By John Dingell III
Lewis Machine & Tool Company was recently awarded a €22 million contract for 16,000 MARS-L compliant AR type rifles with monolithic uppers by the Estonian Defense Forces. LM&T beat out 13 other rifle manufacturers for this contract, including the techno-wizards at H&K.
The most interesting thing about the rifles selected by the EDF is a wireless tracking system which uses a novel advancement in magnetic tracking technology that’s well-suited to firearms, unlike traditional RFID tagging.
Visible Assets, Inc. has developed something called RuBee tag communication technology to assure communication with tags through metal barriers, a weakness of traditional RFID technology. RuBee uses a communication frequency less than half that of traditional RFID tag readers to facilitate communication through metal barriers and “harsh environments”.
Visible had secured a similar small contract from the US Navy back in 2010.
The upside of this weapons tracking system: it will probably be of some use to shooting ranges which rent firearms. It should be able to warn of weapons thefts like one that occurred in Mason, Michigan last year.
The downside? Gun control advocates will promote its use (mandate?) in so-called smart guns and possibly standard firearms. That’s something that hasn’t worked well with traditional RFID technology largely due to communication failures.
Here’s the press release on the contract award:
Lewis Machine & Tool and Visible Assets, Inc. Awarded a €22 Million Estonian Defense Forces Contract For 16,000 Automatic Weapons With Integrated RuBee Wireless Weapon Shot Counters.Visible Assets, Inc., a Defense/Industrial Internet of Things company was awarded, after a competitive bidding process, a contract with partner Lewis Machine & Tool for 16,000 Weapon Shot Counters, UID Tracking, and Security wireless RuBee tags over two years from the Estonian Defense Forces.
Visible Assets, Inc. (Visible) Stratham, NH announced today that Visible and Lewis Machine & Tool (LMT) have been selected to supply the Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) with an initial 16,000 automatic weapons between 2019 and 2021. These weapons all have integrated RuBee wireless Weapon Shot Counter (WSC) tags. The contract also includes Visible handheld Javelin readers plus “Allegro 20/20” analytics and weapon maintenance software. Optional “Armory 20/20” software provides automatic wireless weapon audits by reading the WSC tags. An additional optional 9,000 weapons with integrated WSC tags may be supplied over 2021 and 2026 for a total of 25,000 units. The combination of the LMT automatic firearm and RuBee wireless Weapon Shot Counter tags offer many unique advantages over other WSC weapon systems:
“Estonia is known as one of the most digitally advanced countries in the world, and we are thrilled that RuBee wireless technology has been selected as a countrywide WSC and wireless UID tag solution on the LMT weapon. We have many Armory and WSC government customers who have set a high bar for weapon maintenance and weapon security and determined that RF-based systems are simply not acceptable.” said John Stevens CEO. of Visible “RuBee wireless magnetics has consistently met the most critical customer requirement of 100% accurate audit read rates, 99.9% exit-entry detection, even in high steel content environments and high EMI noise environments where RFID based systems have challenges. Visible strives to deliver, maximum functionality, reliability, and value for our defense customers at the best possible price. It was gratifying to learn that not only did we win this tender based on performance and our unique features, but also when combined with the high-quality LMT weapon we were the lowest priced bidder.”
The tender was issued in June 2017. Fourteen firearms manufacturers submitted proposals, nine prequalified for the procurement and five were rejected. By the January 2018 deadline, four manufacturers were invited to make firm fixed final bids. LMT was initially notified it won the tender in December 2018. Over the next four months, three unsuccessful award challenges were attempted by a competitor and the final LMT award was revalidated on May 13, 2019 by the Tallinn Administrative Court.
“This was a highly competitive tender, with a very sophisticated technical buyer and advanced bidding score system.” Said Karl Lewis CEO of LMT. “In the review of the proposals, the outcome of a shooting test made up 10% of the overall score, the guaranteed number of shots throughout the weapon’s life cycle 20%, length of the useful life of the weapon 30%, and the price 40%. With the Visible WSC and live-fire performance of our weapon and aggressive pricing, we had an overall performance score of 99.3. We are excited to be selected as the supplier of the EDF service weapon, we are committed to making high-quality weapons for our NATO partners and worldwide customers.”
About LMT Defense and the MARS Platform
These weapons utilize the LMT Defense monolithic upper on the MARS rifle system. The MARS was developed in 2014 and was initially delivered under contract to New Zealand Defence Force. The MARS weapons platform is a completely ambidextrous rifle system including ambidextrous bolt catch, bolt release, safety selector, magazine release and charging handle. Lewis Machine & Tool manufactures and supplies firearms primarily to the US military and other armed structures, including SAS special forces unit of the British army and the army of New Zealand.
About Visible Assets, Inc.
Visible Assets, Inc. is a privately held US technology company based in Stratham, New Hampshire. Visible Assets designs manufacture and support RuBee wireless real-time asset visibility solutions and networks based on the IEEE 1902.1 standard. Visible Assets provides integrated visibility solutions for a variety of markets though RuBee application partners such as Husky Injection Molding Systems Ltd, and Lockheed Martin. RuBee Visibility Networks are installed and working in over 1,800 commercial and government sites. Visible Assets, Inc. has an active RuBee licensing program.
This kind of technology is a potential threat to the privacy of firearms ownership and use, wether in a “smart gun” or as part of traditional firearms. This RuBee tag reading technology bears watching.