’s sight glass, but it’s not visible on the actual target. The sight is a quick-target and aiming-point device, and it’s a substantial improvement on open sights and traditional scopes.
But the bearded door kickers want more, and they’re going to release details to industry in either July or August. For now, the command is willing to publicly say it wants to “incorporate some of the visual augmentation, being able to display data in a see-through screen,” the O-5 said.
The officer added that SOCOM wants the shooter to be able to see relevant data such as range to target or an azimuth for better situational awareness. “You won’t have to raise your eyes from your reticle to get the range to your target,” he said.
“And it will obviously have to be configurable because not every operator wants stuff in his glass,” the officer added. “Lots of operators hate that.”
A Marine goes through a close-quarters marksmanship circuit aboard the dock landing ship Pearl Harbor. (Cpl. Frank Cordoba/U.S. Marine Corps)
In other words, the user must be able to turn that feature on and off.
The sight would hopefully be available in the near term. The Army recently contracted with Vortex Optics and Sheltered Wings to provide the Next Generation Squad Weapon-Fire Control, Army Times reported.
That weapon sight will feed ballistics calculator data, directions and networking to other devices on the Army’s newest rifle and machine gun combo, the NGSW.
The command is also looking to add visual augmentation in a clear glass during daytime. Current and forthcoming night vision as well as items such as the Army’s Integrated Visual Augmentation System offer a lot of digital data in the sight at night.
The command also wants it thin enough to fit under existing night vision tech. That’s because SOCOM just bought a lot of night vision devices, and its personnel won’t be getting anymore for at least a few years, the officer said.
That “Google Glass”-type proposal is going out to industry by the end of this year or early next year, he added.
Another representative from the command’s survival, support and equipment systems office, said they’re looking for a lens solution of a different kind. That individual cited a perennial problem: fogging.
“There’s been no real gamechanger in anti-fog,” he said. “Every lens, every coating that we’ve ever tested at some point always fogs.”
The representative did not share a specific request for proposals item or schedule, but did ask for industry solutions in open submission.
Todd South has written about crime, courts, government and the military for multiple publications since 2004 and was named a 2014 Pulitzer finalist for a co-written project on witness intimidation. Todd is a Marine veteran of the Iraq War.