I left the U.S. Army in 1997. When I last hung up my uniform, I was a hotshot Army helicopter pilot fully qualified in day and night combat operations across all modes of tactical flight. I thought myself pretty high speed. But compared to today’s young studs, I was operating in the Stone Age over 20 years ago. The advent of the Global War on Terror has served as an impetus to enhance and develop new military technologies on a scale not seen since World War II. The flower of modern American engineering prowess has unleashed itself on the prickly problem of counter-terrorism; the results are, to say the least, remarkable. In few applications can the advances in combat technology been seen more starkly than in the Paradigm SRP Talon universal weapons mount.
If you flattened a city to destroy a munitions factory in WWII, that was considered the price of doing business. Nowadays, with ubiquitous cell phones and an imbedded reporter behind every bush and crag, we hold our warriors downrange to a loftier standard regarding collateral damage. Today’s wars are waged on battlefields that are then beamed onto television and cell phone screens of registered voters from sea to shining sea. Contemporary combat must be a more surgical affair than was previously the case. The obvious priority of protecting innocents, coupled with the litigious nature of modern America, makes precision and constraint the ultimate parameters in modern law enforcement sniping as well.
The capacity to provide precision fire from a helicopter is a combat multiplier in today’s combat zones. Whether the scenario is a Navy SEAL element in contact in the rocky wastelands of Afghanistan or a barricaded suspect in inner-city America, the ability to shoot from a moving platform like a helicopter can be a critical asset. In the past, this mission has been inadequately serviced by either bracing a precision rifle against the structure of a vibrating aircraft or, if the shooter was really fancy, suspending the weapon in the door with bungee cords. In each case, the capacity of the sniper to deliver precision fire is massively degraded when compared to a static terrestrial platform. This deep into the Information Age, there simply must be a better way.
Life Imitates Art
In the case of the Paradigm SRP Talon, the inspiration came from the motion-picture industry. The Cineflex helicopter camera is a commercial-grade, gyro-stabilized movie camera that mounts underneath the nose of a helicopter and facilitates rock-solid movie shots from difficult-to-access points of view. Similar systems deliver those FLIR images of nocturnal car chases shot from orbiting police helicopters that we see on the news. While the original systems used mechanical Kenyon-style gyros, it wasn’t until the advent of solid-state gyrostabilizers that the technology was fully developed. The Talon universal weapons mount now applies that same technology to the thorny problem of precision rifle fire from a moving platform.
Modern Micro-Electrical-Mechanical System (MEMS) gyros send digital data to the Talon’s motherboard at up to 1,000 units of data per second. The Talon CPU interfaces this data with high-speed brushless servomotors to gimbal the weapons mount in response to operator input as well as background movement. The end result is a precision sniper system that brings literally unprecedented capabilities to the modern law enforcement officer or special operator.
The Talon actually isn’t the first time we have seen this capability. My favorite movie of all time is the sci-fi classic “Aliens.” Executed in the heady days before digital graphics, James Cameron’s Homeric tale of U.S. Colonial Marines doing battle against pitiless alien killers is, in my opinion, the coolest story ever rendered in celluloid. The primary appeal of the film to me was the filmmaker’s remarkable attention to detail when it came to the Marines’ individual weapons and gear.
One of the most remarkable pieces of hardware in the film was the M56 Smart Gun. Built out of a German MG 42 machine gun mounted on a Steadicam movie camera chassis, the Smart Gun tracks on target independent of an operator’s movements. Some clever cinematography combined with a bit of window dressing constructed from motorcycle parts made for some truly epic combat scenes.
Additionally, in the extended scenes that didn’t make the big screen, the Colonial Marines emplace a brace of UA571-C Remote Automated Sentry Systems to remotely cover a critical hallway. These autonomous sentry guns were also built out of German MG 42s. They operated in much the same manner as the Paradigm SRP Talon. As they made for some of the most compelling footage in the movie, it defies reason why these scenes were cut from the final version of the film. But I digress.
