When it comes to rifle optics, one could boil your options down into three potential categories: optics without magnification, optics with fixed magnification, and optics with variable degrees of magnification. For years now, the U.S. Army and Marine Corps have utilized Trijicon ACOG that is theoretically good for up to 800 meters but offers only a fixed degree of magnification (at 4 times). Prior to that, Marines and Soldiers largely relied on their iron sights (which this Marine can attest are good out to around 500 meters, provided you’re given the opportunity to train with them).
Now, however, the Army has released a industry request looking to replace their aging ACOGs in favor of a new setup that would allow war fighters to adjust the level of magnification they’re working with to better engage long distance targets without compromising the optics value in a close quarters battle environment.
“We have an 11- or 12-year-old legacy optic that has served the Army very well, but … based on state of industry and what we have seen over the years, we know that there is more capability out there,” said Maj. Dan Varley of the Soldier Lethality Branch of the Maneuver Capabilities Development and Integration Directorate at Fort Benning, Georgia.
“So really, getting the opportunity to assess whether we can find increased capability in a similar package size, weight and potentially cost is really what we are looking to assess here,” he said.
The Army has pointed out that they’re not looking for these new optics specifically for the Army’s next generation squad weapon (NGSW), indicating that they likely intend to launch procurement in the near future if a suitable option can be found. Army officials believe that the ability to quickly adjust between higher and lower power magnifications, soldiers will be better equipped to identify friendly or enemy forces from a distance. They also believe the adjusted magnification will allow for more precise enemy engagement at multiple distances.
“When you look at … what is out there from industry, it’s pretty intuitive to be able to dial back and forth … on that magnification to make quick adjustments,” Lt. Col. Peter Stambersky, who runs Product Manager Individual Weapons, told the press.
Thus far, seven vendors have thrown their hat in the ring, with the Army looking to cull the list down to four by the end of September. Once they’ve narrowed it down to four possibilities, soldiers will begin putting the different offerings through their paces. If and when a new set of optics are selected, it has to be determined if these new optics would go to all soldiers or select units or occupational specialties.
“We want to do our evaluation in the fall and winter and be able to award a production contract by Spring 2020,” he said.