US Army wants Steve Jobs-like iPhone-style design process for next-generation rifles

Posted:
in General Discussion edited February 15
The U.S. Army has compared the production of future weaponry to Apple's creation of the iPhone as it searches for a contractor to design and produce next-generation rifles, with the hope the next gun created for the military will produce a similar level of revolution to "small arms."

The M41A Carbine, a gun intended to be replaced under the Next Generation Squad Weapons program
The M41A Carbine, a gun intended to be replaced under the Next Generation Squad Weapons program


A notice was issued at the end of January by the U.S. Army Contracting Command seeking proposals for prototypes in its "Next Generation Squad Weapons" (NGSW) project. The government plans to allow up to three contractors to develop two weapon variants under the scheme, intended to replace existing weapons currently in use by active military personnel.

While the proposal doesn't offer much in the way of specific detail for what the U.S. Army particularly wants, officials at the Armament Research, Development, and Engineering Center (ARDEC) have suggested the guns could be produced as a brand-new platform, similar to the iPhone, reports The National Interest.

"Imagine that Steve Jobs and his engineers were trying to convert the iPod Touch to the first 3G iPhone," suggested Army Col. Elliott Caggins, project manager for the new weapons. "There are a thousand technologies they could have put in the first iPhone but they were looking to mature the platform before they could actually go onto the system."

While the statement offers a questionable understanding of events regarding Apple's product releases, the rest of Caggins' commentary is clear in its intent, that the project is meant to create a new platform rather than to simply bolt on additions to an existing and older framework, such as with the M4A1 improvement program.

The call for prototypes reveals there are a few weapons intended to be created under the program. The NGSW-Automatic Rifle is a planned replacement for the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon, in the automatic rifleman role in the Close Combat Force, while the NGSW-Rifle is meant to replace the M4 and M4A1 Carbine.

Successful contractors will need to deliver 53 units of the NGSW-R and 43 of the NGSW-AR, as well as 845,000 rounds of ammunition, spare parts, test barrels, tools, gauges, accessories, engineering support and iterative prototyping efforts.

Among the new capabilities wanted in the weapons is a fire control system produced to boost the probability of hitting the target at extended ranges. On a more high-tech level, an Advanced Small Arms Ballistic System, an onboard processor that shrinks down the positioning and rangefinding system of artillery pieces, is also wanted, along with a sensor suite to help users account for changes in pressure and density, and a multi-laser rangefinder for estimating wind speed that can adjust the rifle's positioning.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 22
    Not sure iPhone inspired will do the trick. I thought those weapons from video games and sci-fi movies are pretty dawn cool and slick looking.
  • Reply 2 of 22
    ericesqueericesque Posts: 10unconfirmed, member
    I think Apple has already submitted their design...  🔫
    mwhitebeowulfschmidtStrangeDaysleavingthebiggmobirdAppleExposedcaladanianjony0
  • Reply 3 of 22
    I read it twice and have no idea what they’re asking for...

    It kind of sounds like they are asking for a car platform model, where all the cars share same core parts and they’re just modified slightly to get a $35K SUV to $55K SUV, and use the same platform for vans and passenger cars.

    The idea is because they share parts, the cost is in the development of the platform, but actually building and maintaining it is cheaper.

    The problem is if there is one part that fails if fails across the entire platform, which results in everything being recalled.

    Why they would want this in a weapon system is unknown.  The basic weapon isn’t that complicated, and is relatively inexpensive to produce. Existing designs already share standardized rail systems to add accessories.

    I suppose the weapons could share literal parts (pins, grips, safety switches, etc) similar to the standardized bullet sizes...

    But, frequently different troops use different weapons, often made by different manufacturers, to best fit their jobs.  An Army grunt doesn’t use the same weapon as the different special forces.

    Is the military going to mandate different manufacturers use the same parts?... it kind of defeats the point.  Sounds like an invasion of the bureaucrat (bean counter)...

    Why Apple is even mentioned... I have no idea.  Apple products don’t share parts, in fact it’s the opposite, every part is specialized and the commonality is the OS.



    mwhitelongpathDAalseth
  • Reply 4 of 22
    I read it twice and have no idea what they’re asking for...

