Monday, October 20, 2014
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Revolutionary Rifle Ball Stock (RBS) System for Future Infantry & LE SWAT

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by David Crane
[email protected]

Back in March, DefenseReview published a short article and press release on U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) contracts that were awarded to Symbionics Inc. and Icuiti Corporation to develop Modular Wearable Computers (MOWC) for the future Marine Corps warfighter, which could be integrated with the Marine Corps’ unmanned vehicle programs. The article was titled Next-Gen Modular Wearable Computer Systems Being Developed for US Marine Corps". Icuiti Corp. manufactures the TAC-EYE Digital Eyewear/Tactical Display System.

Now, a company called Dark Horse Arming Constructs (DHAC) has a novel, and perhaps even "leap ahead" (i.e. tranformational), body-worn, slingless buttstock system for infantry small arms (rifles, carbines, and subcarbines) called the Rifle Ball Stock, or RBS, that looks like it can integrate quite easily with TAC-EYE. The DHAC RBS ball-and-socket stock sytem is designed to provide a…

superior primary/shoulder weapon mounting platform and load-carriage/weapons-carriage system for the body armor-clad current and future warfighter, compared to traditional stock systems (fixed and telescoping).

Basically, the RBS snap-fit ball-and-socket system is designed to take a problematic situation like shouldering a weapon against body armor and turn it into an advantage for the operator. The RBS holds the weapon tight and securely against the shoulder area of the body armor/ballistic vest to allow for a perfect shouldering of the weapon every time for optimum weapons employment, as well as for hands-free weapons carriage. The system provides for full range of motion/weapon movement/weapon orientation capability (up-down, side-to-side, and diagonal) for optimized weapon employment in combat, i.e. CQB (Close Quarters Battle). If the operator needs to remove the weapon from his shoulder, no problem. The RBS’ rugged breakaway connector allows for this. The socket portion can be custom positioned for each individual, for optimal sight picture.

The system comes in two versions, RBS Basic and RBS Complex/WOASI (Weapon Orientation and Systems Integration). WOASI, described by Dark Horse Arming Constructs as a "groundbreaking step towards soldier-as-a-system performance", i.e. the soldier as a complete weapons system, is specifically designed to provide a durable, low-weight, low energy, and low cost motion tracking system for an embedded man-wearable augmented-reality (AR) system. In order to accomplish this, the RBS Complex utilizes an infrared wireless interface that can beam data wirelessly without the need for a bluetooth network device. I’ll let Dark Horse Arming Constructs (DHAC) describe how it works in more detail (excerpted from DHAC RBS Complex/WOASI video):

"The RBS Complex socket assembly houses a small state-of-the art position navigation sensor paired with a high-performance trackball mouse reader. The socket constantly records articulations of the rifle ball stock, and thus the rifle boreline, while the GPS and dead-reckoning sensors maintain position of the socket. The RBS Complex microprocessor then unites this with geo-location data. WOASI can also capture the warfighters head and weapon movement in six degrees of freedom. The weapon’s absolute positioning and angular reference is now available for laserless tactical engagement systems.

Wow. Sounds pretty good. According to DHAC, "future shoulder-fired weapons and soldier ensembles, two currently stovepiped systems, are powerfully optimized and unified by WOASI". In one of their videos, the company states that running, crawling, and jumping over rough terrain become easier for the warfighter when utilizing the RBS Basic or Complex system.

DefenseReview really likes the idea of a wireless, and thus tetherless, system. We’ve always found Land Warrior’s tethered/cable system to be problemetic and non-optimum. As the DHAC video on RBS Complex/WOASI points out, legacy pin connector and cable systems (so the soldier’s primary/shoulder weapon is tethered to his body) can snag or break. Any Land Warrior-type targeting and/or augmented-reality (AR) system utilized by future infantry should be wireless, like RBS Complex. Based on what we’ve seen in the video, it looks like the Dark Horse RBS Complex/WOASI system could potentially prove to be a viable technology for U.S. Army Natick’s Future Force Warrior Program, and possibly even Future Warrior, provided that the RBS Complex/WOASI (Weapon Orientation and Systems Integration) system can integrate with a see-through helmet mounted display (HMD)/drop-down eyepiece system (or occluded HMD system like TAC-EYE) and allows for continued wireless connectivity between ball stock and socket even if the primary/shoulder weapon (rifle, carbine, or subcarbine) is popped out of the socket for non-shoulder-mounted fire or target identification, a la Land Warrior concept (or center-of-chest/squared-to-target fire or laser sight or HMD-enabled hip-fire). 

It’s DefRev’s opinion that the RBS system should incorporate either a 4-position stock or Magpul MSS (Modular Stock System)/M93A2 Carbine Stock-type adjustment mechanism. Defense Review would also like to see a socket mounted on both shoulders, for ambidextrous use of the weapon system (if a right-handed operator has to shoot around a corner to his left or his right arm is injured/incapacitated, for instance).  For discreet carry (for certain security applications), being able to carry the weapon vertically at the side, under the arm, would also be a nice feature.  For this, the RBS system would most likely have to incorporate a diagonal track, so it could be slid quickly back and forth (shoulder position to under-arm/side position).  Some reshaping of the shoulder unit (no sharp edges) would most likely have to be performed, when/if that feature is added.  As the RBS Complex/WOASI system continues through the development process, some or all of these features might be added.  Ideally, the RBS ball-style telescoping buttstock should be quick-detachable from the buffer tube (if used on a SOPMOD M4/M4A1 Carbine), so it can be swapped out with a standard flat-backed telescoping buttstock, and the shoulder socket (or sockets, plural) should be correspondingly quick-removable from the vest (if this is possible), so it doesn’t (or they don’t) interfere with use of the standard-style buttstock.

Defense Review is curious as to whether or not a back-up tactical sling system can be integrated with the RBS system, so the operator can revert to the sling if desired for specific applications.  The right type of sling would also allow quick movement of the weapon to the soldier’s/Marine’s back, if required, and then back to the front, again.  If all, or at least some, of the above-described features (in this and the preceding two paragraphs) are added, it’s possible that DHAC could eventually win a major military contract. But, we’re perhaps getting a little bit ahead of ourselves.

DefenseReview will say this, The Rifle Ball Stock (RBS) Basic and Complex systems are very interesting.  They appear to be well-thought-out, and they could indeed prove viable for both future infantry and law enforcement SWAT/SRT tactical requirements. The RBS Complex with Weapon Orientation and Systems Integration (WOASI), geared specifically for utilization with augmented reality (AR) systems, is some seriously cool tech. Whether or not TAC-Eye and RBS Complex/WOASI will ever be considered by the U.S. Army for future infantry programs like Future Force Warrior (FFW) or Future Warrior (being developed by U.S. Army Natick Soldier Center, a.k.a. U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center (Natick)), or by the United States Marine Corps (USMC) for their own future warfighter programs, remains to be seen–but both services would be advised to at least take a look at both technologies.  On a final note, DefRev is curious to see if the Icuiti TAC-EYE helmet-mounted display (HMD) eventually evolves into a see-through display, which DefenseReview prefers. If the eyepiece/screen remains occluded, we would like to see it made as thin as possible, and it should be placed off-axis to the eye, so the warfighter’s vision isn’t obstructed. 

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About David Crane

David Crane started publishing online in 2001. Since that time, governments, military organizations, Special Operators (i.e. professional trigger pullers), agencies, and civilian tactical shooters the world over have come to depend on Defense Review as the authoritative source of news and information on "the latest and greatest" in the field of military defense and tactical technology and hardware, including tactical firearms, ammunition, equipment, gear, and training.

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