Closing capability gaps for overmatch advantage:
The right tool for the mission

Soldier Modernisation talks modern sight technology
with Todd Pace at Raytheon ELCAN

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Photo: © ELCAN

Photo: © ELCAN

SoldierMod caught up with Todd Pace from Raytheon ELCAN.

Q: Todd, you’ve been with Raytheon ELCAN for a while now; has anything surprised you, now that you’re on the commercial side rather than in uniform?

A: Yes – I’ve been with ELCAN for almost eighteen months. I didn’t understand what all went into building a rifle sight. From a shooter’s point of view you question the weight, want the eyebox or objective bigger or the sight shorter. Now I have a better understanding of what goes into designing and manufacturing a complex optical system like a rifle sight, especially a military weapon sight that is rugged enough to perform under extreme conditions.

Now I know that just a minor tweak influences so many other things and there are trade-offs.

For instance, the Specter DR does weigh a little more. Those few ounces makes that sight rugged enough to survive weapon recoil, temperature extremes and even submersion. That sight will perform when you need it to.

At ELCAN we make more than just rifle sights. The same optical engineers that design and build critical assemblies for planes, tanks and missiles design and manufacture ELCAN Specter sights. We leverage the technology, capability and know-how that keeps pilots and soldiers safe on larger platforms for man-portable direct-view optics for your weapon. Our optics survive at supersonic speeds in rain and sand, on tanks on the battlefield and in outer space.

Q: Has anything else surprised you?

A: At first, the move to digital fire control sights surprised me because there is a lot of trust being placed in technology. When I started in the military we used iron sights and it required a lot of training to become efficient. There are allied militaries that still use iron sights. Now I see it as the next step in reducing training time and increasing lethality and accuracy. It’s the next step in maintaining the overmatch advantage.

In my experience training someone to become an effective marksman takes time, and a lot of it. For example, even light changes through iron sights can change your perception and cause zero shifts. Getting folks to understand little things like that, as well as how gravity, wind, and weather all play a factor on external ballistics takes time. This new tecnology takes all of that into consideration and can adjust for it, decreasing the training time considerably. I still believe it’s a good thing to know and understand the basics without the use of tecnology – you never know when you’ll need it.

The digital fire control sight is the next step in leveraging technology to increase accuracy and lethality. As technology continues to evolve and improve, we will be able to put even more capability into the shooter’s hands.

Todd Pace, Technical Manager for ELCAN Specter® Sights demonstrates the new ELCAN VP 1-8x variable power sight. ELCAN Specter® Sights – the right tool for the mission.

Todd Pace, Technical Manager for ELCAN Specter® Sights demonstrates the new ELCAN VP 1-8x variable power sight. ELCAN Specter® Sights – the right tool for the mission.

Q: From your perspective, and based on your experience, what is the biggest challenge facing dismounted soldiers right now?

A: I think the acquisition process takes too long to get new capabilities onto the battlefield. Customized solutions take too long to deploy and reduce interoperability – both for training and equipment. Modified off-the-shelf solutions increase capability, quickly at a lower total cost.

Raytheon ELCAN is doing this with our rifle sights. The ELCAN Specter DR dual role sight is battle-proven and in service with dozens of allied forces. By changing the reticle, we were able to produce a machine gun sight and deliver a proven solution with additional capability to the battlefield quickly.

We can leverage our experience to bridge capability gaps – quickly and reliably.

Q: Do you see any additional capability gaps for the dismounted soldier?

A: In my experience, there has always been a gap in Marksmanship for soldiers to effectively engage targets between 300 and 600m, except for snipers. We have introduced our Specter VP variable power sight in both 1-8x and 1.25-10x, to a few select allied militaries for testing. It’s designed to bridge this gap.

Q: Are you saying that soldiers can’t be effective in this range with existing solutions?

A: No. For instance, the Australian Defence Forces expect infantry soldiers to accurately engage at ranges of 600m. This is a Combat Marksmanship Program that uses a weapon system including their new EF88 weapon and the Specter DR 1-4x dual role sight.

Q: What additional advantage does the new variable power sight provide?

A: When I first tested this sight, the first thing I noticed was the clarity of the glass. That’s a differentiator with Specter sights – you can just see the difference.

The VP offers more flexibility and lethality to the squad platoon. A soldier designated as the DM [designated marksman] can better identify and precisely engage targets at those mid- to longer ranges. It allows you to adjust to your environment and choose the appropriate field-of-view for changing requirements on the battlefield.

I wish we’d had a variable power optic when I was in uniform. It would have made the mid-range shots easier. The higher magnification gives a finer point-of-aim on smaller targets at distance but you still have the flexibility to choose lower magnification when you need it.

Q: How does the Specter VP sight complement the Specter DR dual role sights?

A: The dual role sight gives the soldier faster engagement when transitioning from close quarters to mid-range engagment like moving from inside a building to outside. It switches instantly from 1x to 4x (or 1.5x to 6x) for both assault rifles and machine guns.

The VP provides the capability from mid-range to longer-range capability – fills that 300 – 600m gap. Variable power optics take a slightly different training approach but it offers more flexibility at greater distances. This makes the platoon more effective.

Q: What’s next?

A: Our design strategy uses a modular approach so that we can deliver proven capability quickly. This also allows our products to evolve as technology does. Over the next ten years, our sights will deliver increased capbility for allied soldiers to push out the battlefield and increase the overmatch advantage. Specifically, ELCAN sights will include networked sights, fused sights, augmented reality and advanced sensors.

…stay tuned...

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