It seems like the available space on Marine rifles every year gets smaller and smaller as more mountable optics, thermals, lasers and weapon sights are added.
In 2018, the Corps started dishing out new rifle mountable laser rangefinders to add to the Corps’ collection of battlefield management tools — now the Corps wants to help Marines control all that tech.
According to Marine spokesman Maj. Ken Kunze the Corps is testing prototypes of a rifle accessory control unit, or RACU, under a foreign test program that allows the U.S. military to look at defense tech of allied partners.
An RACU unit could help Marines control a number of electronic devices from communications to rifle mounted lasers and thermal sights, while allowing an operator to keep their focus on the battlefield. Some of the details of the RACU were spelled out in a House committee report on the fiscal year 2020 defense legislation.
“The committee recognizes the challenges that exist for an individual Marine to operate separate situational awareness, communications, target designators, thermal sights, and other battle management devices and notes a RACU system would consolidate these disparate capabilities into one unified capability,” the report reads.
According to the House report, the Corps is looking at an RACU device through a two phase process, and evaluations should wrap up by the end of fiscal year 2019.
The Corps actually has been looking at an RACU unit for several years. In 2010, the Corps announced it was going to evaluate Australian company Kord Defence’s Rifle Input Control device, or RIC, for its RACU requirement, according to press release from Kord.
Another press release announced Kord Defence had been awarded a $2.25 million contract in December 2016, to provide RACU units for testing and evaluations by the Marine Corps.
In 2012, The Firearm Blog provided some details about Kord’s RIC unit, noting the device was rifle rail mountable and had four programmable buttons that could allow a shooter to control a number of carried electronics and rifle accessories without having to take their hands off the weapon.
"Today’s frontline soldiers carry numerous electronic devices on their body and weapon but all these devices have separate individual controls that make them difficult to operate quickly and accurately and increase the cognitive load on the soldier,” Peter Moran, the managing director for Kord Defence, said in a release about its RIC unit.
The RIC provides troops “a fast, simple and safe way of remotely operating all their electronic devices from one central location without taking their eyes off the task or hands off their weapon,” eyes on, hands on, Moran said in the release.
Marine Corps Times reached out to Kord Defence and has yet to receive a comment.
“The committee encourages the Commandant of the Marine Corps to consider a rapid acquisition strategy to accelerate the operational testing, procurement, and fielding of a RACU utilizing existing acquisition reform authorities,” the House report reads.
Shawn Snow is the senior reporter for Marine Corps Times and a Marine Corps veteran.