American military personnel use the pyrotechnic glare of tracer rounds to see exactly where they’re firing and adjust when necessary. Unfortunately, that glare also gives away a soldier’s position.
Engineers at Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey are working to fix that problem, and the Army believes that it is only a few years away from successfully developing the One-Way Luminescence (OWL) round, which would be visible to soldiers at any time — but not their enemies, according to the Army.
“OWL is a technology approach that doesn’t allow an enemy target to trace back to who is firing rounds at him, even if the target is using night vision goggles,” Christel Seitel, head of quality assurance for the OWL program, told the Army.
The new rounds would use a thin, glowing layer of material that will go on the back end of a standard round, Miss Seitel said.
“Instead of burning pyrotechnics, our luminescence is like a glow-in-the-dark sticker. You excite it with specific wavelengths of light,” Miss Seitel said.
One of the main challenges will be finding a material that will allow soldiers to see OWL rounds during the day.
“Finding something that burns brighter than the sun is difficult,” Miss Seitel said. “You want to have something that’s bright enough to give you that contrast [with the background].”
If U.S. Army researchers and its partners on the project at Defense Ordnance Technology Consortium are successful, a final version of OWL rounds will be selected in 2017.