Firearms have come a long way from the days of the musket and flintlock, but they're also much more complicated and involve trade offs. In preparing for missions, soldiers are often forced to choose between a close quarter or a magnified sight for their assault rifles as there's no one-size-fits-all solution. Raytheon's answer is its ELCAN Specter dual-field-of-view rifle sights that can not only switch easily between magnifications, but now includes a next-generation digital fire control system.

The ELCAN system has been around for a couple of years and includes the ELCAN Specter DR 1-4x sight that provides machine gunners with close-quarter and precision-fire capabilities, and the ELCAN Specter DR 1.5-6x sight intended for long-range precision fire. The latest versions were recently updated to be lighter weight, have a lower profile illumination switch and a less expensive battery with better life.

But now Raytheon says it can make soldiers into sharpshooters thanks to the ELCAN's computerized fire control system to help them hit the target and hit it quickly.

In operation, the ElCAN's laser rangefinder emits a digital pulse to measure the distance from the shooter to target. The ballistic module takes this data and computes where the sight must be zeroed in and in seconds displays the information to the shooter, who can then adjust their aim. Raytheon says that, unlike other portable systems, the ELCAN uses a single optical path for both the visual and laser channels, which simplifies the design.

The idea of the ELCAN is to provide a sight that has multiple functions, so it not only improves the soldier's capabilities, but also reduces the ever-heavier mission pack load. According to Raytheon, up until now, fire control systems to aid in hitting a target have traditionally been restricted to ships, aircraft, and tanks and involved many components that would be far too bulky and heavy to be practical in the field.

The ELCAN reduces all this to a package measuring 3 x 4 in (7.6 cm x 10.1 cm) and weighing 3 lb (1.4 kg). It allows soldiers to shoot faster, with more accuracy, and is the first such system that can be fitted to assault rifles. It can be mounted on a standard rail, is removable for use on other weapons, and in the event of it being damaged the mid- to long-range scope will still work even if the electronics are out of order.

"You put so much work and training into finding distance and all the things that go into making a good shot,""says Dan Pettry, a former sniper with the U.S. Army Rangers and now a product manager for Raytheon ELCAN rifle sights. "The thought that someone could build a piece of equipment that could do that for you is really amazing."

Raytheon says the new ELCAN will be available early next year.

View gallery - 6 images