Sniping at US Forces Beginning to Boomerang
300 “Boomerang III perimeter systems.” (Feb 14/11)
Sniper attacks are an ongoing problem/ opportunity in any urban conflict, which is tailor made for the practice. The bad news is that most future conflicts and even peacekeeping operations can be expected to spend a lot of time in urban settings.
Western armies tend to field much better snipers than their enemies do, and the results show. Nevertheless, better support for those snipers, and for non-specialist troops under fire, offers those armies a critical new asset that gives them an edge. The question is, how to accomplish that in a way that provides immediate results, and is reliable? A number of solutions have been developed over the past few years, some of which are also working to reduce crime in American neighborhoods – another urban setting that sometimes features opponents with AK-47s. On the front lines abroad, the most widely deployed system comes from Raytheon-BBN Technologies, Inc., a firm that helped to invent the Internet. Enter a system called Boomerang…
How Boomerang Works
Boomerang units attach to a vehicle and use seven small microphones, arranged like the spine of a sea urchin, to detect both the muzzle blast and the shock wave from a speeding bullet. Once a sniper’s bullet is detected, Boomerang’s display panel, which is located inside the vehicle, alerts soldiers through an LED 12-hour clock image display panel and speaker mounted inside the vehicle that a bullet has been fired, and gives its direction and elevation. The system resets for subsequent shot detection.
Incoming fire detection and shooter position are determined and reported in less than 2 seconds, and the system is accurate for shots taken up to 1/4 mile away – a range that covers almost all urban combat situations. False shot detections are less that 1 per 1,000 hours of system operation at vehicle speeds under 50 miles per hour. Missed shots are less than 1 per 500 shots at vehicle speeds under 50 miles per hour.
The system is especially calibrated to detect the 7.62×39 mm round, which is the round fired by the AK-47 and similar small arms common to Iraq and Afghanistan; nevertheless, the system has been tested and performed successfully with 5.56 NATO and .50 caliber machine gun rounds.
Boomerang: Program History
The original Boomerang prototypes were designed, developed, and delivered to Iraq in just 66 days under a 2004 Rapid Reaction Initiative funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Spiral development has continued since that date, and subsequent improvements have included hardening of the system, improved urban performance, integration with various electro-optical/infrared and remote weapons systems, and integration with the Cursor on Target and FBCB2 (which includes Blue Force Tracker) systems.
In 2005 Boomerang won both the DARPA “Significant Technical Achievement Award” and the Massachusetts Innovation and Technology Exchange (MITX) Technology Influencer of the Year Award.
As of September 2005, Boomerang was being tested on 50 HMMWVs deployed to Iraq. Positive feedback led to further urgent requirements from US forces (Army and Marines), which were then procured, fielded, and supported by the US Army’s Rapid Equipping Force (REF) and US Army Communications-Electronics Command (CECOM), beginning in 2006.
Orders have followed.
Contracts & Key Events
Unless the entry says otherwise, the contracts are issued to BBN Technologies Corp. in Cambridge, MA. In October 2009, the firm became a subsidiary of Raytheon, and is now known as Raytheon-BBN Technologies, Inc.
Feb 14/11: A $54.3 million firm-fixed-price contract for 300 Boomerang III Perimeter Defense Systems in support of the Army’s mission in Afghanistan. Work will be performed in Cambridge, MA, with an estimated completion date of Aug 10/11. One bid was solicited with 1 bid received by the U.S. Army Contracting Command in Fort Belvoir, VA (W909MY-11-C-0028).
June 30/10: Raytheon announces that it has linked the Boomerang acoustic sensor to a network-ready Long Range Advanced Scout Surveillance System (LRAS3) surveillance and targeting system. LRAS no no direct offensive capability, but the link allows a “slew to cue” engagement, where Boomerang provides bearing and elevation information, and the LRAS assembly swivels to point at it. The LRAS3 sight operator can positively identify and geo-locate the sniper using the advanced sensors and lasers, then send target location and image data with a push of a menu screen button.
Raytheon first demonstrated its counter-sniper solution at the May 2010 Armor Warfighting Conference. Production of net-ready LRAS3 sights is ongoing, and previous Block 1 systems can be upgraded in the field to include network communication capability. Raytheon feature | release.
Oct 26/09: Raytheon completes its acquisition of BBN Technologiesfor approximately $350 million, subject to post-closing adjustments. Raytheon says that the acquisition of BBN will not materially impact its sales or earnings per share for the 4th quarter of 2009.
Sept 1/09: Raytheon and BBN Technologies first announce their intention to merge. Beyond Bomerang, BBN’s defense portfolio includes advanced networking, speech and language technologies, information technologies, sensor systems, and cybersecurity products. BBN has won numerous contracts from the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), including universal text engine for defense artificial intelligence applications, conduct research on military applications of quantum information science, among others.
Aug 12/09: A $22.5 million firm-fixed-priced contract for 1,095 Boomerang Generation III Systems and 2,195 vehicle installation kits. Work is to be performed in Cambridge, MA, with an estimated completion date of Feb 28/10. One bid was solicited with 1 bid received by the CECOM Acquisition Center in Fort Monmouth, NJ (W15P7T-09-C-M410). The accompanying Sept 8/09 BBN release states that:
“Last year, BBN delivered over 5000 Boomerang systems to the US Army, also through a contract with PM RUS( US Army Product Manager Robotics and Unmanned Sensors). Today, there are over 6000 Boomerang systems deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, many mounted on Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles.”
June 16/08: A $73.8 million firm fixed price contract for 8,131 Boomerang Systems, spares and training services. Work will be performed in Cambridge, MA, with an estimated completion date of June 10/09. One bid was solicited with one bid received by the US CECOM Acquisition Center in Fort Monmouth, NJ (W15P7T-08-C-S202). See also BBN release.
Dec 18/07: BBN announces that it has been awarded $3.6 million in funding by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to develop an acoustic small arms detection system for helicopters.
Oct 1/07: BBN Technologies will develop and demonstrate a prototype, lightweight, wearable shooter detection system with funding from the US Army’s Natick Research, Development and Engineering Center. The new system will leverage Boomerang technologies. BBN release.
Jan 25/07: A $9.5 million firm-fixed-price contract for “acoustic shot detection and decoy systems.” Apparently, their initial deployment to Iraq went well.
Work will be performed in Cambridge, MA and is expected to be complete by May 20/07. There were 3 bids solicited on Jan. 11, 2007, and 3 bids were received by the U.S. Army Contracting Agency at White Sand Missile Range, NM (W9124Q-07-C-0532).
Aug 30/05: A $1.4 million increment as part of a $6.3 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract to Design, Fabricate Prototypes, Test and Document and Support Upgrades to the Counter Shooter System (aka. Boomerang). Work will be performed in Cambridge, MA (91.6%) and Danbury, CT (8.4%), and is expected to be complete by Dec. 30, 2005. This was a sole source contract initiated on Nov. 17, 2003. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency in Arlington, VA issued the contract (HR0011-04-C-0035).
- DID – Anti-Sniper Systems Finding Their Range. Anti-sniper systems as a trend, complete with other examples.
- Raytheon BBN Technologies – Products: Boomerang. See also their mini-site, and this BBN White Paper [PDF].
- YouTube Video from a Discovery Chanel report
- StrategyPage (Aug 22/09) – Sniper detectors arrive. Covers Boomerang, the French Pilar/Pivot system, and iRobot’s REDOWL.
- Us Army (January 2007) – Soldiers field-test MRAPs, X-Bots, Boomerangs in Iraq
- USA Today (March 27/05) – Electronic ears on alert for enemy gunshots