The second part to John Mosby's question, "Where is this SDM and Sniper thing going" requires a look at capabilities and effects.
The most skilled sniper on the team doesn't pull the trigger. The most skilled sniper does everything else, calculates bullet drop, windage, the ballistic arc to confirm loophole placement, the angle of the shot, correction for altitude, humidity, and temperature. All of these considerations get plugged into either a calculator or referenced against a DOPE (Date On Previous Engagement) book to ensure that the first round down range hits the intended target.
Lets think about all the factors that affect that bullet.
Muzzle Velocity, which depends on
- Bore Condition
Atmospheric Density, which depends on
Rotation of the Earth
Now think about all the things that we can control, or things we can gain some extra measure of control over.
Muzzle velocity. Do you know why SOCOM abandoned M118LR and had NSW Crane develop Mk316? They use the same brass, same bullet, just a different primer and powder. The accuracy standards are even interchangeable. The answer is in muzzle velocity changes with temperature. The Mk316 charge of IMR4064 is more "temp stable" in that it varies only about 20 FPS across a 100 degree F range. The charge of Reloader 15 in M118LR can vary as much as 50FPS across a 50 degree F range.
Why is that important? Because it is one less thing for a human to account for when making the shot. A 20fps difference accounts for about a 0.9 MOA difference at a thousand yards, while a 50 fps difference is over twice that. The difference is between a 9 inch circle and a 20 inch circle, and when you are aiming at a upper chest cavity 18 inches across, it is clear to see that removing temperature as a variable that affects muzzle velocity has a direct impact on probability of a successful first round hit.
Now, why is the .mil looking into advanced sniper scopes that do the ballistic calculations for you? Because just like in my previous post, it is easy to get an SDM to pull the trigger after a Sniper has done the math and put him on target. This is the same reason money is spent researching laser guided 50 caliber ammunition.
What is the end goal of all of this? A system that anyone who can take a steady shooting position, and then pull the trigger, can make a first shot hit out to the maximum effective range of the weapon they are holding. Imagine a weapon system that could turn anyone who can hold 1 MOA at 100 yards into a shooter who can hold 1 MOA out past 1000 yards. That is the goal of an "equipment centric solution."
Now, will we get there? Probably, but probably those computer systems won't be as good as someone who has actually "been there, done that" and built their DOPE book for their load in their rifle in all the conditions that they find themselves needing to operate. An equipment based solution is at best a compromise.
Right now an M24 or M110 sniper system is stupid easy to shoot in calm weather. Just turn the Bullet Drop Compensating elevation knob to the distance you are shooting and then pull the trigger. Once you get into the wind, you REALLY need that guy beside you calculating your wind correction, or you end up tossing lead down range hoping to see splash so you can make the correction yourself.
In all honesty I would really hate to see the Army abandon good marksmanship training to rely on a software solution. Batteries die, electronics fail in the heat, cold, or rain, which are all conditions that our current crop of snipers and SDMs are all too familiar with.
Now thankfully the training doesn't look like it will change any time soon, however that means that the current state of "constantly in flux" that SDMs and Snipers find themselves will continue for a while.