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Black Box keeps tabs on weapons

FN Herstal product keeps track of rounds fired and gunner's location, transmits info allowing commanders to keep track of assets.

FN Herstal

Firearms manufacturer FN Herstal has designed and built a Black Box that, when attached to a weapon, counts rounds fired, measures burst rate, and detects stoppages--information it then stores to facilitate more effective maintenance.

The device is housed in a module that can be molded to fit any weapon, according to FN. It comes with a non-replaceable 10-year battery, allowing the unit to record up to 100,000 rounds.

"The FN Black Box detects, discriminates, counts shots, measures burst rates and burst lengths, records firing sequences and detects stoppages due to failures to cycle," the Belgium company announced. "Storing such information allows preventive maintenance and facilitates corrective maintenance, which greatly increases weapon reliability and availability."

Are soldiers laying down their share of return fire? Are they running out of ammo? Do they clean their weapons? The Black Box may be able to answer all these questions. The box assigns each weapon an identification number, which allows it to record information and transmit it up the chain of command during an engagement. This ID can also identify the soldier wielding the weapon. When coupled with GPS, the weapon's location and status can be transmitted--through the individual soldier's communications gear. The new gear would allow commanders to keep track of their assets, armorers to anticipate necessary maintenance, and quartermasters to order more ammo, according to FN.

The box is part of FN's Armatronics line of integrated systems of electronic solutions. The company expects to position itself as a "major player in the integrated soldier systems market."

Slovenly soldiers, lousy design, or institutional neglect? This gadget may be able to help determine once and for all who or what is responsible for the alleged M4 malfunctions that are driving the U.S. Army's perennial search for a replacement weapon.