The Army Thinks Their New Rifle Will Be Like an iPhone

U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Ruben Romero demonstrates then-new attachments for the M4 rifle in 2006.
Photo: Kirsty Wigglesworth (AP)

There are not many ways in which an iPhone resembles a battle rifle, but military officials searching for a contractor to build the gun of the future seem to think there is.

Officials at the Armament Research, Development, and Engineering Center at New Jersey’s Picatinny Arsenal told military and veterans news site Task & Purpose this week that the goal of the Next Generation Squad Weapons (NGSW) project, in which the military is soliciting bids to replace its increasingly haggard M4 rifle and M249 Squad Automatic Weapon with a new generation of 6.8mm rifles, is to create an iOS-like platform for shooting people. Really.

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“Imagine that Steve Jobs and his engineers were trying to convert the iPod Touch to the first 3G iPhone,” project manager for soldier weapons and Army Col. Elliott Caggins told Task & Purpose. “There were a thousand technologies they could have put in the first iPhone but they were looking to mature the platform before they could actually go onto the system.”

The U.S. Army posted a notice in January that it is soliciting bids for the rifle, which is intended to be a high-tech platform that could accept a range of increasingly sophisticated add-ons or modifications. Task & Purpose wrote that the NGSW team said they hoped for the rifle to include “a specially-designed fire control system engineered to boost hit probability at extended ranges,” “an onboard processor hardened against cyberattacks” called the Advanced Small Arms Ballistic System that works like a miniaturized artillery positioning and range-finding systems and a “multi-laser rangefinder system” to detect things like wind speed and help soldiers adjust their aim.

The military also wants the rifle to have a suppressor base and hopes to integrate an “aim augmentation” system sometime in the future, Task & Purpose wrote. According to the Military Times, integration with a heads-up display system that will be mounted in helmets is also planned to be an important part of the NGSW project.

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“We have hundreds of capabilities we can put into this weapons system, but we want to do it by holistically creating a system that that takes advantage of everything we’ve done in the past,” Caggins told the site. “This means its capabilities will only grow, just as the iPhone’s did.”

Presumably this does not mean that the U.S. Army’s new rifle will stop firing after two years or will only fire at targets Tim Cook deems acceptable for family viewing. But hey, at least they’re not claiming that the NGSW will be like Uber.

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The military hopes to field their “iPhone of lethality” by the end of fiscal year 2022, though it hopes to be testing prototypes by this summer. The first troops to receive the weapon will be the “close combat 100,000,” per the Military Times, which include infantry and recon troops.

[Task & Purpose]

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Tom McKay

"... An upperclassman who had been researching terrorist groups online." - Washington Post