    It kind of sounds like they are asking for a car platform model, where all the cars share same core parts and they’re just modified slightly to get a $35K SUV to $55K SUV, and use the same platform for vans and passenger cars.

    The idea is because they share parts, the cost is in the development of the platform, but actually building and maintaining it is cheaper.

    The problem is if there is one part that fails if fails across the entire platform, which results in everything being recalled.

    Why they would want this in a weapon system is unknown.  The basic weapon isn’t that complicated, and is relatively inexpensive to produce. Existing designs already share standardized rail systems to add accessories.

    I suppose the weapons could share literal parts (pins, grips, safety switches, etc) similar to the standardized bullet sizes...

    But, frequently different troops use different weapons, often made by different manufacturers, to best fit their jobs.  An Army grunt doesn’t use the same weapon as the different special forces.

    Is the military going to mandate different manufacturers use the same parts?... it kind of defeats the point.  Sounds like an invasion of the bureaucrat (bean counter)...

    Why Apple is even mentioned... I have no idea.  Apple products don’t share parts, in fact it’s the opposite, every part is specialized and the commonality is the OS.



    From what I can tell, they are looking for a modernized version of the Stoner 63, with the inclusion of smart optics that will automatically compensate for angle, trajectory, range, and crosswind. There is already a rifle with these capabilities on the market, albeit at a fairly steep price; but it is not nearly robust enough to scale up to a squad support weapon. Applying that optic tech to the Stoner 63 would meet the specs I've seen; but I doubt they'll go with such a straightforward solution. instead, they'll reinvent the wheel in order to charge tax cows more.

    As far as why Apple is mentioned, it seems that whomever composed that reference was under the erroneous impression that the iPod Touch begat the iPhone, instead of the other way around, and then used that erroneous understanding to describe a process where a basic framework had mature technologies added to it until it had the desired finished capabilities.
  • Reply 5 of 22
    nhtnht Posts: 4,429member
    I read it twice and have no idea what they’re asking for...

    It kind of sounds like they are asking for a car platform model, where all the cars share same core parts and they’re just modified slightly to get a $35K SUV to $55K SUV, and use the same platform for vans and passenger cars.

    The idea is because they share parts, the cost is in the development of the platform, but actually building and maintaining it is cheaper.

    The problem is if there is one part that fails if fails across the entire platform, which results in everything being recalled.

    Why they would want this in a weapon system is unknown.  The basic weapon isn’t that complicated, and is relatively inexpensive to produce. Existing designs already share standardized rail systems to add accessories.

    I suppose the weapons could share literal parts (pins, grips, safety switches, etc) similar to the standardized bullet sizes...

    But, frequently different troops use different weapons, often made by different manufacturers, to best fit their jobs.  An Army grunt doesn’t use the same weapon as the different special forces.

    Is the military going to mandate different manufacturers use the same parts?... it kind of defeats the point.  Sounds like an invasion of the bureaucrat (bean counter)...

    Why Apple is even mentioned... I have no idea.  Apple products don’t share parts, in fact it’s the opposite, every part is specialized and the commonality is the OS.




    They want a common platform to replace the M4 and M249.  While the M4 is an adequate weapon for which several next gen options have been explored, for the most part the resulting weapons are better but not better enough to bother with.  The M249 on the other hand is heavy/bulky and the USMC has replaced it because of that reason with the M27 IAR for fire teams and reserving the M249 for more static use.

    The Army, being the Army, can't use something the USMC picked hence the NGSW.  If bean counters are involved its because while amateurs talk tactics while professionals study logistics.  The final buy for a NGSW is on the order of 250,000 weapons and 150M rounds of ammunition.

    Since they are looking at a next gen system it's not even using the 5.56 as a baseline but a new 6.8mm round. Another reason for a common buy.

    The iPhone is mentioned because it represented a paradigm shift in smartphones.  The Army wants a paradigm shift in small arms...a smart gun.  They want technology that can provide one-shot one-kill for the average infantryman.  The downside is that the average infantryman will need to hump around more batteries in addition to heavier ammo.  

    Okay, they claim they will have a non-battery version but at that point the M4 is an adequate platform.

    hodarlongpath
  • Reply 6 of 22
    hodarhodar Posts: 261member
    nht said:
    ...

