Automatic targeting system sets sights on improving hit probability

By Mr. Eric Kowal (Picatinny)January 11, 2018

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PICATINNY ARSENAL, N.J. - At first glance, the Active Stabilization or AIMLOCK system appears to be a Hollywood generated technology of the future, something you might even see in a video game. Imagine a sensor system that can easily identify potential targets through computer vision, track movements, and increase accuracy.

While a human being must still pull the trigger, AIMLOCK largely takes the Soldier out of the loop as a computer provides the fire control.

AIMLOCK aligns the target and the weapon's barrel automatically, eliminating aiming errors. The weapon free-floats independently in a protective exoskeleton with electromechanical actuators. The weapon direction is actively stabilized relative to the target.

The technology dramatically increases hit probability by locking onto the target, auto-correcting the weapon's aim point to continuously compensate for shooter instability, vehicle motion, target movement, azimuth, airspeed, velocity and range.

The project was conceptualized in 2012 after a need was identified to increase the probability of hitting targets at all ranges. That is when the Joint Service Small Arms Program (JSSAP) office turned to the private sector for ideas on how to achieve its goals.

JSSAP, in which one of their core mission goals is providing small arms technology and requirements harmonization for all U.S. military services is developing AIMLOCK to create a technology that would translate a shooter's intent into perfect execution every time, on any firearm, in any situation.

"The technology was originally conceived for hunting applications but was soon adapted and modified and led to AIMLOCK, providing a solution that allows the weapon and or shooter to fire from a variety of unsupported positions," said Terence Rice, Project Management Engineer with JSSAP.

The program was given the acronym F.I.T.E.S: Future Integral Target Engagement System. The first phase of the F.I.T.E.S program focused on advancing handheld prototypes to technology readiness level (TRL) 4 for testing and evaluation.

The program relied on a technological fusion of embedded computing, microelectromechanical systems sensor integration, computer vision and lightweight materials.

Phase two of the F.I.T.E.S. program consists of a three-year tasking road-map to further the development of AIMLOCK Technology across a broad range of small arms applications, resulting in prototypes up to TRL-6 for field testing and evaluation.

Current system options provide for stationary, supported, unsupported, walking, and riding on, or in a vehicle or aircraft.

"The platform is not tied to any specific weapon," said Rice. "The M4 was chosen as a technology demonstrator."

Aside from better accuracy, another added benefit is reduction in time to engage targets and to increase in survivability. Soldiers would be able to instantaneously detect targets through computer vision technology.

The active target detection component actively searches the field of view for known target profiles, and highlights them for instant evaluation by the shooter.

According to Rice, the FITES technology will be incorporated into the Army's Future Vertical Lift (FVL) program in fiscal year 2019.

The purpose of FVL is to develop five sizes of aircraft, which will all share common hardware such as sensors, avionics, engines, and countermeasures.

The U.S. Coast Guard is also looking at system options for boats, while the Air Force has expressed interest for base security, Rice said.

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