The Marine Corps is finally testing one rifle accessory to rule them all

Military Tech

U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Gianmarco Montalva, a reconnaissance Marine with the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit, Maritime Raid Force, fires at his target during a deck shoot on the flight deck of the Whidbey Island-class dock landing ship USS Fort McHenry (LSD 43)

(U.S. Marine Corps

The Marine Corps has picked up a grab bag of battlefield gadgets in recent years as part of the Pentagon's never-ending quest for sweet, sweet lethality, from advanced weapon sights and optics to laser rangefinders.

Now, after nearly a decade in development, the Corps is finally testing a new gadget designed to unify control over a Marine's many rifle-mounted accessories into a single, easy-to-use system so grunts don't have to take their hands off their rifle in the middle of an operation.

The Corps is currently testing prototypes of a so-called rifle accessory control unit (RACU) that combines the the disparate controls for rifle-mounded gadgets into a single unit, spokesman Maj. Ken Kunze told Marine Corps Times.

The Corps has been on the lookout for a RACU system for years. Originally described by Marine Corps Systems Command (MARCORSYSCOM) officials in 2010 sources sought notice, the final RACU system will allow grunts to operate their various gadgets outside the wire without having to fiddle with their weapon, sacrificing situational awareness in the process.

"Controlling the functionality of [rifle-mounted accessories] often requires the Marine to remove a hand from his weapon to manipulate each device individually or to utilize a single item controller or pressure switch," according to August 2010 notice. "The USMC desires a single device, which attaches to the weapon that can control multiple electronic items based on any mission configuration requirements."

The Corps has been carefully evaluating potential systems in the intervening years. In December 2010, Australian contractor Kord Defense announced that the service had selected the company's Rifle Input Control (RIC) to evaluate its "performance and suitability" to meet its RACU requirements. In December 2016, the company was awarded an $2.25 million to provide additional RIC units to the the Corps for testing and evaluation.

A rail-mounted Prototype SmartGrip Rifle Input Control (RIC)(Kord Defence)

"Today's frontline soldiers carry numerous electronic devices on their body and weapon but all these devices have separate individual controls that make them difficult to operate quickly and accurately and increase the cognitive load on the soldier," Kord managing director Peter Moran said of the system in a 2016 release. "This reduces the soldier's situational awareness, accuracy and responsiveness – a very dangerous thing in combat."

"The RIC provides soldiers with a fast, simple and safe way of remotely operating all their electronic devices from one central location without taking their eyes off the task or hands off their weapon – EYES ON, HANDS ON," he added.

The new round of RACU prototype testing detailed by Marine Corps Times indicates the Corps may be expediting its work on the the system. Indeed, the testing comes on the heels of report from the House Armed Services Committee that explicitly named the rapid acquisition of a 'Rifle Integrated Controller' following RACU testing as an "item of special interest" in the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act.

"The committee recognizes the challenges that exist for an individual Marine to operate separate situational awareness, communications, target designators, thermal sights, and other battle management devices and notes a RACU system would consolidate these disparate capabilities into one unified capability," according to the report.

The HASC report urged the Marine Corps to "expeditiously complete the phase 2 evaluation and, subject to a successful evaluation, expects the capability to result in a validated requirement," suggesting that after a decade of slow and steady evaluations, Marine grunts actually see yet another fancy new addition to their rifles sooner rather than later. And not a moment too soon: too many gadgets can end up proving a fatal distraction downrange — and amid the Pentagon's ongoing lethality obsession, Marines could certainly use one gadget rule them all.

(U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Stephane Belcher)

The 2020 National Defense Authorization Act would allow service members to seek compensation when military doctors make mistakes that harm them, but they would still be unable to file medical malpractice lawsuits against the federal government.

On Monday night, Congress announced that it had finalized the NDAA, which must be passed by the House and Senate before going to President Donald Trump. If the president signs the NDAA into law, it would mark the first time in nearly seven decades that U.S. military personnel have had legal recourse to seek payment from the military in cases of medical malpractice.

Read More Show Less
Maj. Jason Michael Musgrove (Lincoln County Sheriff's Office)

A major serving at U.S. Army Cyber Command has been charged with distributing child pornography, according to the Justice Department.

Maj. Jason Michael Musgrove, who is based at Fort Gordon, Georgia, has been remanded to the U.S. Marshals service, a news release from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Georgia says.

Read More Show Less
Sailors from USS George Washington (CVN 73) wear-test the I-Boot 5 at Naval Station Norfolk. (U.S. Navy photo by Courtney Williams)

Navy senior leaders could decide whether or not to approve the new I-Boot 5 early in 2020, said Rob Carroll, director of the uniform matters office at the Chief of Naval Personnel's office.

"The I-Boot 5 is currently wrapping up its actual wear test, its evaluation," Carroll told Task & Purpose on Monday. "We're hoping that within the first quarter of calendar year 2020 that we'll be able to present leadership with the information that they need to make an informed decision."

Read More Show Less
Senator Jim Inhofe speaks with local reporters at a press conference held at the 138th Fighter Wing August 2, 2018. (U.S. National Guard/Staff Sgt. Rebecca R. Imwalle)

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe and U.S. Rep. Kendra Horn leveled harsh criticism last week at the contractor accused of negligence and fraudulent activity while operating private housing at Tinker Air Force Base and other military installations.

Inhofe, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, referred to Balfour Beatty Communities as "notorious." Horn, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, told a company executive she was "incredibly disappointed you have failed to live up to your responsibility for taking care of the people that are living in these houses."

Read More Show Less
U.S. Senator Rick Scott speaks during a press conference at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, April 29, 2019. (U.S. Air Force/Airman 1st Class Monica Roybal)

The Saudi national who killed three students on a U.S. Naval Air station in Pensacola was in the United States on a training exchange program.

On Sunday, Sen. Rick Scott said the United States should suspend that program, which brings foreign nationals to America for military training, pending a "full review."

Read More Show Less