    Why Apple is even mentioned... I have no idea.  Apple products don’t share parts, in fact it’s the opposite, every part is specialized and the commonality is the OS.




    They want a common platform to replace the M4 and M249.  While the M4 is an adequate weapon for which several next gen options have been explored, for the most part the resulting weapons are better but not better enough to bother with.  The M249 on the other hand is heavy/bulky and the USMC has replaced it because of that reason with the M27 IAR for fire teams and reserving the M249 for more static use.

    The Army, being the Army, can't use something the USMC picked hence the NGSW.  If bean counters are involved its because while amateurs talk tactics while professionals study logistics.  The final buy for a NGSW is on the order of 250,000 weapons and 150M rounds of ammunition.

    Since they are looking at a next gen system it's not even using the 5.56 as a baseline but a new 6.8mm round. Another reason for a common buy.

    The iPhone is mentioned because it represented a paradigm shift in smartphones.  The Army wants a paradigm shift in small arms...a smart gun.  They want technology that can provide one-shot one-kill for the average infantryman.  The downside is that the average infantryman will need to hump around more batteries in addition to heavier ammo.  

    Okay, they claim they will have a non-battery version but at that point the M4 is an adequate platform.

    All I would add, is the elegance of design, carried into a firearm.  My 2 year old grandkids can sit down with an iPad and intuitively figure out what they want to do.  By age 4, they can pick it up, launch their favorite game app, and keep themselves entertained for hours.

    Imagine a weapon, that is AK47 "easy to use".  Ammo can only go in one way, and it's obvious where, the gun easily adjusts to anyone, simple to use, reliable, only fires when it's intended to fire, and is accurate for the 1shot one kill ratio, as you described.  Now add in the 6.8mm inherent 60 and 80 KSI chamber pressure (this is comparable to the chamber pressure found in a tank) - so it punches through conventional body armor.  Simple to operate, simple to clean, simple to build or repair, accurate, easy to carry and you have a pretty ideal weapon for deployment across all branches.

    longpath
  • Reply 7 of 22
    You know what would be great? If they took a cue from Apple and built in BIOMETRIC SECURITY! If all guns had to have Touch ID or Face ID or similar systems, Sandy Hook wouldn't have happened. If guns had to first check if they were within certain locations, like schools or places of worship, before they could be fired. It is inaccessible that in 2019 nothing has been done to even ensure that when guns are being fired they're in the hands of the person they were sold to.
    AppleExposed
  • Reply 8 of 22
    You know what would be great? If they took a cue from Apple and built in BIOMETRIC SECURITY! If all guns had to have Touch ID or Face ID or similar systems, Sandy Hook wouldn't have happened. If guns had to first check if they were within certain locations, like schools or places of worship, before they could be fired. It is inaccessible that in 2019 nothing has been done to even ensure that when guns are being fired they're in the hands of the person they were sold to.
    Canadian here. Pretty sure that would fly in countries that aren't as culturally anti-gov but not the US. Also there's way too many firearms in existence for that to even matter.
  • Reply 9 of 22
    You know what would be great? If they took a cue from Apple and built in BIOMETRIC SECURITY! If all guns had to have Touch ID or Face ID or similar systems, Sandy Hook wouldn't have happened. If guns had to first check if they were within certain locations, like schools or places of worship, before they could be fired. It is inaccessible that in 2019 nothing has been done to even ensure that when guns are being fired they're in the hands of the person they were sold to.
    For some strange reason that type of comment is considered political. Your comment will probably be disappeared.
  • Reply 10 of 22
    rob53rob53 Posts: 2,007member
    Why are we even discussing this? Why would Apple even think about providing anything to the development of weapons????? 
  • Reply 11 of 22
    Bad analogy. The more tech you have in a weapon like that the more failure you have at critical moments. There is limited innovation left that would be a leap like the iPhone was. 
    longpathwatto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 22
    If the Army really wants to have high tech weapons, wouldn't they be better making hand grenades like the Galaxy Note 7? 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 22
    It would give a whole new meaning to "You're holding it wrong."
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 22
    macguimacgui Posts: 1,159member
    rob53 said:
    Why are we even discussing this? Why would Apple even think about providing anything to the development of weapons????? 
    This is not about Apple providing anything I to this concept.

