Article also available in other languages
The BDT - Beretta Defense Technologies division of the Beretta Holding is relentlessly proceeding in the further development and evolution of the now firmly-established ARX-160 assault rifle system.
Now in its A3 version, the Beretta ARX-160 assault rifle has already replaced the Beretta 70/90 system rifles and carbines in the armament of several units of the Italian Armed Forces, and has been purchased by important military, Police and governmental customers all throughout the world.
A conversion kit already exists to switch the ARX-160 from the native 5.56x45mm-NATO caliber to the 7.62x39mm chambering, and other caliber conversions should come in the near future; the system also spawned two distinct semi-automatic, civilian-grade variants − a rimfire .22 Long Rifle carbine and large-frame pistol, and a .223 Remington caliber rifle. A 7.62x51mm-NATO version of the ARX-160 is also in the works.
However, BDT's work to turn the ARX-160 into the standard by which all future assault rifles will be judged doesn't stop here.
Following the partnership with T.WORX Ventures, announced in August, BDT is proceeding to implement the Intelligent Rail System on the ARX-160 assault rifle; the first mock-up of the system was showcased at the 2014 SHOT Show in Las Vegas, but the 2014 edition of EUROSATORY − held fron June 16th thru 20th at the nord-Villepinte exhibitions and convention center, at the outskirts of Paris − saw it being introduced for the first time to an exclusively professional public.
The system is still in a developmental phase, but perspectives are good, and expectations are great: T.WORKS Ventures, a company specialized in the development and licensing of niche technologies with a high intellectual property content, is a pioneer in powered rail systems, and the sole holder of related patents and rights.
But what is the Intelligent Rail System all about?
Basically, it's a MIL-STD-1913 "Picatinny" rail system that will remain safe to handle while at the same time conveying power and data streams to and between user-worn devices and gun-mounted accessories.
The "heart" of the system itself consists in a power pack installed on the stock of the ARX-160 rifle, which will dub as a cheekpiece while at the same time hosting up to six AA commercial batteries, commonly available mostly everywhere in the world and thus logistics-friendly.
A small number of cables depart from this power box and run totally within the chassis of the gun and underneath the rails − thus remaining protected and "out of the way" in all conditions − and connect with the rail attachment points, powering the metal contacts found on the rails themselves.
The power level that passes through these contacts is low enough to allow safe handling, while high enough to power any kind of tactical accessory.
Any pre-existing, third party or legacy accessory will be compatible with the Intelligent Rail System: adapters will be provided to mount the accessory with after removing its own batteries, so that the item will power directly through the battery power conveyed by the rail.
A handful of adapters will thus be enough to allow the installation of any commercial or military tactical accessory, while keeping the overall system weight low, as all said accessories will be powered through the central battery pack and will thus not require their own batteries, which may also be of a proprietary or exotic kind.
The rails can also accommodate centralized, wireless remote control systems for all accessories: featuring each a couple of buttons, they will allow the user to activate, switch off or regulate the output of any kind of accessory (laser sights, tactical flashlights, laser rangefinders, target designators and so on) from one single controller.
Last, the Intelligent Rail System should also be able to transmit data feedback from the attached accessories.
Example: potentially, an electronic targetung device for an assault rifle or an undercarried grenade launcher could automatically set according to the data feedback from an attached rangefinder.
Similarly, a gun camera could transfer data to a transmission unit, which may in turn transfer them to a soldier-worn device, to rear-line units, or to a command center.
Once any doubt concerning the system durability, reliability, miniaturization and protection against aggressive environmental factors will be dispelled by further development and thorough testing, its capabilities and possibilities may potentially turn out to be unlimited.
The ARX-160/Intelligent Rail System combination may even make the dream of a wearable network-centric warfare system come true − a dream first envisioned by the Land Warrior program engineers well back into the 1990s, but failed back then due to the high costs and the lack of versatility, portability, and performance of the then-existing technologies.
We can only wait to see the outcomes in the near future.