By Paolo Valpolini
On February 17th, FN Herstal, the Belgian company specialised in small arms, unveiled its new high performance weapon mounted ballistic calculator for snipers, precision shooters and spotters that will be virtually exhibited for the first time in its real configuration at the incoming IDEX 2021 that takes place in Abu Dhabi 21-25 February. Introduced at DSEI 2019 under the name FN Ballistic Calculator, the system being then in the early stage of development, it is now an available product, and has been named FN Elity™. (To visit FN Herstal virtual booth please click HERE from 21-25 February)
To top up standard information provided by the company, EDR On-Line also talked to the FN Elity product manager who provided us with numerous details on the system functionalities.
This item is designed to improve accuracy in long-range firing, and therefore is destined to snipers, designated marksmen, spotters and eventually squad weapon teams. The FN Elity comes in the form of a nearly parallepiped box which dimensions are 123x76x44 mm, its weight being under 400 grams, excluding the CR123A battery, hosted on the right side, the cable and the remote keypad. The FN Elity exceeds the battery autonomy requirement, which was to have at least an autonomy of 10 rangefindings and five minutes of continuous laser emission per hour during 24 hours. A stand-by automatic function set by default at 5 seconds allows considerable power saving, the operator being able to modify the standard time entering the system menu.
Installed over the optical sight thanks to a bracket and a Picatinny attachment, it features in its rear part a 160×136 pixels OLED high visibility display, NVG compatible, on which the main information are provided to the operator such as wind speed, wind direction, using the clock system, and the clicks in elevation and windage. A digital level is available, which allows the shooter to estimate the cant angle. Wind data are provided by an external source, such as a Kestrel device lined by Bluetooth to the FN Elity, however should the operator judge that the wind along the path or on the target differs consistently from that at the firing position he can manually overrun these data.
The weather sensors packed in the FN Elity, which also includes motion sensors such as cant angle, inclinometer and digital compass, provide barometric pressure, temperature and humidity. Looking at the system from the front we find left to right, the infrared laser pointer, the visible laser pointer, the laser rangefinder, while on top of the visible laser pointer a variable infrared illuminator is installed. Both laser pointers, the IR and the visible, can be set in low power, falling in Class 1, or high power, Class 3B, the two operating respectively on 640 and 852 nm. The laser rangefinder operates in the 1.55 µm band and can measure the distance against a NATO vehicle-type target up to 2.2 km and against a human-size target at 1.75 km; it is to note that the measuring can be gated, i.e. to exclude possible measures under a certain distance that might be generated by obstacles. The variable infrared illuminator operates on 830 nm and its beam can be adjusted between 3 and 90 mrad (0.17° to 5.15°).
The operator can select the functions needed before starting the operation, using the rotary switch, located to the right of the display, which has 10 different positions. OFF, ON and MENU are self-explaining. When the FN Elity is switched on, it is by default in range finding mode only. Then come three positions for low power modes, mostly used for training, IR, IRD and VP, meaning respectively IR pointer, IR Dual that is pointer plus illuminator, and visible pointer. A blue screw on the outside of the switch allow to prevent access to high power modes, blue being the typical military colour code for training; an electronic key limiting the use to low power modes is also available. Four positions follow, HIR, HIRF, HIRD and HVP; the first, third and fourth are similar to the low power modes, the “H” meaning high power. As for the HIRF this is activates the IR pointer plus illuminator, the latter being settable in divergence as well as in power, three levels being available.
Once the operators starts the mission, he starts using the commands available on the keypad on top of the FN Elity, or those on the remote keypad, which mimics exactly the one on the system. The two main keys are those at the front of the keypad; FN Herstal developers decided to use symbols that can be easily differentiated only by touch, in order to make things easier at night, hence these are marked with a “T” and an “O”, which do not refer to any specific wording. When touching the “T” the operator activates the rangefinder, while the “O” activates the item selected through the rotary switch. In the part closest to the operator four arrow keys allow moving through menus and changing the display settings. They are also used to change wind data, as explained earlier, as well as distance data, i.e. if the target is partly camouflaged by trees or other obstacles, therefore adding some distance would increase accuracy; this allows giving the ballistic solver the right data to then provide the right click corrections. Should the FN Elity be used by the spotter, the sniper will be able to see all data on his personal digital assistant (PDA), connected via Bluetooth to the ballistic calculator.
For the computing aspect FN Herstal has teamed with ApexO, the Canadian company specialised in ballistics, adopting the AFS® (ApexO Firing System), which is offered as an OEM module to be integrated into their products. The huge difference between the AFS and other solutions is that the Apexo software does not refer to the two standard bullets known as G1 and G7, which data are too limited. The system has developed ballistic profiles for the most commonly used military rounds in various calibres; if a different round is used, it is possible to create a new profile or select the one already available which is most close to it, refining it with some actual shots at the range, in order to generate an accurate ballistic profile for the used round with the help of the unique AFS aeroballistics profiler. All data will be considered, of course meteorological ones but also the muzzle velocity, if a measuring system is available, up to the latitude and azimuth, to take in count the differences Coriolis and Eötvös effects.
The FN Elity is a fully flexible system that can adapt to all kind of weapons that might need such accurate correction system. The operator starts typifying his weapon entering into the software, installed on its Android PDA, three main data, calibre, barrel length and rifling twist; for each weapon three different barrels can be considered, opening up the use to multi-calibre weapons. Thirty-six configurations per barrel can then be added, considering muzzle brakes, silencers, ammunition type etc. Once all this is done the setting data are transferred via Bluetooth to the FN Elity. Zeroing rounds are then fired, the resulting parameters being then loaded into the software that corrects the initial settings, the FN Elity being then resynchronised. And that’s it; the physical zeroing done for that configuration will be valid for all the others, the system taking in count all corrections, without the need to do any modification to the sight, a considerable advantage, i.e. when adapting multi-calibre weapons to the mission.
The FN Elity provides the lead angle when shooting against moving targets; once the distance has been lasered, a set of corrections is provided based on standard data, i.e. for personnel on foot, slow moving vehicle, fast moving vehicle, five different data being available, the operator being also able to manually input his estimated data in meters per second. The corresponding correction will be available on the screen in the unit selected in the setting phase, mil, MOA, etc. A further function measures the distance between two features on the terrain, the FN Elity also providing the apex of the round trajectory, allowing to estimate if the round might hit an obstacle, i.e. when a bridge is located between the shooter and the target.
As said, all this comes with a weight burden under 400 grams, to which we must add 17 grams due to the battery and around 20 grams between the remote keypad and the cable that links it to the FN Elity. However a Bluetooth version of that remote keypad is under development, which will further reduce the weight. The FN Elity is available in coyote or black colour.
Photos courtesy FN Herstal