Yesterday, it was announced by Vortex that the US Army has issued an Other Transaction Authority (or OTA) to Vortex Optics. In this solicitation the Army is pursuing Vortex to manufacture a prototype optic for the Next Generation Squad Weapon Program-Fire Control Unit. (NGSW-FC).

The Army launched the NGSW-FC program in conjunction with the NGSW search back in early 2019. Below is an excerpt from the Army’s original solicitation for a “Squad-Fire Control” Unit:

“to provide a ruggedized fire control that increases accuracy and lethality for the dismounted warfighter on the battlefield. Capabilities are achieved through integration of advanced technologies to provide a fire control system consisting of a direct view optic, ballistic calculator, atmospheric sensor suite, and laser range finder. Combining these features with an in-scope digital overlay produces an adjusted aim-point for the Soldier within the field of view.”

In the solicitation to Vortex the Army is seeking manufacture of production ready prototypes of their NGSW-FC optic for test and evaluation purposes. An OTA is used by the Department of Defense to contract the development of prototypes, conduct research, and for the production of other defense projects. The Vortex prototype will be used during the Army’s upcoming Solider Touch Point evaluations. Which will allow the Vortex prototype to be used in austere field conditions. Allowing for real-time user feedback on the optic.

It is unknown if Vortex is the only company that was solicited to manufacture a prototype under the OTA for NGSW-FC. There is potential for other companies to be apart of the test and evaluation process during the Solider Touch Point evaluations.

The prototype optic by Vortex has been in development for many years within the company. The optic is described as low power variable optic in the first focal plane with a 1-8×30 Active Reticle Fire Control. The optic is augmented with an overlaid digital display that Vortex describes as a, “Active Reticle” which they say, “has been proven to increase hit percentage and decrease time to engage.”

The Active Reticle achieves this by combining data from a laser ranger finder, an onboard ballistic calculator, and atmospheric sensor suite which calculates where to aim at a target. From there it projects this data onto the optic using a “programmable active matrix micro-display.”

The US Army has set aside $35.822 million for the initial acquisition of NGSW-FC prototypes. The majority of that funding will go to hardware development and it’s cost while the rest is for technical manuals (TMs), engineering change proposals, and fielding costs. An initial acquisition of 3,983 units will happen between April 2022 and March 2023. The end goal for acquisition is 30,000 Fire Control units per original solicitation notes.

Below is the Press Release from Vortex on the solicitation by the US Army for the NGSW-FC.

Press Release

For the last 18 years, innovation has meant everything to Vortex Optics. It’s meant our emergence as a leader in the sport optics industry. It’s allowed us to provide our customers the tools they need to pursue and protect what matters most in their lives.

But starting today, our dedication to innovation means something even more.

We’re honored to announce that the US Army – PM Soldier Lethality awarded Vortex® an agreement to deliver the Next Generation Squad Weapon-Fire Control (NGSW-FC) Production Ready Prototypes for Soldier TouchPoint (STP) evaluations.

As a direct-view optic, the 1-8×30 Active Reticle™ Fire Control provides everything you’d expect from a variable-power, first focal plane riflescope. When augmented with an overlaid digital display, however, it provides features unheard of in a traditional small arms fire control.

“As a veteran-owned, non-traditional defense contractor, it’s very important to us that we listen to warfighters,” said Sam Hamilton, Chief Technical Officer at Vortex Optics. “When we learned of the soldier’s need for increased lethality out of their squad weapons—combined with the Small Arms Ammunition Configuration (SAAC) study, which proved that advancements in electro-optical fire control had the greatest potential to increase soldier’s lethality—we knew there was an important capability gap we could fill.”

The Vortex Optics 1-8×30 Active Reticle™ Fire Control is built around a revolutionary technology based on many years of internal research and development, along with multiple cooperative development efforts with the Army’s PM-Soldier Weapons group. The end result is Active Reticle™, which has been proven to increase hit percentage and decrease time to engage during US Army Soldier touchpoints over the last two years.

Even in the case of a battery power loss, soldiers are left with an uncompromised 1-8x, direct-view optic and glass-etched reticle exceeding current capability.

Hamilton said, “By combining a unity power 1-8x direct view optic utilizing a first focal plane, etched reticle, a 1km capable laser rangefinder, state of the art on-board ballistic engine, atmospheric sensor suite, and programmable active matrix micro-display overlaid onto the first focal plane, Active Reticle™ delivers a true multi-mission fire control enabling everything from CQB to designated marksmanship at the extents of the NGSW’s effective range.”

For the soldier in the field, that means the freedom to devote their entire focus downrange. Hamilton said, “End-users will no longer need to leave their field of view to consult separate rangefinders or ballistic calculators, slowing them down and compromising their situational awareness.”

What do you think about the Army’s potential Next Generation optic? Do you believe it’s too high speed and low drag or too much tech? Let us know in the comments below.

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