Researchers at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory go about their business every day working on projects to help better serve the military and its members who protect our country. Sometimes the research inspires commercial companies to do additional research and expand on certain aspects to develop products of their own. That is what happened with the Army Research Laboratory's (ARL's) research called "Inertial Reticle Technology," where researchers who were then in the Weapons and Materials Research Directorate developed a concept to apply advanced fire control technology to sniper weapons.
As a result of this concept, a modern fire control system for rifles was developed by a Texas-based company, which later partnered with another prominent gun manufacturer. Their partnership allowed for the development of a new shooting system, which they claim may revolutionize how targets are acquired. It is called the precision-guided firearm.
According to an article in American Rifleman magazine (dated Dec. 17, 2013), a new integrated rifle and sighting system was introduced in January 2013, in which a video screen scope with an internal laser rangefinder measures the distance to the target and, using the latest in digital technology, factors in temperature, barometric pressure, incline/decline, cant, air density, spin drift, target movement and effect drift.
Raymond Von Wahlde, aerospace engineer, Vehicle Technology Directorate, learned about this discovery through his former colleagues Lucian Sadowski and Dr. Stephen Small, both from Joint Service Small Arms Program, who managed a project in the 1990's known as, "Project White Feather." Small named the project as a tribute to famed sniper Gunnery Sgt. Carlos N. Hathcock II, also known as "White Feather." Von Wahlde found that the new rifle was very similar to the technology he had coauthored a white paper on with Dennis Metz from EAI Corporation in August 1999, titled "Sniper Weapon Fire Control Error Budget Analysis." Data from that white paper was included on the company's website.
Von Wahlde contacted the company to see if those who developed their precision-guided firearms were aware of the Special Operations Command- sponsored project known as "Project White Feather." Von Wahlde said in his message, "we called it the 'Inertial Reticle.' It was the brainchild of Dr. Mark Kregel. Might the precision guided firearm trace its ancestry back at least in part to Project White Feather?"
Von Wahlde went on to say, "Your videos look remarkably like ours did back in the day. I am impressed with your implementation. We utilized actual inertial sensors on the weapon to stabilize the desired aim point. I like your image processing method for doing so. Your solution to trigger pull is elegant. We replaced the trigger with a switch that armed the system. A solenoid actually pulled the trigger. That was one of the least liked features of our prototype by the users. Adjusting the trigger force is brilliant."
Within a couple of days, Von Wahlde received a message back from the company. "Thank you very much for your email. I appreciate your work – Project White Feather continues to be the best compilation and serious study of sniper performance data that I am aware of. We make everyone on the team read it. Thanks for your interest, would love to show you the system sometime," said Bret Boyd, vice president of sales and marketing, TrackingPoint.
Von Wahlde, who was project engineer for much of the testing, said he gives a lot of credit to his former colleagues. "The technology was the brain child of Dr. Mark Kregel (now retired) and along with Tom Haug (also retired) and Tim Brosseau from WMRD, they constructed the prototype systems for the IRT (Inertial Reticle Technology)," said Von Wahlde. "I am honored to be part of a team that served as an inspiration for these systems."