TFB’s visit to DSEI 2021 last week took in a range of new small arms but one of the most futuristic systems we had the chance to examine was the ARCAS or Assault Rifle Combat App System from Elbit Systems.
ARCAS is a difficult concept to define, part optic, part AI, part augmented reality heads up display. It aims to provide range, ballistic and positioning data along with a link to the user’s unit battle management system to improve situational awareness. It combines a number of emergent technologies into a package which has the potential to become ergonomic and practical enough to be useful in the field.
The system is made up of a weapon-mounted system which becomes the weapon’s foregrip, this allows the user’s supporting hand to access the system’s control panel. The attachment incorporates the ARCAS interface as well as an electro-optic – either an FIR (infrared) or LWIR (long way infrared) thermal imager. This is then linked to either the weapon’s sight system or to the user’s helmet-mounted optics. The systems weigh between 1.8 to 2.2 lbs.
Here’s an interesting, futuristic video from Elbit explaining the aims of the system:
The system is available in 2 configurations. ARCAS 1, with a computer unit which sends information to the system’s dedicated optical display mounted on the rifle’s top rail in place of a conventional optic. This has an augmented-reality display which puts location, target and other situational awareness data over the view from the system’s electro-optic.
ARCAS 2 can be linked to a helmet-mounted HUD (heads up optical display) with a graphical user interface or another capable optic. This in theory allows users to aim and fire the weapon accurately, even while not in the operator’s shoulder. This makes firing from the hip on the move or at targets from cover, without exposing the user, very easy.
Elbit Systems noted that the ARCAS system is rapidly maturing and has been used operationally by Israel’s armed forces. Elbit’s spokesman demonstrating the system also noted that the system’s ergonomics were being tweaked with a redesign of the elector-optical and user interface unit which attaches to the weapon’s forend being planned. The reticle on the demonstration model was a cross post over a typical thermal imager display (800×600 OLED), but the additional functionality included range estimations and ballistic calculations for point of aim calculation could be called up using the foregrip interface.
Elbit Systems explained in a press release before DSEI that: “An AI-powered computer is integrated into the assault rifle’s forward grip, running innovative software and a range of applications. The miniaturized computer unit receives and processes data collected from the soldier’s field of view (as perceived by the EO sight), tactical information from C2 systems, data from other ARCAS users in the team and the rifle’s mechanical information.” Links to gaming were also hinted at in terms of the system’s display: “the combat information is presented to the soldier as an intuitive augmented reality layer on top of the scenery that is seen through the EO sight or the helmet mounted eyepiece. Soldiers operate the system using a joystick button placed on the rifle’s forward grip and a Graphical User Interface inspired by the gaming world.”
In theory, the ARCAS system has a number of interesting applications. It can display Command and Control data, navigation information, target movement data and friend or foe identification. With additional inputs, it could track stoppages and ammunition levels and also enable weapon zeroing without the need to fire the weapon.
Elbit has more information on the ARCAS here.