    It's about someone in the military making an analogy of Jobs designing the iPod and iPhone to the military designing a new weapons platform, what would the process be?

    A big Apple tie-in would be knowing when to say know. A 'smart-gun' with Hollywood optics sounds great, but would likely not stand up to various harsh environments seen in combat. And carrying additional batteries would indeed be a hardship.

    I don't think the game plan is to make a sniper out of every ground pounder or even a significant percentage. One-shot, one-kill takes a lot more than a reliable weapon. Once there's contact and a firefight, most disciplines go out the window and it's spray n pray. That's one of the big reasons the military went to 3-round burst instead of full auto starting with the M16A2 and A4.

    Adding a lot of gee-whiz stuff to a combat weapon sounds nice in theory, but it has to still work when batteries go bad, if only as a basic PnS rifle.

    Whether or not Apple's design processes could be applicable to this particular military project — I have no idea.
    longpathwatto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 22
    You know what would be great? If they took a cue from Apple and built in BIOMETRIC SECURITY! If all guns had to have Touch ID or Face ID or similar systems, Sandy Hook wouldn't have happened. If guns had to first check if they were within certain locations, like schools or places of worship, before they could be fired. It is inaccessible that in 2019 nothing has been done to even ensure that when guns are being fired they're in the hands of the person they were sold to.
    You do understand that this is for a military weapon, to be used in actual combat, right? Respectfully, every attempt at biometric security in a firearm has fallen well short of the reliability needed to qualify for consideration by the military, let alone become the winner in side by side testing against competing candidates. It sounds like a great idea until your relative comes home, room temperature or missing pieces, because his or her weapon failed to go bang when his or her life and limb depended upon it. Your clear intent is the prevention of unauthorized usage; but you discount the importance of minimizing failures during authorized usage, which the Army is vastly more concerned about.
    SpamSandwich
  • Reply 16 of 22
    I think if a NGSAR rifle has the power to penetrate tank armor it should be tied to a particular soldier or squad and be rendered useless if it gets into enemy hands. Perhaps connected to an Apple Watch? If the Watch is removed or the person is KIA, the weapon should lock up.

    https://www.militarytimes.com/news/your-army/2018/12/10/more-than-a-rifle-how-a-new-68mm-round-advanced-optics-will-make-soldiers-marines-a-lot-deadlier/
    edited February 14
  • Reply 17 of 22
    MacProMacPro Posts: 18,147member
    rob53 said:
    Why are we even discussing this? Why would Apple even think about providing anything to the development of weapons????? 
    My thoughts exactly, Steve would have laughed at such a suggestion I am pretty sure.
    steveau
  • Reply 18 of 22
    nhtnht Posts: 4,429member
    I think if a NGSAR rifle has the power to penetrate tank armor it should be tied to a particular soldier or squad and be rendered useless if it gets into enemy hands. Perhaps connected to an Apple Watch? If the Watch is removed or the person is KIA, the weapon should lock up.

    https://www.militarytimes.com/news/your-army/2018/12/10/more-than-a-rifle-how-a-new-68mm-round-advanced-optics-will-make-soldiers-marines-a-lot-deadlier/
    Body armor.  Not tank armor.
  • Reply 19 of 22
    MacPro said:
    rob53 said:
    Why are we even discussing this? Why would Apple even think about providing anything to the development of weapons????? 
    My thoughts exactly, Steve would have laughed at such a suggestion I am pretty sure.
    It’s a proposal from the military to those who are already in the arms business, not Apple.
  • Reply 20 of 22
    fallenjtfallenjt Posts: 3,976member
    You know what would be great? If they took a cue from Apple and built in BIOMETRIC SECURITY! If all guns had to have Touch ID or Face ID or similar systems, Sandy Hook wouldn't have happened. If guns had to first check if they were within certain locations, like schools or places of worship, before they could be fired. It is inaccessible that in 2019 nothing has been done to even ensure that when guns are being fired they're in the hands of the person they were sold to.
    In battle field, you’ll be dead if you try to unlock your guns with FaceID or TouchID.
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