I have been a long time member here and simply choose to not post much. There are several folks on here who can vet my authenticity.
Before coming to such judgement, we owe it to ourselves to forever be a student and keep an open mind to help us progress warfighting and our survivability. When I was first shown the initial prototype of the Reaper (by the owners, who are now friends) I was critical as well. Constructively, but critical nonetheless. Once I put it on and shot with it, and started testing it I immediately saw the use. Everyone that we have shown it to has been critical and has also, like me immediately changed their mind once they put the rig on.
As I said, I know the gentlemen who adapted the original EZ rig (for cameras) and developed the Reaper. They were both Snipers and had an idea. The Reaper was originally designed to support shooting/sniping from a rotary winged platform, and I can tell you, having used it myself it is second to none in that arena. Some of the pictures, due to angles make it look ungainly, and I am the first one to admit that it looks a bit strange, but when fitted properly it only sticks up over your head or helmet by about 2-3 inches. It also completely collapses and folds away for when it is not necessary.
The owners, which now consist of the 2 original Aussie CT snipers and a former 10th Group sniper are the first to come out and state that this is not a piece of equipment for everything. For aerial platform shooting and urban sniping it makes a massive difference. We have used it in every thing from an R44 up to a Blackhawk and it allows you more movement and freedom in the bird than sniper straps or bars. It also removes a lot of the vibration you get in a helo as your body acts as a damper and much of it is not translated through the Reaper.
It is currently being sourced and tested through several other organizations (US included) and it has been in the hands of several Tier 1 folk who have immediately said after using it, that they thought it looked stupid but immediately see the application of it in the niche job sets that it was designed for.
The latest development in it, as you saw from the Australian trial is; will it work for deployment of machine guns? Lots of comments along the lines of, "If you can't hold a machine gun then you shouldn't get one" It's not about can or can't hold it, it's about, do you want to be more efficient with it? Do you want to be more accurate with it? My answers are yes. I carried a Mk46 & 48 for quite a while. Yes, I can shoot them without the support, but I can tell you having been involved in the T&E of the current Reaper model that I can hold it longer (covering an area or holding a corner) and I can acquire targets quicker and with better accuracy using it.
It's not the end all be all. If you are an assaulter then the owners are the first ones to say you shouldn't be using one. In thick brush/jungle, keep it folded away until you get to your objective. As one of the snipers who is testing it already said, paraphrasing, 'if I had this years ago it would've given me much more versatility in urban hides. I'll keep it folded up, but when I need it, it's there for me.'
While speaking to a group of guys who weren't necessarily sold on it, I compared it to night vision. Do NVGs work? Yes. Would you rather have them on an op than not? Yes. Do you run around during the daylight with them lowered and on or sometimes even attached at all? No, that's silly, they don't work in the day light.
Does anyone question that some of these 'Ironman" suit DARPA projects and shit will ever come to fruition? I think we can all agree that it will be a while, but it is most likely the future of modern warfare in some form or another, for some mission sets. The same applies to the Reaper.
One of the reasons I originally joined this forum was because for the most part it was filled with SMEs and true professionals who had an open mind and vision. I think that is still the case here as opposed to a lot of other forums. It is hard to go against the masses when everyone is jumping on the band wagon disregarding something they have never put their hands on.
I'll leave you with this. It was retrofitted and designed by shooters, SMEs in sniping. It has been used operationally from helos and in the jungle of the Philippines and Salomon Islands ( in it's early, rudimentary form). The product has been made better since then. I call the owners friends and they are of the same ilk as many of us on here. They still strive to find new and better ways to give our warriors enhanced capabilities and increase their effectiveness, thus increasing their survivability. They're not POGs, or nerdy science types, they are warriors and some of the finest I have ever had the honor to work with.
If you read this in it's entirety, thank you for your time.
My apologies in advance if this reply is a little dis-jointed, I'm absolutely shattered after a long week.
Thank you so much for providing some context to this. I can definitely appreciate and understand the concept of the product for something like a sniper weapon system as you've mentioned.
