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Military starts testing smart rifles for battlefield use

The US Army buys a handful of computer systems that can turn lesser-trained soldiers into premier snipers.

Tracking Point

The US military spends a lot of time and money training world-class snipers, which could be why it's started to look into the use of computerized rifles that can make anybody a sharpshooter.

The Army has announced that it made its first purchase of six high-tech rifle kits from smart rifle-maker Tracking Point. The goal is to "begin exploring purported key target acquisition and aiming technologies," said Alton Stewart, the Army's Program Executive Office spokesman.

For Tracking Point, which typically markets its guns to hunters, the Army's use of its weapons is both a welcome and natural fit.

"We're really excited about the opportunity to provide this technology to increase our country's effectiveness in times of war," Tracking Point Vice President of marketing and sales Oren Schauble told CNET. "We're very interested in how we can increase the average soldier's effectiveness."

Tracking Point's tech-heavy rifles, which debuted last year, come with built-in computers that help shooters hit targets at distances up to 1,200 yards away -- which is equivalent to 12 football fields. This ease of shooting is possible through technology like a guided trigger and "Networked Tracking Scope" that can lock onto and track moving targets.

When users shoot the smart rifle, they first tag their target and then pull the trigger -- the gun then decides when to fire the round based on ballistics data like distance to the target, barometric pressure, wind, and more. This means lesser-trained troops could hit targets at distances never before imagined.

These guns aren't cheap, however. They start at $22,500 and go up to $27,500. Tracking Point isn't selling the full rifles to the Army, but rather just the computerized portion of the weapons, like the guided trigger and high-tech scope. The company will then help soldiers integrate the kits onto government XM2010 sniper rifles.

Apparently, the military will test and evaluate these systems and see whether they could work for soldiers in the field. It's not likely these guns will be seen on the battlefield anytime soon, however -- testing new weapons is usually a lengthy and extensive process.

Tracking Point also just came out with a semiautomatic version of its smart rifles; it's unclear if the Army is interested in testing these weapons too.