Sharper focus in battle

Troops will be able to see more clearly and gain vision through battlefield smoke with a new night-time vision system, claim the developers. The technology, developed by BAE Systems, operates in full digital mode and uses a combination of thermal sensors and light intensifiers. It will be supplied to the US Army by 2010.

Greg Davis, director of advanced systems at BAE Systems’ Electronics and Integrated Solutions in Massachusetts, said the system is still at prototype stage, but it is claimed to be the first commercial device of its kind to work in full digital mode.

Traditional night vision goggles convert digital data to analogue for display. BAE Systems’ full digital device, however, will show sensor imagery on small digital displays inside a monocular device worn over the soldier’s right or left eye. The eyepiece is mounted on the soldier’s helmet, which holds a small battery pack. The entire assembly weighs less than 1kg.

BAE developed the system as part of a US Army’s advanced technology development programme for enhanced night vision technology. Davis said the main challenge was combining and overlaying the imagery from the low-light sensor and the infrared sensor. The advantage of overlaying these technologies, he said, is increased detection and identification.

‘One of the benefits of the technology is you can actually see through smoke,’ he said. He added that the image is higher resolution than before and ‘the digitised data can be shared across the battlefield’ or sent to a central point.

Siobhan Wagner