Well, to put things into context for me, I AM a science geek, who's worked in product development, quality assurance, continuous improvement and change management in a couple of industries (manufacturing and heavy engineering), as well as fervently working on his own design project (hopefully to make my first million bucks).
As a science geek, I can very much appreciate the whole formulation of a concept, putting that concept into a design and develop the design into a useable format.
I have consulting experience in load bearing equipment, and actually wrote the source material for the latest SCE (Soldier Combat Ensemble) tender was based on that the ADF has only recently completed and awarded. I'm still not sure how my document made it to the rarefied heights of DMO and the procurement organs, but it certainly tickles me pink to hear people from Diggerworks use certain keywords and catchphrases that I wrote in Airlie Beach whilst over-indulging on Long Island Iced Teas....
My major concerns as something of a professional in the arena, is the amount of analysis that goes into the product concept, and product development. The "Good Idea Fairy" waving her magic wand across a project as our American allies describe it.
In mining, for the introduction of new equipment into production areas a certification process must occur to deem the item as "Fit for Purpose". This means, safe use. It's a pretty broad term, including materials safety (eg. does it burn in extreme heat?), interactions with other current equipment (eg. EMI with control equipment) and interactions with end-users (eg. is it comfortable to wear, doesn't cause injuries) and does it introduce new problems downstream?
The mining industry is one of the most stringent I've seen personally for this, although I'm told that aerospace and pharmaceuticals are up there. Funnily enough, there is a distinct lack of this analysis and certification in load bearing equipment for the ADF.
It's difficult for me to summarise my experience of 20 plus years of professional tertiary education, training and industry experience without sounding like a grumpy old fart when I see the "Good Idea Fairy" flitting about, waving her magic wand. Hence why I see this Reaper as a great concept, but flawed in the execution. Now that you mention it as a sniper accessory, and all the info I've seen of it is using LSW's (F89/M249) then I also see scope creep on this project - another concerning factor.
I'll start my analysis by saying that the concept of a rig to carry a load like that is a sound one, it's only the execution of the concept that I have issues with.
Primary concern is the interface between the rig and human end-user. Spinal injuries are no joke. I've seen pictures of two of our blokes wearing this rig, it's a rear view.
The rig is attached by two points at shoulder blade and belt.
Now, basic physics suggests that a load suspended from a cantilever increases the amount of force (a moment of force) imparted on the anchor point. This is proven in the real world by the basic packing maxim with backpacks that dense, heavy loads should be packed as close to the body as possible, in line with the shoulder blades. To do otherwise, means increased forces imparted upon he fulcrum - ie. the spine of the wearer. I've also seen this principle applied to people like dog handlers. The large land shark throwing itself at the end of the leash can lead to similar spinal injuries. Funnily enough, I've only recently met three dog handlers from the same unit with similar injuries.
I have serious concerns about the interaction of that rig with the wearer, especially for trips and stumbles.
I won't even start on what would happen if the end-user should land square on that big square column.
Snagging is another major concern. Although now that you've mentioned that it was originally designed for snipers sitting in helo's, that's a compromise I can see being acceptable. Scope creep into use of LSW's makes this a real hazard.
The weight rating on the load bearing arm is another concern. A rifle will be significantly lighter than a belt-fed LSW, making me wonder how the load arm is sprung, and will it handle being bounced at several G's from running, fire and movement and the usual activities from shooting our fellow man.
On a related issue, I wonder if the Reaper is properly designed for helo ops and crash certified?
At this stage, I see this product as really unfinished and undeveloped for anything more than the original very narrow usage of helo-borne sniper.
I truly understand the fun and appreciate the thought behind the concept. But as a professional lab coat wearer who has some experience shitting into plastic bags in dug-in OP's, I can see that this project needs a great deal of product development and maybe even a re-assessment in scope of use, if they continue to go down this path of using LSW's in dismounted usage. Which from what I've seen in the latest video, is ongoing with 7RAR at the moment.