The Army is eyeing facial recognition tech for its next-generation rifle

Military Tech

A Textron light machine gun with caseless, telescoped ammo

(Textron Systems)

Editor's Note: This article by Gina Harkins originally appeared on, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

U.S. Army weapons officials recently invited defense firms to design and build prototypes of an advanced fire control system that could equip the service's Next-Generation Squad Weapon with wind-sensing as well as facial-recognition technology.

The Prototype Opportunity Notice for the NGSW-Fire Control is intended to develop a system that "increases the soldier's ability to rapidly engage man sized targets out to 600 [meters] or greater while maintaining the ability to conduct Close Quarters Battle," according to the solicitation posted May 30 on

The Army plans to award up to two five-year prototyping agreements, which will include 115 NGSW-FC systems, spare parts and other necessary items for initial prototype testing that's scheduled to take 14 months, according to the solicitation.

Up to two follow-on production awards worth up $250 million are planned for fiscal 2021, the solicitation states. Initial production quantities of 200 or more total fire control systems per month are expected to be delivered within six months of award, with plans to ramp up to up to 3,350 or more total systems per month within three years.

The Army's Next-Generation Squad Weapon program involves two weapons systems under development, chambered for a special 6.8mm round, that will replace the M249 squad automatic weapon and the M4/M4A1 carbine.

Both the rifle and automatic rifle versions of the weapon would be equipped with a sophisticated fire control designed with the following characteristics:

  • An adjusted aiming point that considers range to target, atmospheric conditions, and ballistics of weapon and ammunition.
  • A ballistic calculator that runs on Government Ballistic Software -- Small Arms.
  • Wireless communication, capable of transmitting fire control data such as range to target, ballistic solution and temperature.
  • A wired port that will send and receive data and allow for software updates.
  • A start time within "1.0 seconds" from off to fully active, using common batteries such as AA, CR123 or CR2032.

Interested firms have until Nov. 4 to respond to the solicitation.

The Army may request iterative prototyping efforts to achieve higher-level performance capabilities such as:

  • Advanced camera-based capabilities such as automatic target recognition, target tracking and facial recognition.
  • Weapon stabilization and wind sensing such as local wind data, down-range wind sensing and wind compensated shooting solutions.
  • Advanced ruggedization such as abrasion resistant lenses and hydrophobic lenses that repel sweat and require less cleaning to remove smudges.

Each prototype will undergo a 14-month evaluation period that includes technical testing and user evaluations known as soldier touch points, the solicitation states.

The NGSW's fire control will be designed to work with the Integrated Visual Augmentation System, or IVAS, a program Microsoft is developing for the Army under a $480 million contract the service awarded in late November.

IVAS is intended to replace the service's Heads-Up Display 3.0 effort, featuring an advanced digital system that allows soldiers to view their weapon sight reticle and other key tactical information through an advanced goggle or eyepiece.

The Army began working with gunmakers last year to develop prototypes for the NGSW program. Last July, the service awarded contracts to AAI Corporation/Textron Systems, General Dynamics-OTS Inc., PCP Tactical LLC and Sig Sauer Inc. and FN America LLC to develop prototypes of the automatic rifle version.

In January, the Army also released a separate prototyping opportunity notice inviting gun makers to develop prototypes of both the rifle and auto rifle versions of the NGSW to ensure both work the common, government-produced 6.8mm projectile.

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