US Forces Test SMART Shooter Optic in Syria

    Coalition Forces zero Smart Shooter sighting devices during a familiarization range near At-Tanf Garrison, Syria, May 30, 2020. (DoD/Staff Sgt. William Howard)

    The Department of Defense recently released some interesting photos of members of Special Operations Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve familiarising themselves with the Smart Shooter system. The training session took place at a range near At-Tanf Garrison, Syria on the 30 May.

    Smart Shooter claims that by combining “simple-to-install hardware with our own advanced image-processing software” they can cost effectively turn “basic small arms into 21st century smart weapons.” In this case, a least two M4A1 carbines appear to have been equipped with the fire control unit.

    A Soldier uses a Smart Shooter sighting device to fire at a drone-carried target box flying more than 100 meters away during a familiarization range near At-Tanf Garrison, Syria, May 30, 2020. (DoD/Staff Sgt. William Howard)

    TFB first reported on the Smart Shooter SMASH system in April 2018, since then the system has been evaluated by a number of US military branches and the Australian Defence Force. The US Airforces’s 9th Reconnaissance Wing tested the system Beale Air Force Base, California, back in August 2019.

    Special Operations Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve (SOJTF-OIR), controls and coordinates the special operations units involved in Inherent Resolve’s operations against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. The captions to the released images indicate that “Coalition and partner forces regularly train on various weapon systems in a joint effort to help set conditions for the enduring defeat of Daesh in Syria.” The Smart Shooter SMASH system being one of the more recent systems to be evaluated in the field. It remains unclear if the system has been used on operations.

    Coalition Forces analyze a zero target during a Smart Shooter sighting device familiarization range near At-Tanf Garrison, Syria, May 30, 2020. (DoD/Staff Sgt. William Howard)

    Once the user has designated a target the system can track and calculate the target’s movement and with the use of image processing and calculation algorithms it predicts the vector the target will travel. Some models can prevent the weapon from firing until the targets is within the the integrated reflex sight’s reticle – thus, in theory at least, improving hit probability.  The photographs show operators zeroing the system and then engaging an aerial target – a cardboard box suspended by a rope from a drone.

    A Soldier controls a drone that’s carrying a box to be used as a target during a Smart Shooter sighting device familiarization range near At-Tanf Garrison, Syria, May 30, 2020. (DoD/Staff Sgt. William Howard)

    We spoke with Lt. Cmdr. Tim Hawkins, a U.S. Special Operations Command spokesman, who gave us a little more background on SOCOM’s interest in the Smart Shooter system:

    We purchased smart shooter systems in March 2019 for Special Operations Forces to evaluate this capability in an operational environment. The results of the combat evaluation are pending. Our Army and Navy service components and one Theater Special Operations Command – Special Operations Command Central – have participated in the combat evaluation up to this point. We are evaluating the smart shooter system as a potential individual-level solution to enhancing Special Operations Forces capabilities for countering unmanned aerial systems.

    A Soldier fires at a box carried by a drone during a Smart Shooter sighting device familiarization range near At-Tanf Garrison, Syria, May 30, 2020. (DoD/Staff Sgt. William Howard)

    Drones are a very real threat to troops on the ground, even small quadcopter drones can be weaponized. There has been a proliferation of small drone use in the conflicts in the Middle East and systems like Smart Shooter might offer a cost effective solution which can be used for both aerial and ground targets.

    A Soldier uses a Smart Shooter sighting device to fire at a box carried by a drone during a familiarization range near At-Tanf Garrison, Syria, May 30, 2020. (DoD/Staff Sgt. William Howard)

    In the image below we can make out the wires linking to a control pad for the system on the carbine’s forend.

    Soldiers use a Smart Shooter sighting device to fire at a target box carried by a drone during a familiarization range near At-Tanf Garrison, Syria, May 30, 2020. (DoD/Staff Sgt. William Howard)

    A bullet-ridden box used as a target during a Smart Shooter sighting device familiarization range near At-Tanf Garrison, Syria, May 30, 2020. (DoD/Staff Sgt. William Howard)

    Matthew Moss

    Matthew Moss – Assistant Editor.

    Matt is a British historian specialising in small arms development and military history. He has written for a variety of publications in both the US and UK he also runs www.historicalfirearms.info, a blog that explores the history, development and use of firearms. Matt is also co-founder of www.armourersbench.com, a new video series on historically significant small arms.

    Reach Matt at: [email protected]


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