Night-Vision Sensors

Article excerpt

U.S. Army night-vision and sensor programs and activities include day/night, all-weather mobility and engagement sensors; all-weather imagery; passive and radar target acquisition sensors; artillery and mortar-locating radars; and advanced sensors for the Army's Future Force. These systems provide critical, on-the-ground, direct support to U.S. forces deployed in Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). One key area is thermal sensors, which dramatically increases the lethality and survivability of U.S. Army soldiers. These sensors read the heat signature from distant objects, such as personnel or vehicles, day or night, penetrating smoke, fog and obscurants.

The First-Generation Forward-Looking Infrared Systems (FLIR) are currently used in the pilotage and targeting thermal imaging systems in the AH-64A attack helicopter, MlAl and M60 tanks, Bradley fighting vehicles and TOW and TOW II missile systems. The systems themselves are supported by thermal-imaging common modules, a series of subcomponents that perform the function of optical to electrical conversion, thus allowing the thermal battlefield to be converted into a visual image. The thermal-imaging common modules are made up of detector dewars, cryogenic coolers, light-emitting diode arrays, mechanical scanners, optical imagers and collimators, and electronic circuit cards.

The second-Generation Forward-Looking Infrared (FLIR) provides an integrated high-performance second-generation thermal sensor to the Army's premier groundbased battlefield platforms. The secondgeneration FLIR is a long-wavelength scanning system with advanced digital image processing. The detector for this assembly is the Army's standard advanced dewar assembly, type II, using a cryogenically cooled mercury cadmium telluride focal plane array. The program produces a common FLIR sensor (the B-kit), which is integrated into each specific platform application through the use of a unique A-kit. The second-generation FLIR has been successfully integrated and tested in the Abrams MIA2 systems enhancement package (SEP) gunner's primary sight; the MIA2 SEP commander's independent thermal viewer; the M2A3 improved Bradley acquisition system; the M2A3 commander's independent viewer; and the long-range advanced scout surveillance system (LRAS3). Now in its eighth year of production, more than 2,500 B-kits have been built and fielded.

Second-generation FLIRs are currently supporting operations in Iraq and Afghanistan in the Abrams SEP tank, Bradley A3, LRAS3 Scout Humvees, Stryker reconnaissance vehicle systems and in the family of AN/PAS-13 thermal weapon sights (heavy and light).

The AN/AVS-7 Aviator's Night-Vision Imaging System Heads-Up Display (AN-VIS HUD) is a post-Operation Desert Storm enhancement to the AN/AVS-6. The system collects and displays critical flight information from aircraft sensors and converts it into visual imagery, allowing the pilot heads-up flying without the need to continuously look down at the instrument panel. The HUD senses critical flight data (altitude, airspeed, attitude, torque, compass heading and so on) and transmits the data to the goggles. The data are overlaid on the goggle imagery to provide the pilot with integrated night scene and critical flight data symbology. This technology gives significant operational advantages and increases safety during night missions.

Army inventories include approximately 1,900 ANVIS HUD systems for use on the UH-60A/L and CH-47D platforms. Recent activities have included a HUD retrofit to establish compatibility between ANVIS HUD and GPS-upgrades to the UH-60A/L and CH-47D platforms. In September 1999 the first advanced HUD systems were received in an upgrade effort to further enhance 1,200 of the Army's ANVIS HUD units. The advanced HUDs are field-programmable, have reduced latency and contain upgrade features for future video capabilities.

AN/PVS-7D Night-Vision Goggles are head- or helmet-mounted devices used by soldiers during night operations, such as driving, walking, giving first aid, map reading and doing maintenance tasks. …