Feeds

British troops get nifty techno-gunsights

Limited outbreak of common sense at the MoD?

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

DSEi The Ministry of Defence has announced a new £150m purchase of hi-tech weapon sights and optics, saying that the new kit will "improve soldier lethality" and "support the British defence industrial base". Serving soldiers have disparaged only a little of the new kit - and much of the money will in fact be spent overseas.

New infantry kit modelled by British troops. Credit: MoD

Here's looking at you.

The new purchase was announced earlier this week at the DSEi arms fair in London, with prime contractor Thales UK keen to show off the new gadgetry for use by British troops fighting in Afghanistan. The £150m will come from funds earmarked for the UK's Future Integrated Soldier Technology (FIST) programme. Troops will receive the following new bits of kit, which the Reg has since discussed with serving infantrymen:

• Underslung 40mm grenade launchers, which have been fitted beneath the rifle of one man in each fire-team of four since 2003, will now get new sights - and also new "fire-control systems". The 40mm launcher is a low-velocity weapon and has to be pointed high above the target in order to lob its grenades any distance, a process which calls for range to be estimated accurately.

The new fire-control gadget to be mounted alongside the launcher will use a laser rangefinder to work out the correct elevation angle automatically - but our military sources say it makes the rifle/launcher combo unrealistically heavy for combat use, and that troops will find ways to get rid of it.

• Thermal sights will be provided for rifles, marksman's weapons and light machineguns. These can be used to detect hidden enemies and bombs while on patrol, and function even in total darkness - when the regular light-amplifying night vision gear now in use doesn't work. This stuff is already in use by some units, and is considered good by our sources.

• New Lightweight Day Sights will be provided, replacing the SUSAT* sights which came in when the SA80 weapons were introduced during the 1980s. SUSAT was very popular in its day (unlike the SA80s, which were only sorted out twenty years later in a German factory), but according to our sources the new sights are much better, offering improved field of view and a clearer picture. "A gleaming bit of kit," we're told.

• The new thermal scopes, in a popular bit of good sense, have open Close Quarter Battle Sights mounted on top of them. This means that a soldier in a close-up gunfight doesn't need to peer through a scope as he shoots, and lose track of what's happening around him. This gets the thumbs up as well.

• Fire-team commanders will get new "Target Locating System" binoculars containing laser rangefinders and digital compasses, allowing them to mark things they see accurately on a map. This is actually quite basic stuff nowadays, and even in the British army forward artillery spotters and similar specialists have had such kit for some time. It's new for ordinary infantrymen to have it, however.

There is the option to hook up the binos to a sat nav and a data net, so calculating the coordinates of a target and sending them to other units automatically, but it wasn't clear at DSEi how much of this capability will be delivered to British infantry and our informants were also unsure. One does note that the only current option for infantry data transmission, the Bowman section-leader's radio, has a very poor reputation.

• There will also be some ruggedised digital cameras and simple periscopes for peering over walls and round corners without getting shot. The FIST project was originally expected to include on-gun cameras feeding an image to a helmet display for this sort of purpose (those ignorant of shooting realities also thought the weapon might be fired usefully in such a position). It seems that an outbreak of realism has occurred in the MoD.

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
Phones 4u slips into administration after EE cuts ties with Brit mobe retailer
More than 5,500 jobs could be axed if rescue mission fails
Special pleading against mass surveillance won't help anyone
Protecting journalists alone won't protect their sources
Phones 4u website DIES as wounded mobe retailer struggles to stay above water
Founder blames 'ruthless network partners' for implosion
Apple's iPhone 6 first-day sales are MEANINGLESS, mutters analyst
Big weekend queues only represent fruity firm's supply
Radio hams can encrypt, in emergencies, says Ofcom
Consultation promises new spectrum and hints at relaxed licence conditions
Bill Gates, drugs and the internet: Top 10 Larry Ellison quotes
'I certainly never expected to become rich ... this is surreal'
Big Content Australia just blew a big hole in its credibility
AHEDA's research on average content prices did not expose methodology, so appears less than rigourous
EMC, HP blockbuster 'merger' shocker comes a cropper
Stand down, FTC... you can put your feet up for a bit
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.