State Of The Art
The Talon is designed for maximum versatility. The mount accepts any precision rifle with an open length of forearm rail at the 6 o’clock position. The software accommodates calibers from 5.56mm NATO to .300 Win Mag. Modern solid-state electronics draw very little power, so the system can operate off of an organic 12- to 28-volt vehicular power supply or even an optional battery pack. The proprietary Remote Trigger Actuator (RTA) attaches to the triggerguard of the weapon. This allows for precise trigger activation that exceeds the human capacity for exactitude. The RTA readily dismounts should the rifle need to be employed conventionally. The Talon system weighs 64 pounds independent of the weapon.
The Talon will slew at a rate of 60 degrees per second and will accommodate any standard riflescope. The mount is a mere 14.8 inches long, 11.5 inches wide and 29.7 inches high with an 8-inch-adjustable extension. There is also a tower mount that will lift the system well above surrounding obstacles and terrain. The Talon is readily adaptable to any mode of conveyance, including ground vehicles, watercraft or helicopters via little more than a few cargo straps. The modular nature of the system is such that installation on a new platform takes only moments.
The Talon also incorporates two separate video systems as well as an integral laser rangefinder. One video camera captures the image through the weapon’s optic. The other provides a broader, unencumbered view of the target area. Imagery is transmitted via hardline to a 7-inch HD color monitor. The monitor is capable of ultra-bright daylight output and is night-vision compatible. The system is controlled by a joystick on the controller. The digital feed can be remotely accessed and maintained permanently as evidence.
The Talon software assists the operator in obtaining a ballistic solution by serving as a digital extension of the shooter. The system incorporates automatic video tracking along with single-target closed-loop tracking. The detached nature of the HD monitor allows the system to be controlled by an operator situated remotely from the weapon. As a result, the Talon can provide accurate precision fire without exposing its operator to potential harm.
Practical & Tactical
So what does this thing really do? In a sentence, it utterly changes the game for military and law enforcement sniper operations. Using the Talon, an operator can deliver precision fire to a standard of 6 inches at 300 meters from most rapidly moving platforms, all while under cover in any light. The practical applications are limited solely by the imaginations of the operator and his or her commanders.
The most obvious application is helicopter-borne fire support. Now any otherwise unadorned rotorcraft can become a precision orbiting sniper perch. The intrinsic stabilization of the system ensures reliable precision fire independent of bumpy air or violent maneuvering. The HD interface is user-friendly and not unlike that of your typical first-person shooter video game. The Talon assists the shooter in managing such sniper staples as wind correction and bullet drop.
The system also mounts readily to any waterborne platform and yields comparable service in the face of choppy waves or fast movement. The system is environmentally hardened against water and contaminants. In this application, the Talon can provide precision fire from a zodiac or similar tactical boat in support of amphibious assaults or counter-piracy operations.
The Talon also has applications to a wide variety of cross-country platforms. Ranging from the humble Gator all-terrain vehicle up to MRAPs, Hummers and gun trucks, the Talon excises the aiming error intrinsic to a moving platform while allowing the operator to engage targets safely from behind armor. Whether the surface is paved highway or undeveloped savannah, the Talon keeps your weapon on target at 1,000 adjustments per second under any condition.
Of course, the Talon is a military-grade system with a military-grade price. You won’t be seeing these things liberally populating the line at your friendly neighborhood shooting range. However, the good folks at Paradigm SRP have been marketing the Talon vigorously to friendly nations; several familiar special operations units are already adding this unique capability to their arms rooms. While the target audience is spec-ops teams for friendly nation-states, well-heeled metropolitan law enforcement agencies could afford to add the Talon edge to their tool bag as well.
The Talon is portable, precise, reliable and lethal. Capable of operating from any reasonable platform under any reasonable conditions, the Talon brings an unprecedented capability to modern tactical commanders in both military and law enforcement realms. As you can see, this deep into the Information Age, the line between fact and fiction has become remarkably blurred.
For more information, visit paradigmsrp.com.
This article is from the May/June 2018 issue of “Tactical Life” magazine. To order a copy and subscribe, visit outdoorgroupstore.com.