Israeli smart small arms sight

The Israelis tend to play their cards close to the vest. Why? Well, imagine yourself being surrounded by tens of millions of people who are crushed by oppressive rulers and inhumane shamans… people who have been miserable since birth, and taught systematically that all of their problems are your fault.

You might have some security problems.

So do the Israelis, and consequently information about their weapons tends to be either fanboy propaganda, misleading (sometimes because sources are deliberately poisoned), or simply hard to come by.

So when we got flagged by a longtime reader to this photopost, and asked (more politely, to be sure) “WTF were the optics in images X and Y (which you see here) attached to Israelis’ 21st-Century Tavor bullpup rifle?”, our first reaction was whaaa?

We figured it had to be some kind of target-designation rig, and to some degree that is true. It is an interesting multipurpose optronic device called the Viper, and it is an ambitious attempt to provide some of the capabilities of the ill-fated OICW that we’ve been discussing here for a while, and even those of the much more experimental Land Warrior project, as a retrofit attachable to extant small arms.

We said it was ambitious.

The project came from one called REFAIM, presumably a Hebrew acronym for something (but wait, we have a vague recollection that vowels are not written in that ancient script, so isn’t everything an acronym? Or are we wrong?) that is described in part in this 2006 article at Military Update. Essentially, it’s an attempt to use the smart-ammo concept of the XM29 20mm component, XM25 grenade launcher, or Daewoo K-11 into an ordinary 40mm grenade, and provide the sensors and programmabilty as a modular add-on for any M1913-std rail-equipped firearm.

By the time that article was written, Israeli defense exporters were already promoting an early version of the Viper. As well as providing the interface for REFAIM and similar smart munitions, which have included a short-range imagery ISR grenade and a non-lethal CS grenade as well as lethal variable-time-fuzed airburst options, the Viper provides a built-in laser rangefinder, an integrated digital inclinometer,  and a ballistic-compensating reticle. It can provide digital overlays on the sight (for example, a Land Warrior-like image of where other Viper-equipped networked friendlies are).

ITL Viper on M4 from the 2005 Israeli optronics brochure.

The VIper is made by ITL (International Technologies Lasers) Optronics, an Israeli optics and laser device defense contractor. It is probably still being developed and extended, as photos show it has evolved a great deal. For example, the posed Tavor photos are more recent (2009 or newer, we’d estimate) but the posed picture with the M16 carbine or M4 shows the Viper as of 2005. One of several online Viper writeups says:

Viper is a versatile low-weight electro-optical Fire Control System Sight.The Viper Fire Control System enables accurate firing of standard small-arms rounds and smart munitions, e.g., high trajectory, low-velocity munitions, explosive projectiles and munitions that VIPER programs for delayed detonation on target. Whether mounted on light or medium weapons, this Viper greatly improves the first-hit probability.

The sight is a bit awkward. Without the optional laser pointer, RF Interfaces, or eyepiece display, it weighs 1 kg (2.2 lb).  Further, it may be a bit delicate. If anyone understands the importance of ruggedized equipment, it’s a nation with near-universal conscription (Arabs and some ultra-Orthodox Jews are excepted) that has to operate in de facto combat conditions around the clock.

The manufacturer’s brochure and specifications are interesting and may answer some of your questions. The system definitely seems to be more developmental than mature at this time.