NATO’s “Powered Rail Team”, consisting of 11 nations working on the common goal of bringing forward a STANAG (NATO standardization document) for a Powered Accessory Rail for small firearms, is starting to pay off.
Pictured below: Scientists at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) in the United Kingdom are continuing to work with a range of industry partners to develop the Army’s Future Soldier Vision (FSV), showcasing the personal equipment that soldiers could be using by the mid-2020s.
To remind you, we are talking about a Picatinny rail powered from inside for your lamp, laser, sights, shot counting, data communication etc. For more information about the history of the “Powered Rail” ,you can check this pdf (2009)
Will the “Powered Rail” work?
Personally, I am skeptical about the idea of the “Powered Rail” in general (not T-Worx’s solution described below in specific), and I’ll explain why.
Lets’ take a basic military rifle and imagine all the things that could make said rifle fail to fire. The list of malfunctions is going to be long, but any malfunctions are going to be mechanical. Let’s call this “Rifle A”.
Now add electronics to this basic “Rifle A”. We add one or several batteries, a lot of electronics and data connections connected with some kind of cables or circuits. Let’s call this “Rifle B”.
Rhetorical question: Which rifle is going to have more malfunctions? Rifle A or B?
Let’s admit that the development of the modern battle rifle has come a long way, but even piston-driven rifles of the latest and highest specifications will eventually fail as well. (Sorry Heckler & Koch).
Imagine adding computers, software, antennas and so on to this rifle and gunsmithing will never be the same.
With Rifle B you will have potential problems with both mechanical, electrical and software issues.
Also, when the rifle or something on the Powered Rail fails, where do you begin to search for the error?
If your Surefire lamp fails, is it a problem inside the rail or a problem with the flashlight? When your red dot fails, which part of the rifle do you blame?
Going to “Rifle B” feels like going back to square one in terms of reliability, but I can understand the U.S. Army’s temptation to test and develop this technology.
T-Worx (Virginia, USA) has spent nearly eight years developing their “intelligent rail”, which can be placed on rifles (and other firearm platforms) to provide an integrated real-time video and other analytics, transmitting the info back to a command center.
As you might expect, the T-Worx rail is to be included in the future program “Next Generation Squad Weapons” (USA).
Here is more information about the U.S. Army test and memorandum of approval:
U.S. Army tests and approves T-Worx Intelligent Rail® platform
T-Worx Holdings, LLC, a Virginia-based technology innovation company, announced today that its Intelligent Rail power and data rail product has successfully completed U.S. Army testing and that T-Worx received a memorandum of approval.
“Anything critical to the modernization of warfighters’ weaponry, safety and lives must be tested in an environment similar to where it will be deployed and in consideration of additional Department of Defense use,” said executive chairman Devin Schain.
The testing was executed under a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) between the U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center (ARDEC), and T-Worx.
The successful validation testing demonstrated that the power and data platform meets rigorous criteria for minimizing risk to soldier life. The certification will allow T-Worx to provide support to the competitors in the upcoming Next Generation Squad Weapons (NGSW) program.
“We are proud to work with the U.S. Army team supporting its small arms modernization efforts,” noted Schain. “The company is poised to help make a difference in modern warfare and real-time intelligence of the American warfighter.”
The Intelligent Rail® technology enables weapons to become “smarter” and represents an important technology-driven solution that addresses the U.S. Army’s Number One warfighting challenge, a lack of situational awareness among soldiers and commanders in complex battlefield conditions. The I-Rail’s patented platform powers, connects, and communicates data securely from rifles and accessories to command centers on and off the battlefield.
According to their own information, T-Worx has about 12 employees and owns 15 awarded patents (with six more pending) that an independent third-party valued at $34 million.
About T-Worx Holdings, LLC:
Located in Sterling, Virginia, T-Worx Holdings, LLC is a technology innovator that delivers solutions to critical challenges faced by the defense and law enforcement sectors. Its flagship offering is the Intelligent Rail®, a patented platform that powers, connects and communicates data securely from weapons and accessories to command centers on and off of the battlefield. T-Worx partnered with the ARMY SBIR program throughout the development of this groundbreaking technology, which gained unanimous approval by soldiers during its 2018 Soldier Enhancement Program (SEP) evaluation.
You can get more information from this YouTube video:
(All pictures from T-Worx)
For more examples, TFB has reported about Beretta’s Intelligent Rail on Display earlier.
Below: Army’s Future Soldier Vision (FSV), United Kingdom.
What do you think of the idea of the “Powered Rail” in general?
Is the solution a possibility or a problem?